* Warning: if you are not interested in watches it would be advisable to jump to the next article. If you are interested, I hope you enjoy it *
The title sounds like hyperbole and the words of someone who is in the honeymoon period with a new product, but there is a decent amount of experience behind those words.
I have owned many, many watches over the past few years and some of these have greatly impressed me in the early stages only to fall away and be dispensed with to the watch graveyard that is eBay. It can be difficult to balance the initial excitement of seeing a new watch, being highly impressed by the design and then buying it against the reality of actually wearing it.
Over time I have, however, begun to realise what works for me and the number of factors involved is more than I would consider when buying a car, for example. That sounds ridiculous I know, but when you get deep into watches everything matters. Literally everything matters.
This causes obvious problems because nothing is perfect and looking too deeply into an object can create the illusion that perfection is possible. It isn’t, for any product, and one thing that experience with watches has taught me is that I will have to accept compromise in one form or another. The trick is to accept and live with minor imperfections and to look at the watch as a whole.
The notch on my iPhone is a minor inconvenience, the bite point on my car’s clutch could be higher and my garden could be bigger. I chose them and I like them, and the small parts that are not perfect would not make me change any of them. For some people accepting such imperfections in a watch, or in smartphones and cars, becomes more difficult the more they get into a hobby, and this can become a ‘very’ expensive habit.
So, I have managed to climb out of the rabbit hole and peak around a little over the past year, and have reached the point where I know that the perfect watch does not exist. I have also come to realise that there is a finite point, to me at least, in which a watch represents acceptable value for money.
That level for me is approximately £1,000. This is not an arbitrary figure, it has come from buying many watches below £500, a few above £1,000 and 3 above £2,500. All of them were sold, some for profit and some for a loss which has remarkably resulted in a profit overall, but there had to come a time when I stopped buying watch after watch trying to find something that could never exist in such an object- that perfection word again.
Eventually you know what brands, and specific models, are safe bets and in my experience the lower end is where you will lose money. There are so any expensive ‘low end’ watches from the likes of Gucci that lose a big percentage of the asking price the moment you walk out of the door. This also applies to TAG, most Seikos and Citizens, and almost every other watch below £500. Above £1,000 you will be better served if you decide to chop a watch in, but again you need to know which brands hold their value and which will lose you £100’s overnight. Remember that all of these brands are making many thousands of watches per year, in many cases +1 million, and so availability is easy which affects pre-owned pricing. The outlier here is Rolex who makes close to 1 million watches per year, but the really popular models are the ones that are not made in big enough volume to meet the demand.
When you go higher you can do well. Tudor is excellent value by the standards of most watch collectors. The ‘baby Rolex’ offers excellent movements, great quality finishing and designs that are timeless. Some models, such as the Black Bay 58, are sought after to this day and it is only now that supply is catching up with demand that we see the prices starting to drop below retail. I really did like my Tudors, but sadly they just became too big to wear over time. The Black Bay Heritage range is top heavy on the wrist and the slabbed sides add visually to the sense of a very big watch. The Black Bay 58 solved the size issue and the slabbed sides are not so noticeable, but the watch just didn’t have enough about it to interest me long term. When I sold it to my son (he got a good deal while I fooled myself that he was being responsible enough to pay for it) I had come to terms with the fact that a time only plain watch was not going to work for me.
I dropped down to an Oris Diver’s Sixty Five and was happy for a while, but deep down I knew that it was probably not worthy of the price I paid for it, and it was a plain watch that I had decided would not work for me. I still bought it for some reason. I got a decent discount and paid £1,200 (retail is £1,650) for it and was relatively happy. It is a well made watch which offers genuine vintage appeal above a not very impressive Sellita SW200 movement and that is all I can say about it. There is nothing wrong with the movement, but it is available in ‘much’ cheaper watches and in some cases regulated to allow for much greater accuracy. The sense that the Oris was too expensive for what it was and that it was verging on boring never left me. So I sold it for a small loss.
As much as I would love to detail all of the watches that came before (the Bulovas, Longines, Hamiltons, Tissots, Citizens, Casio G-Shocks and so many more) I won’t because it is a tale of emotional purchases that didn’t work out, experimenting with any brand people told me was good and just blindly buying watches because I could. It is, alas, not a unique tale and I would suspect that it is a similar path taken by many other watch enthusiasts.
Over recent times I had heard about Christopher Ward and had not thought much about the brand. I was still in the mindset of wanting a brand with a deep heritage, many years of watchmaking history and a name that others would be impressed with. Eventually I realised that all of that is nonsense and of no tangible benefit to me. It means that I am paying much more money for the same materials, a lifestyle fantasy that is not achievable and for a watch that no one else notices anyway. As I said it is complete nonsense.
