[VIDEO] Christopher Ward Treads Familiar Ground With The Twelve

‘Integrated bracelet sport watch’ is likely a term you’re getting sick of hearing. The genre has reached a saturation point, it would seem. However, some of the new watches that find themselves in this category are indeed quite compelling. Watches like the new IWC Ingenieur, the Zenith Defy Skyline, the Girard-Perregaux Laureato, and most recently, a surprising entry from Christopher Ward called The Twelve, which we introduced to you when it was launched heading into our Windup Watch Fair in San Francisco. With this watch, Christopher Ward is staking a claim to the genre outside of its usual luxury connotations. Where the IWC, the Zenith, and the G-P (as well as many others) are priced around $10,000 or more, The Twelve hits the market in the much more palatable $1,000 range.

The Twelve is well positioned to capitalize on the trend of the integrated bracelet sport watch in a way many others in this price range are not. They’ve built plenty of equity in the space, and have even brought some typically high-end collectors into their flock with the likes of the Bel-Canto. Where that watch embraced a level of originality, The Twelve is a direct interpretation of a well trodden design language, and Christopher Ward makes no bones about it being exactly that. In fact, whatever your thoughts on the watch itself, there’s something admirable about the recognition Christopher Ward is giving some of the all-time greats of the genre, while at the same time placing their own watch among them.


[VIDEO] Christopher Ward Treads Familiar Ground With The Twelve

Stainless Steel or Titanium
Sellita SW 200; Sellita SW 300
Glacier Blue; Arctic White; Basalt Gray; Nordic Blue; Astral Blue; Nebula Purple
Super Luminova
Integrated steel, or black rubber
Water Resistance
Lug Width
Screw Down
5 yrs

There’s plenty to unpack with The Twelve, which we’ve now had some time with to better assess, but before we go there, let’s take a step back and talk about this whole integrated sport watch thing from a practical point of view. That means setting aside things like cultural impact and auction results, and taking an honest look at what these watches bring to the table. 

There is considerable history to the integrated bracelet, which has been reiterated ad nauseam in recent years with the rise in popularity of the poster child examples. The design of these watches captures an era in a way many find polarizing, and even modern examples retain this quality. They aren’t for everyone. The recent hype status of these watches has blurred that fact, but when it comes down to it, the power of these designs relies on their ability to seamlessly blend the case and the bracelet, which by its very nature, is a bit jarring. Round peg in a square hole type of jarring. 

In my experience, the beauty of these watches comes from having them on the wrist. When executed well, these are watches that simply melt into the wrist, and feel an organic part of your body. They are generally thin, and often feature exquisitely crafted tapered bracelets that move, bend, and twist with ease, constantly adjusting to you. These are watches that I judge by their bracelets, and this is typically where much of the cost of these watches can be attributed to. When I say their cost, I mean their RRP, not their aftermarket prices.

If that kind of ‘disappears when I don’t need it’ wearing experience is what you’re looking for, a proper integrated bracelet watch should be of interest to you. Sadly, truly great ones are often well outside of the bounds of a typical watch budget for most of us. Heck, even manufacturing a properly good normal bracelet is a challenge. A fully integrated unit takes that challenge a step further. 

The designs of these bracelets have taken many forms, but good ones are bound by a few traits that I look for. The first is a high angle of articulation, meaning the links can achieve a broad range of motion effortlessly. Just as importantly, the finishing of the links, including the details between each link can bring a lot in terms of comfort to these bracelets. Harsh edges are quick to make themselves known when in motion. Finally, the width at the case, and the width at the clasp. The taper here is hugely important, and can have a big effect on the wearability, more so than a traditional case/bracelet relationship. 

The original integrated bracelet sport watch, the Royal Oak

These watches make apparent the issues with the lug to lug measurement. Without much of a lug to measure from, you’ll generally go to the edge of the case, but that’s not the full story, either. Sometimes, the first link that’s mated to the case is entirely stiff, so should that be the try end to end measurement? But then, how is the downward angle accounted for? There is no easy way to represent the numbers with an integrated watch, it’s something that will either work well with your wrist, or not.

Okay, so how does the Christopher Ward The Twelve fit into the broader integrated sport watch landscape? In short, it brings a lot to the table, while narrowly missing the mark in some key areas. In light of its price point, however, I’m frankly surprised it gets as close to the mark as it manages to. 

The Twelve begins with a 40mm steel case that measures 10.21mm thick with our calipers, a slight bump from the 9.9mm claimed by Christopher Ward, but not one that should disturb you in practice. This is still a very thin watch. The titanium variant is slated to be a full millimeter thinner still. Impressive stuff with the Sellita SW200 here, and the SW300 in the titanium offering. As mentioned, lug to lug is a bit trickier, but taken from the edge of the case that number is 44.6mm. The very first link mated to the case doesn’t have much articulation, but its bottom sits below the caseback. 

The width of that first link as it meets the case is just shy of 25mm, which is helpful to know, as that’s traditionally a point where the watch has narrowed to about 20mm. That said, the taper here is a bit more than what you’d typically find in an integrated case, so this is a watch that wears true to size. The bracelet tapers to 18mm relatively quickly, within 4 links, and remains there, so it doesn’t really feel tapered in practice. This is a difficult transition to make, but it feels slightly wider at the bottom of the wrist than I’d expect. More on the bracelet later. 

