Review: Christopher Ward Military Collection

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As we covered back in September, Christopher Ward and the UK Ministry of Defence have teamed up to release a collection of officially licensed military watches, each based on a historic and collectible reference. There’s one watch for each branch of service in the UK’s MoD — the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force (RAF). The Navy watch is, naturally, a diver; the Army watch is a classically-styled field watch; and the Air Force variant draws inspiration from classic pilot’s watches.

Sandhurst, Cranwell, and Dartmouth.

While each piece in the collection is inspired by a classic military watch from the past, they are still very much their own Christopher Ward design. It’s not often that you see a watch brand team up with the armed forces of their nation in an official sense (it’s worth noting, however, that Bremont did something similar not too long ago), which is yet another reason the collection works so well. The Military Collection both looks and plays the part with a solid set of specs and durable construction to back them up. Let’s take a closer look at this appealing collection of military-inspired watches.

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$900

Review: Christopher Ward Military Collection

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
Selitta SW-200
Dial
Black (Sandhurst and Cranwell); Blue (Dartmouth)
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Stainless steel bracelet or leather strap
Water Resistance
150 meters
Dimensions
38-41mm
Thickness
11.55mm
Lug Width
20.22mm
Crown
Push/Pull
Warranty
Yes
Price
$900

Shared Features

First, we’ll take a look at the common features shared amongst the collection. Each of the designs is housed in a 316L stainless steel case featuring Christopher Ward’s “light-catcher” case design. Introduced in their C65 line, the light-catcher case is something special to look at and wear. They feature an impressive mix of brushed and polished surfaces that reflect light in a very dynamic way. Since there are a bunch of visual breaks along the case, these watches also appear to wear thinner. While I favored the 38mm case on the Sandhurst for myself, the case design really shines on the two other 41mm models. The proportions, for example, are a little bit better on the larger case, and in my experience I found it to wear flatter on the wrist.

“Light-catcher!”
This case is the opposite of slab-sided.
The finishing really pops, elevating the look and feel of the watch.

All three of the watches feature 150 meters of water resistance and an oversized push down crown at 3:00 on the right side of the case. On the caseback you’ll find a deep engraving of the insignia of the corresponding branch of the military that each watch represents. Protecting the dial, there’s a “glass box” style sapphire. It reminds me of the vintage top hat style acrylic crystals that plateau above the bezel by a millimeter or two. It’s got all of the vintage looks, but rendered in a modern material.

Cranwell caseback.

Another notable feature is the movement chosen for the collection. Since the military places heavy emphasis on reliability and accuracy, Christopher Ward wanted to match this with the movement inside the watch. They opted for a Selitta SW-200 that’s COSC chronometer-certified. That means that this automatic movement will run an at -4/+6 seconds per day right out of the box. The MoD Military Collection doesn’t need four lines of text to brag about it — they each feature the words “AUTOMATIC CHRONOMETER” right in between 6:00 and the center post.

The Sandhurst, like all watches in the collection, is a certified chronometer.

You can opt for a leather strap or bracelet on any of the three watches in the collection. I would recommend picking up the watch on a bracelet. The brushed three-link bracelet is something special. It’s nice and sturdy without feeling too heavy or clunky. It balances the head of the watch well and tapers about a millimeter from lug to clasp.

Speaking of the clasp, it’s one of the coolest parts of the bracelet. It’s a bit on the large side, but the convenience of the ratcheting quick adjust lever that allows you to fine tune the fit to four positions makes up for the size. I find my wrists fluctuating in size pretty often (the downfalls of running hot) and the extra adjustments make it comfortable to wear no matter what. While the leather strap is no slouch, the $110 premium for the bracelet is a no-brainer, especially considering its quality fit, finish, and features. It’s one of the better bracelets I’ve handled in the price range.

Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of each piece in the collection.