The mentions of Christopher Ward continued in podcasts and YouTube videos, and I took a longer look at what was on offer. I do not tend to go by recommendations from public watch people anymore because I have noticed a trend that makes me doubt the credibility of what is being said. Too many, almost all, start off being direct and by questioning the traditional industry, but they soon change when the brands get in touch and they realise that they need to build relationships to obtain review models, reciprocal publicity and to build an audience. The industry is rife with cheap Chinese watches marketed as ‘affordable luxury’ and ‘cutting out the middle man’, scarcity designed to increase the value of a brand and back patting on a level that outstrips most other industries outside of fashion and media. It made me question if Christopher Ward was just another new brand trying to survive in a market by doing the same things every other brand does.
Established in 2004, which is incredibly new for a watch brand, Christopher Ward was named after an employee who has, ironically, now left the company and who is involved in a new brand, TRIBUS. The brand started as expected and when you look back at some of the earlier models there is a sense of joining in and following what was popular, but in recent times that has changed.
I looked through the range and found myself noting down a few models which offered extremely competitive specifications for the price. While this is not unique, it is very unusual and so I looked deeper. The 60 day return policy and 60 month warranty (60|60) stood out to me immediately. I could buy a watch and if I didn’t like it just return it and if I liked it I had 5 years peace of mind.
Specific models caught my eye, however, and I pondered a Super Compressor (£1,000), a C60 Sapphire (£900) and a C65 GMT Worldtimer (£995). It was the C65 Trident GMT in black (£1,055) that really stood to me though and so it was bought with a £100 discount taking it down to £955. For the price a Sellita SW330 movement is impressive and the important boxes are ticked throughout; sapphire glass, decent sizing, GMT functionality and Old Radium Super-LumiNova as a bonus. It was the design, however, that caught me.
This watch was actually bought for my son as he had agreed with me that it stood out, but when received he was not impressed. This is a common issue with buying watches online because an image on a screen is irrelevant- it is how it looks up close, how it feels on the wrist and what emotions it brings out that is important. His disappointment was in complete contrast to my initial thoughts. I was immediately very impressed and I had a sense that I may not be returning it.
Two weeks later and I feel even more positive.
It is only by wearing a watch that you can get to know if it is right for you. You start to find the bits that annoy you and these can grow in your mind quite quickly to the point that you decide to let the watch go. If, however, the good bits far outweigh the bad that is when the emotional side comes in and you start to really appreciate it for what it is. This is why I have excused the tiny date window on the GMT.
A simple checklist is never enough, but if I had to do one the following would be accurate for the C65 Trident GMT-
1 second fast per day is extremely good accuracy for any watch, yet alone one at this price which has supposedly not been regulated.
It is very comfortable on the bracelet and fits my 7.25” wrist perfectly. This is a surprise because at 170 grams it is not exactly a light watch. Also, the bracelet has a clever quick release function and a superb extension mechanism in the clasp.
It just looks so good in any lighting condition and more importantly, it changes completely in lower light. See the first image in the article to see what I mean. It can truly stand out.
The mix of a nearly black dial alongside the silver bezel and the vintage lume (such a wonderful shade) is near perfect. Throw in the big orange GMT hand as a highlight and it becomes a very interesting timepiece to look at.
It is a strap whore which is never a bad thing. No matter what the strap it looks consistent and can be made to stand out if you so wish.
There is not one scratch on the bracelet clasp or anywhere else so far. That may sound trivial, but I work at a desk (desk diver!) and no other watch including my Tudors avoided scratches within 24 hours of ownership.
I have not owned a watch that balances making the experience interesting for the wearer against not making it appear flashy to other people so well. Last week a man mentioned my watch while I was in the petrol station and said how unusual it was. The thing is that it is not unusual, but in certain conditions it pops in a way that makes it look like a true vintage diver from the past, one that does not actually look like vintage divers from the past.
As it happens he was wearing a modern Rolex Submariner and, to me, it looked like a watch being worn to say something to others. He may well have always wanted a Sub, but it still stood out in a way that felt like trying too hard.
In a world where many watch people feel the need to own the watches they are told to own as part of their collections (Speedmaster, Submariner, vintage Datejust etc) it feels good to step away from that and to just enjoy an interesting timepiece from a non-heritage brand that ticks all of my boxes, and which will work perfectly without the need for expensive servicing in the future.
If you are a watch person and you are starting to fall down the rabbit hole it may be a good idea to really think about where you are heading. It is all too easy to be swayed by the words of Hodinkee who are now capable or moving the luxury watch industry in any direction they like. It is easy to listen to podcasts and to watch YouTube videos which all seem to praise the same brands and models (ask yourself why) and it is just so easy to mentally buy into the desire to own a watch with history.
Buying a watch with lots of history makes little sense in the real world. Your new Speedmaster did not go to the moon and it can barely be used to do the washing up. James Bond does not actually wear an Omega because he is a fictional character and wearing a Rolex will not get you laid (well, it might I guess).
All I am saying is that for me the C65 Trident GMT has been a revelation and it will (hopefully) be staying on my wrist for a long time to come.
Sometimes a watch just ‘ticks’ the right boxes in the exact right way.
More information about the C65 Trident GMT is here.