I picked up a Tissot Seastar Navigator from 1974 last week for a price that was hard to ignore. It was from a dealer I know well and is a genuine example of a watch that is growing in popularity, and it has aged exactly as you would expect; a few case marks, faded chronograph hand and a bezel that is just about readable 48 years later.
It needs a service because it is currently running about a minute fast per day, but for the first time I really do not care. I have historically been a little obsessed with my watches being as accurate as possible, but this watch has become jewellery for me. It just looks so good in the subtlest of ways and catches the eye from time to time thanks to the blue sub-dial, red second hand, faded orange chronograph hand and the faded black (now grey) bezel. It’s a curiosity of a watch that shows all of the design cues that so many brands are trying to replicate today, but there is no replication here. The Navigator is what it is and it shows its age in style.
Vintage watches can be expensive to buy and even more expensive to run. Buy yourself a 1970’s Rolex and you will be servicing it often if you wear it every day because, and this is from experience, they are not that reliable and were not particularly well built.
If you can leave behind the absolute need for a perfect timekeeper you can pick up a stylish timepiece that looks sublime in any situation and you may just find that the good design beats the bad timekeeping enough to keep it on your wrist. I am struggling to take this one off and so the end result will either be a service or only wearing it occasionally, but either way this particular model is, in my opinion, one of the very best vintage watches you can buy for a low price.
This watch is insane if you look at the specs alone. It is 16.3mm thick, 46mm wide and 52mm lug to lug, and comes in at 206 grams with the metal bracelet. That is a BIG watch and for most people it would never be a consideration, myself included, because it is just too big to enjoy wearing every day.
The insanity continues with an 80 hour power reserve, a Nivachron balance spring (not affected by magnetic fields generated by our electronic objects (mobile phone, computer, radio, magnetic closure, etc.)), full ISO 6425 diving certification, a sapphire crystal, a ceramic bezel, helium valve and 60 bar (600 m / 2000 ft) of water resistance which is massive for any watch.
For £895 the above specifications are extremely impressive and while I recognise that this is a silly amount of money for a watch, in the context of the watch market it is high up there for value.
My intention was to purchase a Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 (£560) when I walked into the store to wear when the Garmin Epix didn’t suit, but it just felt too small thanks to the physiological trick the Epix has pulled off. If you wear two watches they will need to be similar in size to feel relatively comfortable when swapped over.
My wife, Joanne, spotted the Seastar 2000 first and was taken with the dial and I made the mistake of trying it on before the PRX. The gap between the two was so great in my mind that the PRX was never going to win and so I asked for 20% off the Seastar. They didn’t even haggle (it’s not easy for watches under £1,000 currently) and so it was mine for £716. This is one of those situations where a retail store can get you a better price than online because they are struggling to get people through the door, and I am more than happy to use that because even I believe that £100’s for any watch is not logically a sane thing to consider.
When I consider the technology included in this watch (Nivachron balance spring, 600m water resistance, helium valve etc) and the specs for the price, it is hard to look outside of the Seastar 2000 at this price point. The fact that it is made by such a well-known brand is another advantage and one which would normally lift the price higher, but it does not do that here. Tissot is an unusual brand in that it makes some brilliant watches at lower price points and it has a very long history, but for some reason it does not garner the same level of respect as brands like Hamilton which play in the same arena.
Tissot has proven to be more than capable of creating watches that get come to being tacky fashion models which may answer why they do not get so much respect, but it is also clear that the brand is on the up with the PRX models in particular gaining a lot of attention. After a few days with the Seastar 2000 I could argue that this could be the best Tissot available regardless of price point.
Currently mine is getting with 2 seconds per day which is better than expected and I must say that the crown is a joy to use once it has been unscrewed. It is a very large crown and is flanked by guards, but this design somehow makes the case look a little smaller. There is a ‘tool’ feeling to the way the crown works and how the bezel clicks into place following a sharp sounding rotation. The bezel is ceramic which is another bonus because it should prove almost impossible to scratch and the anti-reflective sapphire crystal ends what is a set of materials designed to take whatever is thrown at them.
