Review: Christopher Ward C63 Sealander Elite

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After being at this for over a decade, sometimes I’m just looking to be surprised. It’s very rare that a watch we get in for review is not well made these days. If anything, we occasionally can say that at X price we wish the finishing were better, or that a certain feature was present or not. But ultimately, the watches we review are very solid and reliable. So, reviews come down to aesthetics, fit, experience, value, etc. In other words, subjective topics that are fair to disagree with. Thankfully, in the last few months, I have indeed been surprised by some releases. Brands have started to innovate with movement functionality and case design in a way that feels like it’s been missing and speaks not to a lack of creativity, but rather an industry that is now able to meet those ideas with relatively affordable solutions.

This brings me to the topic of conversation. When Christopher Ward released the C63 Sealander Elite, I was indeed surprised. It wasn’t that they made a titanium chronometer at a compelling price, or even that they went out of their way to lighten it, which is always great, it’s that they made a recessed, push-button crown.

That’s it? You might be saying. To which I’d answer, yes. For the most part, watches are basically the same thing, if you were to ignore the aesthetic elements. Three hands, a crown, a strap, a steel (usually) case, maybe a complication, etc. So, something as simple and novel as a crown that works differently is, well, exciting. It was a challenge that the brand didn’t need to take to release this watch. Had they just put a screw-down crown, we’d have been none the wiser, and it still would have been a cool watch. But this is that extra little thing, and it took good old-fashioned r&d to make, which comes at a cost. Whether or not it was worth it, is the question I’ll try to answer in this review.

Please note the sample reviewed is pre-production, with production having the following changes: Orange print on the dial will be stronger, 45g on the case back instead of 00g, 15ATM – Titanium on the case back instead of Titanium 15ATM

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$1395

Review: Christopher Ward C63 Sealander Elite

Case
Titanium
Movement
Sellita SW200-1 Chronometer
Dial
Black
Lume
Super-LumiNova® Grade X1 BL C1
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Various
Water Resistance
150m
Dimensions
40 x 46.9mm
Thickness
10.7mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
retractable
Warranty
Yes
Price
$1395

Case

The C63 Sealander Elite is a titanium general-purpose sports watch. While watch sub-categories are a topic best saved for another day, this lack of specificity is to say it’s a capable watch that is designed for comfort when exerting yourself at some activity, that is likely not meant to be worn at your wedding, though nothing is stopping you from doing so. At 40mm x 46.9mm x 10.7mm, it sits at that sweet spot for most wrists, particularly for a watch with no vintage inclinations, and is appropriately thin. The 40mm diameter is also a bit misleading as with a minimally intrusive crown the watch wears narrower than other 40mm watches. They also went out of their way to lighten this watch by removing material from the dial and movement holder, achieving 45g for the watch head, which is very light and adds to comfort and ease of wear.

Before getting to the star of the show, so to speak, the use of titanium is worth pointing out. The other “elite” models found in CW’s C60 line also utilize the lightweight metal, which is put to good use in their light catcher design. The metal is finished beautifully, mixing densely brushed regions with mirror polished bevels, and just a touch of bead blasting on undercuts. The naturally dark, warm tonality of the metal is emphasized by the deft finishing to a striking result.

Sunken into the right side of the case is the push-button crown that all the fuss is about. Though it protrudes just a hair, at a glance it’s as though there is no crown at all. Though very uncommon, such a thing is not unheard of, particularly in the past. The Bulova Accutron Astronaut had a flip-up crown on its case back (this is one I used to own and regret letting go of), while the Jaeger LeCoultre Futurematic had a flat toothed wheel on its back you have to slide to engage a setting mechanism. Many Seikos also managed to bury their crowns in the meat of the case, such as with the 6139-7010. That’s just to name a few.