C65 Dartmouth Series 1 — Royal Navy

41mm Dive-Inspired Watch, 11.55mm thick, 47.1mm lug-to-lug, 22mm at the lugs

The Dartmouth is a navy blue dive-inspired watch that’s loosely based on the Omega Seamaster 300 “big triangle.” The Dartmouth borrows the Omega’s standout triangular index at 12:00, but the rest of the design stands firmly on its own. Set on the matte blue dial, there’s a set of 12 applied indices. Each is a tapered trapezoidal shape that almost look like the teeth of a predatory fish — fitting for a dive watch. In between each applied index lies a hash mark to denote minutes. Running around the outside of the dial, you’ll find a slim bezel that ratchets with a satisfying snap. The hand set consists of a long and tapered arrow hand for the hours and a long baton hand for the minutes. A white arrow-tipped seconds hand provides excellent contrast against the deep blue dial. Overall, the watch reminds me of something out of the 1960s — it’s cleanly designed, slim-wearing, and tasteful on the wrist.

C65 Sandhurst Series 1 – British Army

38mm Field Watch, 11.6mm thick, 45.3 lug-to-lug, 20mm at the lugs

38mm is an excellent size for a field watch. Large enough to easily read, while remaining small on the wrist as to stay out of the way during movement. The Sandhurst does just that. The watch draws heavy inspiration from the Smiths W10 — a military-issued piece with some serious pedigree. The Sandhurst’s dial is very similar to the Smiths, with its high contrasting white-on-black printed Arabic indices. There’s a healthy hit of vintage lume at the cardinal numbers with smaller dots backing the ones in between. The baton-style hands are similar to those seen on the rest of the C65 line (unfortunately with the same rough finishing on the edges as the other ones I’ve encountered). A red-tipped seconds hand extends all the way to the outside of the dial, adding a welcomed pop of color to an other-wise simple watch.

While the Sandhurst may look vintage from above, a look from the side shows the more modern approach to the design. A large part of that is the aforementioned “light-catcher” case design, which looks great sized at 38mm. While a bit more stout than the other two watches in the collection, the mix of brushed and polished finishes on multiple angled planes give it a slim and unique appearance. Another little detail that popped out to me is the red accent on the crown that matches the seconds hand. At first glance, the Sandhurst appears to be a typical field watch, but when looking closer all of the little details together make it something special.

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C65 Cranwell Series 1 – Royal Air Force

41mm Pilot’s Watch, 11.55mm thick, 47.1 lug-to-lug, 22mm at the lugs

Even though the Cranwell is less than a tenth of a millimeter thinner than the Sandhurst, it wears slimmer on the wrist thanks to the flattened appearance of the case. Taking notes out of the pilot watch playbook, the Cranwell is the Royal Air Force-approved entry into the MoD series. Instead of hours, five-minute increments are marked on the dial in numerals with a large triangle up top at 12:00. Out of the three models in the collection, I like the dial design and spacing the best on the Cranwell. In spite of its tool watch roots, the Cranwell is still plenty refined. As with the other watches in the collection, a healthy hit of vintage lume on the dial pairs well with the included leather strap.

The watch shares the same case as the Dartmouth, but instead of a rotating bezel there’s a brushed flat bezel in its place. On the wrist, the Cranwell wears well thanks to the conservative 47.1mm lug-to-lug distance. It’s reminiscent of the IWC 6B/346 RAF-issued watch, especially on the dial. The original watch was created to assist with greater degrees of accuracy on RAF missions, and the COSC-certified Selitta inside the Cranwell is a functional nod to the past.

Conclusion

The team at Christopher Ward did an excellent job creating a licensed collection of military watches that call back to their vintage counterparts without being derivative. A solid dive-inspired watch, a durable field watch, and reliable pilot’s watch represent each branch of the military to form a cohesive collection with something for everyone.

Lume is on point too.

If I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to say it’s the 38mm Sandhurst on bracelet. The 38mm case paired with the rock-solid bracelet made it hard to take it off my wrist. I especially enjoyed the red-tipped seconds hand and matching red accent on the crown. It was easy and just plain fun to wear too.

Each watch is available for a hair over $1,000 on a bracelet, and closer to $900 on leather or waxed canvas. Given the thoughtful design, solid construction, and COSC-certified movement inside, the value is there too. Head over to Christopher Ward to learn more about the Military Collection and to snag one for yourself. Christopher Ward

Let us know in the comments below which one of the three you prefer.

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Ed is a Long Island-based writer and photographer with an affinity for watches, fountain pens, EDC gear, and a great cup of coffee. He’s always looking for the best gear for the job—whether it be new watch, pen, flashlight, knife, or wallet. Ed enjoys writing because it’s an awesome (and fulfilling) way to interact with those who share the same interests.