The robust feeling is present throughout and it feels even better built than my long-departed Tudor Black Bay. The 600m water resistance is evidence of that because such a rating will indicate just how tight the tolerances are in this watch and how hardy it needs to be. Almost no-one goes 600 metres below the surface of the sea, but the fact that it can means that you can wear this for as long as you want and it will cope in almost every situation.
I am surprised that the case back is open because such a high water resistance would almost certainly always have a full sealed case back. I do wonder if the water resistance could be even higher without being able to see the movement, but as I said before the Seastar offers more than enough.
It is a heavy watch and noticeable on the wrist and even more noticeable to others, but in a positive way. It does not shout ‘look at me’. It simply says ‘I look good and even better when you catch me at a glance’. And it is the glancing moments that make this watch stand out. The dial is sublime and takes on a different hue at every angle. It’s so well done and under macro the finishing is excellent. You have to see the dial in reality to appreciate what it brings and it does make me view standard one-colour dials in a different way. When you think of how many times you will look at your watch, it kind of makes sense to have something nice to look at. Even better, something that is not too showy and which only you get to fully appreciate.
The hands, markers and every other part under macro are way above what I have seen elsewhere at this price and so I am left scratching my head at what is wrong with this watch.
The bracelet is wrong. It is not bad in terms of quality and it does suit the watch, but those awful polished mid-links make the entire watch look too shiny. This is without doubt a tool watch and I am not convinced that dressing it up this way makes sense. It’s a bit like the precious metal Rolex divers which also make no sense. The clasp is very good quality and is more than secure enough with the quick release mechanism another bonus if you want to attach a less shiny 22mm strap. A diver’s extension is hidden in the clasp to allow for a wet suit and this does not form part of the security of the bracelet when it is closed. This is a good thing because the quality of the metal in the extension is just terrible. I kind of expect this because it has to fold into such a small space, but even so it is a potential weak point if you are diving with this watch.
So, this watch is well built, a bit shiny if worn on the bracelet and it is big and heavy. But, and it is a big but, it grows on you after a few days on the wrist. I have my doubts about what I still consider to be a noticeable watch, I tend to prefer less obvious pieces, but for the money it is near the top of the pile and it may well be around for some time to come. When you wear a watch with a dial like this it can be hard to drop back to a more ‘normal’ look, and at the moment I don’t want to. Well done Tissot. Seriously, bravo.
I have never owned a field watch and never understood why. They offer a lot in terms of pure functionality, but not so much when it comes to endurance and features. If, however, you can step back and understand that a mechanical watch is primarily designed to tell the time then you can concentrate on how a timepiece looks and works, and leave it at that.
When you do this you can view a field watch in a different light. It is effectively a watch which just happens to have 24 hour markers inside the 12 hour markers and usually a very effective lume to read the time at night, but there is also quite a history to this type of watch which can be read here.
This particular watch from Hamilton retails for £640 which I realise is a lot of money, but when considered among a very large crowd at this price point it stands up well. There is a nato strapped version at £540 and so you are effectively paying £100, minus the nato, for the steel bracelet. This is where the value perception muddies a little.
After a few days with the Khaki Field I am more than a little surprised about how I feel about it. It is exceptionally thin compared to most other non-quartz watches I have reviewed and it has a dial that is almost like paper in most lighting conditions. It’s kind of like a Kindle on a sunny day as opposed to an iPad. The only downside is the lack of any anti-reflective coating on the crystal which is an odd move because it kinds of defeats the object of a super-clear dial. In reality this isn’t the end of the world because it is fine 95% of the time with only the occasional twist of the wrist needed on occasion.