In modern times, you only have the Omega AquaTerra Ultra Light, to my knowledge, which CW seems to have set their sights on when making this watch, as theirs too uses a push-button, or “telescoping” if you’re fancy, crown. Of course, it also is made out of “gamma titanium” with a titanium movement, and thus has a price tag, that like the term “gamma,” seems best suited for high falutin comic book characters. CW wanted to bring that sleek piece of tech down to the masses, which is why we’re here today.

The functionality of the crown is simple enough. When sunken, it’s almost flush to the case, but not “locked” like a screw-down crown might be. To set the time, one “pushes” the crown and it pops out. In its extended form, the crown is a thin toothed wheel, just a hair over 1mm thick, on the end of a post. At that point, you can then pull it out to the first and second stops to change the date and time respectively. On the positive side, the extended crown is robust, not wobbling around or feeling delicate, which I was concerned about given the mechanism. On the negative, the very thin crown doesn’t feel nice between your fingers. While not a big issue, as setting the date/time is a brief and occasional interaction with the watch, it was noticeable.

More importantly, however, is how well the actual push-button mechanism works. And it was, well, a bit iffy. Pushing the crown while sunken didn’t always make it pop out, nor did pushing it in make it always want to stay. And here and there, I’d look down at my wrist and find the crown extended despite not having been pushed, to my knowledge. Admittedly, the watch CW sent over is not a production model and has likely been overly played with, but it does give me some concern over what the crown might be like after a few months or years of regular use. Furthermore, I imagine what it might be like if you got some sticky liquid on it, like a splash of beer or a Pina Colada, if you’re so inclined, and how that might affect it. While never good for a crown, this feels more exposed and susceptible to such an issue.

The question is, is it worth it, both for you, the potential consumer, and CW. Starting with the latter, I’d still say definitely. This crown is still an achievement. Not only is it novel and serves an ergonomic purpose, it’s also providing water resistance to 150m. I don’t think, nor hope, this is a one-off use of this concept for CW. The idea of a line of watches with flush crowns as almost a signature of a non-dive-sports-watch for CW is very exciting. But, as with all things, I do think there is room for improvement. Some sort of o-ring cradle that the crown clearly sat in, that would prevent any type of liquid from getting into the mechanism itself (the internals are well-sealed) would be reassuring at least. And then just some tweaking of the mechanism to make sure it always popped out and in the first try.

For the consumer, it’s more of a maybe depending on your willingness to take a slight risk for the sake of something different, and how you expect to use the watch. I fully assume, or at least expect, that a brand-new, production version of this watch will work correctly, and could never have an issue. Should you take care of it, not play with the crown like it’s the pusher on a ballpoint pen, and avoid immersing your hand in fruit juices and such, you’ll likely be just fine. But, watches do occasionally have issues as they are exposed to the world via your wrist, and sh*t happens, so I do think there is an increased possibility that something could go wrong here. I mean, chrono-pushers are exposed too, and they occasionally get stuck. Life goes on.

Dial

Well, that’s far too many words on a single crown, so let’s move on to the rest of the watch. Though the dial of the C63 Sealander Elite isn’t a wild departure for CW, it’s a bit different than their other watches, especially the C63s. The dial surface is black with a subtle texture that makes it close to matte, but with a very slight sheen. Typically CW opts for dials without chapter rings, which gives them a more expansive look, but here they went a different route, and for good reason.

Apart from the crown, the most distinctive detail of the watch is the ring of spaces in the dial, which are windows through the watch, out the back, outlining the movement. In an effort to lighten the watch, CW removed some extra material from the dial, and quite a bit from the movement holder. Sure, they could have removed more from the dial, but I’m glad they didn’t as you don’t get a “skeletonized” effect. Instead, you get a natural break line between a central area, and an outer ring.

The central area features a series of applied, faceted markers with lume fill, laid on top of an index of fine white lines. It’s very compact, giving it an appropriately aggressive look. The date is at six and the logo is at twelve for a classic balance, with “chronometer” and “150m|500ft” just above the date. The outer ring then features a sloped chapter ring with an outlined orange triangle at 0/60, numbers at intervals of five in white, with long white lines per minute/second between. The typeface used here has an appealing blockiness to it, playing into the sporty, modern overall attitude of the watch.

