Direct-to-consumer brands are all the rage nowadays. Any notion that customers might baulk at dropping good money on designer clothes or designer furniture without first trying it on or lounging around on it in a shop have completely evaporated.
You might not be the biggest fan of Allbirds shoes or Harry’s razors – but you probably wished you'd had those ideas.
In a similar vein, people shook their heads in bafflement when Mr Porter announced it would be selling luxury watches – what maniac would buy a new watch on the internet? Without trying it on! – as recently as 2013. Today you can take your choice from a £60 digital Timex to a £60k skeletonised Cartier.
Christopher Ward was ahead of the game here. The British watchmaker began in 2004 by selling “affordable luxury” watches, primarily for the UK market.
Focusing on direct internet sales rather than the traditional dealer model favoured by the big Swiss luxury brands, it chimed with the prevailing mood in the watch forums.
Its slogan – one it adopted, one imagines, with a wink – was “the cheapest most expensive watches in the world”. Cut out the middlemen and it turns out you can get a lot more watch for your money.
It soon transitioned from using Asian cases to being entirely Swiss-made, its watches assembled in the Jura region alongside any number of fancier Bond Street names you care to mention.
In 2014 it developed its own chronometer-certified, modestly-priced in-house Swiss movement, Calibre SH21, the first such innovation from the UK for nearly 50 years.
Today Christopher Ward runs the gamut from dive, dress, military and sport models, chronographs, moonphases and GMT offerings, and has racked up some impressive partnerships – not least with the Royal Navy, the British Army and the RAF.
For its new watch, the C60 Concept, it has taken the anything-you-can-do-we-can-do-more-affordably model and applied it to the business of haute horology.
What we have here is a sub-£3.5k skeletonised titanium watch with a showcase back, hand-finished movement and a five-day power reserve. Even the C60's rotor has been skeletonised.
Despite an attractively sporty orange, blue, grey and white colour scheme, it doesn’t look like the kind of watch you’d want to bash about. But you’d be wrong about that.
The C60 has been designed as a dive watch, water resistant to 300m with a screw-down crown and a unidirectional bezel. Plus enough Super-LumiNova to light up November 5th.
They’ve even come up with another catchy new sell for this one – H.E.L.P, or “high-end, low price”.
There’s only 210 of them being made, they’re released today and they’re available directly from Christopher Ward.
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