The H-50 movement is hand wound and offers up to 80 hours of power reserve. It takes quite a few turns to wind, but as soon as you feel some resistance you can stop and you will be good to go for 3+ days. This minor inconvenience is nothing when you consider that you need to do nothing else to keep it running and I am sure that any Apple Watch owner would take that in place of the constant charging.
The lengthy power reserve is excellent and it gets better because after 3 days it is 1 second slow. That is exceptional and from what I hear it is not unusual to see this level of performance from the H-50 movement.
At 50m (5 bar) the water resistance is not particularly useful, but this is a feature of many field watches. I am not sure this makes sense because a screen down crown would not hurt with such a long power reserve and extra water resistance is almost always a good thing.
The blasted steel case is lovely and it may actually look cheap to some people. However, if you know you know and there is never a sense that it is finished poorly or that the watch lacks in exceptional construction. For me, it does not shout luxury and it makes no effort to gain attention, but there is a real sense that it is tightly made for the task it is designed to do. The bracelet, which is a fairly new addition sits incredibly tight to the case and matches the aesthetic perfectly. From a distance it looks great, but the lack of a taper does feel slightly out of place when attached to such a thing watch head.
Is the bracelet worth an extra £100, minus the nato strap on the lower-priced version? I don’t know. When I saw this watch on the bracelet a few months ago I was taken by it and it seemed to complete the watch in the marketing photos. In the real world it is perfectly possible that a field watch like this looks better on a decent nato strap.
It is hard to recommend a watch like this at such a price because I am aware that the majority who read McGST care little for watches, but in the big world of mechanical watches particular model is right up there with the very best. It’s genuinely hard to fault.
I wrote a while back about my lessening fascination with watches and it has stuck. There is a glimmer of interest remaining, however, and so when I was offered the chance to take a look at this particular Seiko Presage I took up the opportunity.
There is something about this specific Presage model for me which mostly centres around the colouring and the sense that it could offer an authentic vintage style in a modern watch that will work for an extended period.
Some people just want a watch. A watch that looks like a watch and which offers the basic functionality in a simple and unobtrusive manner. This models ticks those boxes by simply offering the time and date in a legible format, and in a style that really is timeless.
You only need to look at it to understand what it is about and the fact that Seiko is aiming for a classic / vintage aesthetic, but unusually it nails that goal completely. There are so many watches from various brands that have jumped on the pseudo vintage bandwagon, but most either go too far and feel contrived or they don’t go far enough and feel somewhat inauthentic.
For a watch that is visually vintage it is a surprise to see that the Cocktail Time was originally launched in 2010. This was unusual at the time because the flavour of the day was larger watches and those that looked like they should be worn by action heroes. To this day, the Presage range continues to expand and models like the SRPC99J1 continue to be produced, and for some they offer everything they need and want in a watch.
The highlight of this watch is the dial, of that there is no doubt. The way the embossed circular pattern becomes more dense towards the centre will catch the eye on a sunny day. The polished hands are legible in almost all conditions and very well finished as are the surprisingly impressive hour markers. Throw in a date window with a matching surround, a beautifully applied Seiko logo and minimalist text elsewhere, and you have a consistent dial that works in every single area. The only improvement I can think off would be to remove the date window, but it is large enough to read and the (lazy) white date background is not too contrasting. This level of dial is rarely seen in watches that cost 8 times more and it genuinely is a triumph to see it at this price point.
The case is very well proportioned and thinner than would normally be expected for an automatic watch (40.5mm x 11.8mm of which a good 2mm is the domed crystal). With a half-onion crown that matches the design very well and 20mm lug width I note again how consistent the watch is throughout. My wife hates the idea of a silver case and gold markings, but for me it helps to modernise the look and feel of the watch, and there is never a moment where either looks out of place. It almost looks fragile, but it isn’t and the hardlex crystal should be able to cope with life (within reason). It is not heavy at all at 68 grams and you will forget you are wearing it.