The watch gets its name from the 12 sided bezel framing the dial, presenting a side for each hour. It’s not entirely uncommon, and feels a strange thing from which to derive a name, but it is what it is. The bezel piece is quite thin, and doesn’t have a massive impact on the design as a whole, far less than the octagonal bezel of the Laureato, for instance (side note: how cool is that name?). The Zenith Skyline also features a 12 sided, dodecahedron bezel, which also lends a bit more to the overall aesthetic compared to the The Twelve thanks to the wider footprint. There’s enough dial real estate with The Twelve that I think the bezel could have pushed a bit further, creating more of an impact on the design than it currently does. However, were the watch not literally named The Twelve, I’m not sure the same thought would have occurred to me.

The dial of The Twelve takes just as big a swing as the case and bracelet. There is an aggressive texture consisting of the twin flag motif of the Christopher Ward logo. It’s tough to pick up from afar, but comes into focus up close. It works up close, with plenty of depth to enjoy, while at a distance takes on the look of a basketweave or barleycorn texture, which invites comparisons to other watches in the genre, despite the fact that it is indeed a unique pattern. It’s an interesting pattern, though after some time in use I found it to be slightly aggressive, especially when paired with the highly angular case. There’s a lot of tension between the two that may have been resolved with a tighter pattern spread. 

Elsewhere on the dial we find a set of sword hands that get a central vein of lume tracking time against twelve large applied hour markers. The markers themselves come to a point toward the center of the dial, with a mix of polished and brushed surfaces. The markers claw quite deeply into the dial, with their bases nearly kissing the top of the hour hand as it passes by. The big personality adds to the overall aggressiveness of the dial. Finally, a date window is inserted at 6 o’clock, with a color matched disc leaving it to blend in neatly with the dial. 

Like many integrated watches, The Twelve can’t be taken by its dial alone, or its case alone, but rather the entire package has to work cohesively. On this note, the watch pulls together quite well, even though each individual area has its own rough edges. When it comes to the bracelet, quite literally. There is plenty of articulation between the links, but there’s nothing ‘soft’ about it. There are sharp edges that stand out visually and to the touch, particularly the top center section of each link, as well as the edges of the links on the top side. Things are smoothed out a bit on the wrist side, so the watch isn’t necessarily uncomfortable, but there are areas of the bracelet that feel just south of graceful.


The meeting point between the case and the first link of the bracelet, when viewed from the profile, is a perfect example. There are harsh angles and points that don’t come together as neatly as you’d like, and running a finger along the top side of the bracelet as it bends isn’t exactly pleasant. This is being hugely nit-picky of course, and all of this is said in relation to the watches much further up the food chain due to the fact that Christopher Ward themselves cite as The Twelve’s inspiration and contemporaries. Christopher Ward CEO Mike France even explicitly called out IWC and the new Ingenieur in our interview with him at the Windup Watch Fair in San Francisco. They may invite the comparisons, but it’s not a lens through which I prefer to view this watch. 

Taken on its own, The Twelve takes on a different complexion. It’s a great watch that deserves to be taken seriously, and all in all it’s a fantastic value that again is a benchmark for what to expect from brands at this price point. It’s incredibly thin, quite comfortable, and boasts a very good integrated bracelet. It does exactly what it says on the box, all for a great price that brings viable integrated sport watch design to a much broader audience, which I will always be in favor of.

I’d like to address the idea of inspiration here. Plenty has been made about The Twelve looking a lot like, well, a lot of other watches. I even made a comment about it looking a bit too close to the Czapek Antarctique in my introduction of this watch. Truth be told, there are a lot of watches that come across my radar that also take clear inspiration from all the usual places. The Twelve is no exception. Almost all watches are iterating on an existing idea, and they go about it with varying degrees of originality. 

At this stage I’m inclined to shrug off such comments as non-constructive at best, and downright ignorant at worst. In pointing out the similarities to another watch, my aim was simply to highlight the fact that it didn’t need to in order to be successful. I believe that The Twelve stand on its own, and that some of the small details Christopher Ward has decided to use invite the comparison a bit more than they needed to. Most importantly, Christopher Ward has put a tremendous amount of work into this watch and it shows. The Twelve deserves to be seen for what it is, and judged on its own merits, which I’ve tried to do here. 

The Twelve is a compelling watch, and while I’ve enjoyed the steel variant, I believe I’d find the titanium variant all the more interesting. From a brief hands-on with that watch in San Francisco, I found it to be an overall heightened experience thanks to the more uniform finish of the case and bracelet, and fume dial execution. The whole watch was pushed further into a wholly original realm, and it’s the watch that felt truly special, even at its slightly increased, but still sub $2,000 price point. 

In the meantime, I’d have absolutely no qualms in recommending this steel The Twelve for $1,225 to anyone interested in experiencing an integrated bracelet sports watch. Christopher Ward has succeeded here, and while it’s not perfect, it’s got a huge amount of personality packed into a tidy 40mm, integrated frame. Christopher Ward.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.