Tying the whole dial together are a series of bridges connecting the central area and the outer ring, each sporting a small orange dash, aligned with the hours. It’s a nice pop of color that seems to give the orange triangle some more context or purpose. This transitional region is also pressed down, creating a distinct break from the central area. That said, it makes me wish this watch featured an internal rotating bezel, with a second recessed crown at nine. The hands are the same found on the other C63/60 models, with a large arrow hour hand and straight sword minute, both in a mix of brushed and polished metal.

The seconds hand is then an orange stick with a trident counterweight. In the same way that “Seamaster” is to “Aquaterra” in Omega-land, “Trident” seems to be the genus, with “C6X” the family in CWard-World. As such, that aquatic symbol is present here, even if this isn’t a dive watch at heart. To be honest, I could pass on it here as it feels a bit ornate and old-school for the design, and perhaps even a bit distracting. It’s not a deal-breaker, but I think as the brand evolves, they can let go of such overt branding, moving it to the case back, etc.

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Wearability

On the wrist, the C63 Sealander Elite wears much the way you’d expect a 40mm, 45g, crownless watch to. Which is to say, extremely well. It’s light and effortless, as to be expected given the dimensions and specs. Visually, there’s a nice complexity to the dial, as the various rings, textures, markers, hints of oranges, and gaps provide texture and depth. Yet, despite all that is going on, it’s easy to read at a glance as the applied markers are dominant. For those who are concerned about the gaps, fear not as your wrist blocks out the light, making them appear as just a textural element.

In terms of looks, I quite liked it, though I’m not sure if it’s going to have universal appeal. The dial is funky, the case is dark, and the typeface has an almost “retro” feel to it. Though obviously wildly different overall, I did get a bit of a modern Explorer vibe from the numerals. Once upon a time, that would have bothered me, as I’ve never been fully sold on that look, but now, it’s kind of charming. There’s something “digital” about them, which adds nostalgia to the experience. It’s as though it was designed in 2000 to look like it’s a watch from 2020. Sci-Fi, but not far-fetched.

Regarding straps, I only got to try it on CW’s hybrid rubber/nylon in full black, which has an underlying “techiness” so it looks good on the watch and is fairly comfortable, though like other rubber straps, I would periodically need to take the watch off to let my wrist breath. So, if I were to buy, I’d spring for the full titanium bracelet even though it comes at premium, as Ti bracelets tend to be very nice to wear. Additionally, I did try the watch on a Rust ADPT strap, which looked the part, and given its own lack of weight, emphasized just how light this watch is.

Conclusion

With a starting price tag of $1,395, Christopher Ward has made a very compelling watch with the C63 Sealander Elite that is just a shade away from being exceptional. Had I not had any issues with the retractable crown, I think it would have been there. The concept is spot-on: a multi-purpose sport watch designed for real life, not fantasies best saved for top athletes. The method taken was the right one; focus on comfort and wearability. The watch is very light, well-sized, and the hidden crown eliminates an issue that can cause irritation over a long day, something I’ve personally encountered on many watches. It was then engineered to keep those elements while providing confidence-inspiring specs, such as 150m of water resistance, which is more than enough for normal wear. The design is unique enough, certainly standing out in their collection, and features the great finishing we’ve come to expect from the brand.

One element not touched on yet is the movement, which is a chronometer rated SW200-1. This sort of seals the deal in terms of specs, and earns the watch its “elite” moniker, but more importantly should let you know it’s good at its primary task: keeping time. In the end, CW made something very impressive, and at a great price, with the C63 Sealander Elite. As said before, other people’s experiences with the crown might differ. It’s possible, and I hope it would be the case, that they have no issues, but I can only review from my experience. So, should you be willing to roll the dice just a little, and are looking for an everyday sports watch that puts comfort first, the C63 Sealander Elite is very worth considering. Christopher Ward

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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