One reason that you will forget this watch is on your wrist is because of the calf leather strap. It is soft enough out of the box to feel of good quality, none of the hard cardboard wrapped in dodgy leather here, and the deployment clasp is of adequate quality. Indeed, it is the one area I would definitely change because while it looks good, it is larger than it needs to be and a traditional buckle system would be preferable.
The hard wearing and elegantly presented 4R35 is beating away inside this watch. 40 hours power reserve is very good at this price, it has hacking and hand winding, and the rotor has been decorated in gold to match the dial markings. The accuracy spec is concerning (+45 /-35 seconds per day), but I am seeing -5 seconds per day and others who have reviewed this model are seeing single digital accuracy which is decent enough.
This is a hard watch to not love. The dial is sensational and arguably the best I have seen in any watch. The case and strap are really good overall and even the movement is more than acceptable. It all becomes hard to fathom when you consider the price. The RRP is £350, but after being asked to looked at this I bought it for £245, a price that you should be able to get in the UK in the New Year sales. That is astonishing value when compared to the competition in this area. A superb watch.
The BENYAR Elegant is without doubt a homage to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual which you can see below.
This is something that the brand does, a brand that also appears to go by the name of PAGRNE DESIGN and potentially a few others such as Haiqin (not confirmed). Hailing from China these homage watches are all of a similar quality, almost all have no aim apart from trying to look like more expensive watches and they are all surprisingly good for the money.
The Elegant offers a Seagull ST6 movement within a stainless steel case and some rather vague elements such as the Synthetic High Hardness Glass (mineral?) crystal. With a 100 metre water rating and near perfect dimensions for most wearers the actual spec is good, but as always with any watch it is the feel of it that matters.
The movement is cheap and cheerful, but it is a workhorse that will offer decent timekeeping. Don’t expect ultra-precise timing or materials that will last decades (it may well do), but if you are buying this watch (approx. £50) you shouldn’t expect such things.
You should also not expect a positive experience truth be told, but it does offer that. Even though it is a watch that will be bought because it looks a bit like the new Oyster Perpetual the end result is much better than could be expected for the price.
I would wear this watch quite happily and would argue that it is superior in value and quality to most fashion brand’s quartz offerings. The fact that it is a homage continues to annoy me a little because the ability to create good quality at affordable prices remains, it’s just the imagination that is missing.
The name Pagrne Design is an oddity because it could also be Benyar, Pagani Design, Haiqin and presumably a whole host of other brands which all appear to make the same watches under different names in China.
They are almost always homage watches which mimic expensive luxury models such as the Rolex Submariner, Omega Seamaster and the shady name changing and strange practices are likely a nod to the fact that they are sailing very close to the wind. The thing is that homage watches that closely mimic luxury models are not actually illegal, or so I believe, because a watch is classed as a tool and thus it is hard to fight those who copy a ‘tool’ because it is protected. When you see fake watches that use the same branding as a real watch that is then definitely illegal and it supports all kinds of murky businesses that lurk beneath the pretence of luxury.
So, a watch like the PG 1670 is difficult to evaluate. I was asked if I would like to see one and review it, and I took up the offer with no mention of how I should review it. For me it was just a ‘try and decide’ exercise where I did not expect to write anything, but it surprised me greatly.
The watch itself does not sit right with me. The complete lack of originality is grating and the photocopier approach of just making a clone of a real watch is a low way of doing business in my view. It is closer to being a fake watch factory than you may believe, but there is another side to this. Take a look at Rotary, Accurist, Sekonda, Bulova. They all have a selection of watches in their catalogues that ape more expensive luxury models and they are supposedly ‘proper’ watch brands. The more you look into this, the more confusing it gets and at least Pagrne Design is offering a lot for a low price whereas the likes of Rotary is offering not much for a high price.
There are elements of the Omega Seamaster to the PG 1670, a watch that is cloned more closely by this brand in another model, but at least this particular watch cannot be classed as a direct clone because its design does not exactly mimic any other model.
Every single aspect of the watch can be found, in terms of design, on a luxury watch. The bezel, dial, hour markers, hands, case etc are close to identical to other models, but put them all together and you have a new(ish) watch design.
The NH35 movement is a mainstay of the watch world and has been installed on thousands of watches over the past decade. It is seen on many budget models, but not on the lowest priced options and is considered by many to be the best you can get at an affordable price. It has a quoted accuracy range of -20~+40 seconds per day under normal conditions which doesn’t sound good, but in reality most should come in around or even below +/- 10 seconds per day. This particular watch is running at approximately +8 seconds per day for me which is acceptable.
The bracelet is a bit of a surprise. Screw links, the screwdriver is included, a decent clasp and a diver’s extension for good measure make for a better than expected offering. Throw in solid end links, a sharp taper and a brushed finish, and the end result is much better than I expected.
It is, however, the watch itself that matters and in that regard I have been just as surprised. It sits extremely well on my 7.25 inch wrist and is not top heavy at all. The lug to lug is less than I expected which results in a watch with presence that does not dominate in any way. The brushed cased with polished sides and the stainless steel reflective bezel come together well to create a watch that is noticed rather than one which tries too hard to stand out.
Legibility is excellent and the blue lume is an unusual bonus with a soft tone to the dial markers that contrast with the harshness of the bezel numbers. You will see in the photos that it was hard to focus on the dial and it looks softer when snapped than in real life, but the reality is that it is an extremely legible watch that requires a mere glance to catch the time.
Finally, the bezel is crisp when turned, if a little hard to grasp due to the smooth outer edge, and on this particular watch it lined up perfectly. I have seen others mention an issue with alignment which is not unusual at this price, but it happens to be OK on this one.
As I wrote earlier I have many reservations regarding how and why these watches are made, but if I consider this watch from a quality vs price vs functionality perspective it is very easy to like. It outperforms many budget watches that cost twice as much and if you can overlook the suspect heritage you will be getting an everyday watch that looks good and which works well for little outlay.
I am left with three thoughts-
The quality is on par with many watches I have worn that cost above £500 and some that are even higher.
Why oh why does this brand not create their own designs? They have the setup to make excellent quality at a low price and should be a bit more ambitious.
It has made me realise that a white dial watch could be the way forward for me. The more I wear it, the more I like this watch despite the suspect heritage.
You can pick this watch up from approximately £75 at AliExpress or £100 at Amazon and at either price it does stand up in terms of quality.
It reminds me of my current grail watch which is below.
But then again, this is Pagrne Design and so they also offer the following.
See what I mean about a lack of creative ideas married to a technically excellent setup?
I bought this for my daughter who already own a Casio Baby G watch which she has worn on and off for years. She is not into watches in any way, but when she saw this online she was taken with it.
Now, I am not a man to indulge my children with whatever they want, but if it’s a watch I am much more amenable to being persuaded. It took 2 seconds after finally seeing it available in a shop window for me to decide to buy it and £99 later she had a Casioak.
Casio initially marketed this watch as for ‘women’ which shows that many watch brands still don’t get that a lot of women want bigger watches now and all it does is mentally preclude men from buying some models that would otherwise work perfectly well for them.
At 46.2 x 42.9 x 11.2mm it is actually more suited to men, this is not a small watch despite the ‘mini’ moniker advertised by Casio, but its weight (41g) means that effectively anyone can wear it if they can cope with the size.
My daughter loved it straight away and I asked to try it on just to see what it was really like, and I have to say that the experience was more than positive. Indeed, it was one of the most positive first wear experiences I have had with a watch. It hugs the wrist perfectly, it is so light that it is barely noticeable and it looks sublime.
The Royal Oak styling is what made this watch an enthusiasts favourite, but for me the lack of depth and the consistency of the design is what makes it feel like such a complete offering. And below this new shape and thinner case is the same G-Shock experience we have known for decades.
Besides the traditional analogue time display you get 5 daily alarms, perpetual calendar, 24 hour timer, date and week display, effective GMT function with 2 times displayed at once, stopwatch and world time. All of this happens in the unobtrusive LCD display which can at times be covered by the traditional hands, until you press a button and they handily move out of the way.
It is genuinely hard to knock a watch that costs less than £100, that has shock resistance at the height of the watch industry, 200m of water resistance and a design that is subtle and stylish at the same time.
I always thought that the hype was merely a few watch enthusiasts falling for the octagonal design and nothing else, but I was wrong. It is a do anything timepiece that oozes style in every area.
If you want to purchase a new product today to experience a genuine hit of nostalgia from your youth (if you are around 50 years of age in my case) it is very hard to do because so few products are still in production that were made in the 1980’s.
Perhaps you need to pick up a Casio CA-53W-1ER which can be bought for less than £20 in the UK and even cheaper in other countries. You could then be sporting the same watch that Marty McFly was wearing in 1985.
This mythical, and legendary, character wore this watch 36 years ago in one of the biggest movies of all time and you can still buy it today which is extraordinary.
It may have many small improvements inside since that time, but it is still effectively the same watch which is unusual for any digital product. Thankfully it is easily attainable and it gives me the opportunity to go back to those moments in the classroom when I would stare at this watch and calculate things while thinking that the future had arrived.
Arguably it is a calculator that can only be used efficiently by children because the keys are so small, but when you do put it on and give it a try all of the memories come flooding back in the blink of an eye.
It is ultimately a watch with calculator functionality, but you also get a daily alarm, day and date display, dual time zones and 50 metres of water resistance. The 5 year battery is handy and it is extremely light at only 25 grams, but alas there is no backlight on this particular model.
Little of the above matters though because this watch is an inexpensive trip down memory lane and it is one that is hardy enough to cope with most that will be thrown at it and to make for a perfectly adequate daily timekeeper. It would not be a stretch to say that this is as cool a watch as you can wear in 2021.
Is it one of the first smartwatches? No, it isn’t. Many say that it is, but to be fair the functionality is limited to the point of gimmickry and despite wowing many of us back in the 1980’s it is more of a curiosity in the 2020’s.
The thing is that it does not look out of place next to an Apple Watch. They are vastly different in terms of design, functionality and price, but they share an overriding visual resemblance that I find hard to shake. I know that they are completely different products in almost every way, but when I look at them together I can’t help but see the Casio as a descendent of the Apple Watch.
They share a natural square / curved corner form of course, but it is deeper than that. It is the way they wear and they way your eyes fall on them that makes them feel related. I realise that this sounds weird, but to wear both is to know the feeling.
Square watches have never really been popular, but there are designs where this form works and the below three are good examples of this.
Casio has made use of the space very well and created a watch that displays the date and time perfectly well while allowing space for a useable (just) keyboard to make your calculations with. The reality is, however, that the keyboard does dominate and from a design perspective it is poor in practical terms. Just like the pre-iPhone smartphones that Steve Jobs mocked, it is truly of its time and in this case that is not a bad thing.
The first bonus is being able to do the following again.
This was the height of computer programming a few years back and still makes me chuckle inside, but it is just one of many. Feel free to have your own (hilarious?) fun with this list.
Back to the design. The dominating keyboard is practically not great, but it is what makes this watch. Wear it and most people will know what it is. It’s offers others a glimpse of your personality; maybe slightly geeky, but in a cool way? Appreciating of retro styling, but in a watch that is still brand new and maybe simply not caring about showing off wealth or what others think.
Unusually, this watch is more likely to be noticed by others than a Rolex or any one of a number of other luxury timepieces because it is so different and it is so well known. At no point can it be criticised, it is above criticism. This sounds over the top, but where would you go when mocking a watch that costs less than £20, that everyone knows, is from a revered brand and which has appeared in a few classic movies? Seriously, where would you go?
This watch is a symbol of the time in which it was born and it has not lost any of the freshness it came with originally. It is remarkable that more than 30 years later it does not look out of place for one moment and if anything it is cooler today than it ever was.
As a self-confessed watch obsessive any new purchase is fraught with indecision and over-ambition in terms of what is expected from a new timepiece.
The smallest of faults can cause a watch to be flipped and it is amazing how such minor failings quickly manifest into big problems in my mind. It comes from always looking for a ‘better’ watch and always believing that perfection is out there somewhere. Neither ambition is achievable, however, and so you eventually learn to temper your desires and look at the bigger picture.
You learn to look at the watch as a whole and to accept a 90% positive form which is built well enough to live on your wrist as you live your life.
I write all of the above and it makes perfect sense, but it is all b*llocks if I am honest. Obsessive watch people can rarely tell you why they like a particular watch, they just do. Thousands of watches can look great in the marketing snaps and on YouTube, but if you had weeks free to put them all on your wrist you would likely only warm to twenty at most.
To understand if a watch fits you it has to be worn and you need to live with it every day. Alas, this is usually only done following a purchase and regret is one of the most common emotions in the watch world. I have been there many times and it tends to follow the same pattern; the honeymoon period for a few days, some doubts a week later and then the decision that it is not quite right, at which point it find its way to the watch graveyard that is eBay.
The Trident GMT did not follow this pattern. It was bought for my son and the wrong watch was sent by Christopher Ward. We ordered the black version, but the Pepsi arrived. After an email chat with Mike France, the CEO and Co-founder of Christopher Ward, the black version was dispatched the next day while I was still in possession of the Pepsi variant. This followed a discussion with the customer service team which wasn’t to my satisfaction, hence why Mike became involved. I should say that the service was positive throughout, but the delay would have been too lengthy to get the watch for when needed and flexibility appeared to be lacking.
Anyway, the black version arrived and my son decided that he did not like it after all. To him it just didn’t feel right and so I was looking at returning both watches. The Pepsi left me cold when I saw it and tried it on, but the black version intrigued me initially. I was surprised by how differently I felt about what is effectively the same watch with different colour schemes.
I wrote about the Trident GMT previously here and here and so I do not need to go into detail in this article, but it is safe to say that after one month I am even more positive about it today than when I first tried it.
A watch I never wanted and which did not shout at me from the marketing shots or the web has become the watch I have enjoyed more than any other after a month of wear. I sold my Oris Diver’s Sixty Five before this one arrived because after a year it just felt a bit too dull for me. I like understated watches, but they have to have something slightly different about them and that orange GMT hand was enough. It makes the watch a little bit different, it adds personality and, strangely, is one of the main reasons I like it so much. Alongside the superb bracelet (so easy to adjust on the fly), the excellent time keeping (mine is one second fast a day) and the fact it just looks so damn good it has proved to have no significant weaknesses. The date window is tiny, but this is a minor blip in a watch that stands out in every other way.
I would rate this watch as approximately £400 higher than the Oris when the finishing, the functionality and the movement are considered. Remarkably, however, the Oris is more than £600 more expensive retail. The Christopher Ward is crazy value for money in the sub £2,000 sector and I still marvel at what it offers for the price.
So, that’s it. The Trident GMT has proved to be a real surprise and it does feel as though I will be wearing it long term. It was a belated 50th birthday present and so my wife engraved it on the clasp with a simple ’50’. That felt right for this watch, understated, and especially because there really is no space on the case back for personalisation.
I have said it before a few times, but something tells me that this one could be the keeper of all keepers for me and I really do hope that it stays with me for many years to come. One thing I know is that I will never sell it, and if I find a watch that I like enough to wear more than the Trident it will need to be very special indeed.
* 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.