Reviewing a watch that’s outside of one’s comfort zone is a good way to keep things fresh: and so it was when I received the very blue Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase. As the resident vintage nut at Fratello Watches who squarely focuses on watches of the chronograph persuasion, I must admit that this was the first moonphase watch I’d actually played with. While the Single Pusher Chronograph that Blaise reviewed from Chirstopher Ward might be more my speed, I actually wanted to try something different. Why was that?
Christopher Ward at SalonQP
We actually have to go back almost six months ago (!!) to SalonQP in London where we first met the Christopher Ward team. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the brand and had casually passed them off as another marque making attractive watches, primarily of the dress watch breed, made available at reasonable prices. What I actually encountered was so much more. Blaise, Robert-Jan and I actually ended up spending more time at the Christopher Ward booth than almost anywhere else at the show. We met with executives from the brand and their head watchmaker, Johannes Jahnke (those are his initials when you see “JJ” on the brand’s various movements). My take away is that Christopher Ward runs itself like a watch company, but with a serious commitment to customer service that’s likely borne from the fact that many of the officers come from other industries. It was refreshing for me to meet a company that’s at once so in touch with its fans and its employees – we saw the latter in action when meeting with the aforementioned Jahnke. His excitement about the company’s products was quite contagious and, specifically, this passion is what drew me to requesting the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase for review.
I received the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase via mail and I was pretty blown away by the packaging. Sorry, I didn’t photograph it, but suffice it to say, it was nice. In fact, it was easily up to par with most of the “big boys” and better than most. As I mentioned, Christopher Ward comes off as a very well thought out brand that makes a strong point of showing you its logo and ensuring that simply because they’re not present in stores – they’re online only – they’re not some garage-based company. In any case, yes, the watch was well packaged and upon first inspection, flawless. Let’s talk a little bit about what this is.
Checking out the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase
Apparently, a moonphase was one of the most highly requested complications by the ardent and outspoken fans of the brand – one can leave reviews directly on the site or head to the official forum that gets a ton of action (who knew?!?!) – and the wish was ultimately granted in the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase. This is a 40mm stainless steel timekeeper with an ETA 2836-2 with in-house moonphase module. We’ll get to the interesting part of that module in a second, but moving on, the watch contains a date, hacking function, a sapphire crystal, display back and case back with six screws (whew!). The watch is a thickish 13.3mm and has a water resistance of 50m. Finally, Christopher Ward offers its 60/60 warranty, which gives the buyer 60 days of free return and 60 months of warranty on the movement.
The C9 Moonphase…what’s the big deal?
While the base movement on the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase isn’t overly exciting, it’s damn durable and makes a great foundation for the module that’s ultimately attached to it. The discussion we had at SalonQP mirrors the information found on the Christopher Ward website, but the interesting news about this watch is that it’s a perpetual moonphase. Simply put, this means that the moonphase wheel constantly turns on the dial in order to portray a highly accurate view of the moon’s phase. In most cases, watches use a moon phase wheel that “jumps” much like a date wheel and, therefore, there are periods of time where depiction of the moon on the dial is inaccurate. Again, I am not a moonphase expert, but I take it as a positive for Christopher Ward when I hear that Breguet invented this perpetual complication and that other examples are found from other brands often costing 10x the price of the C9. Setting the moonphase is easy. One sets the time and date first and then uses the crown, pulled out one stop and turned counterclockwise, to adjust the moonphase. One simply needs to know the start of the last full or new moon to help set this wheel. Then, push the crown in, give it a wind and you’re good to go. Apparently, this moonphase is accurate to within one day every 128 years – not bad at all!
The Christopher Ward C9 boasts impressive detailing
From a finishing perspective, I’m highly impressed with the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase. Starting with the case, there are nice alternating finishes with the horizontally brushed case and the polished bezel. The tops of the lugs are also polished. Look, at 13.3mm, this is a thick watch due to the modular movement, but the finishing and slightly soft edges of the case help to offset this visually.
Additionally, the company fits the watch with a high quality blue Louisiana alligator strap and the thickness is definitely appropriate to support the heft.
Note that a bracelet is also available that looks nice, but I like that the strap that is fitted to an equally high quality deployant buckle. Whether I would swap it for black is another question altogether, but the blue does work nicely. Finally, the crown on the C9 is of adequate size and it is signed in a precise, quality way. It may not be up to Grand Seiko quality in its execution, but it’s damn good.
Coming to the focal point of the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase, we have the dial. Christopher Ward offers this watch in either blue or white. For me, at least, there’s no question that the dark blue is most striking. It’s really an amazing shade and as you can see from my macros, the finishing is fantastic. The moonphase wheel itself is 3D stamped and galvanized but the detail is wonderful. The machine-made guilloche pattern on the dial is meant to evoke tidal waves caused by the moon’s gravitational pull and while that’s as good a reason as any to find inspiration for a design, I really like the way it’s done. Somehow, I suppose I’ve always had an aversion to moonphase watches because I felt they were a bit stodgy. In the case of the C9, though, all these normally overly formal features come off in a classic, yet wearable manner. Yes, I could see someone wearing this with everything from more formal business attire to nice jeans and a blazer.
The bold use of applied roman numerals balances the dial nicely and creates high levels of legibility along with simple, well-sized nickel-plated hands.
Also, a well-done to Christopher Ward is in order for adding a non-intrusive oculus at 6:00 that brings in a date wheel with a dial-matching background. It’s nice to see that these little details that are often challenges have been conquered. I guess my only small niggle is the rectangular placement of the logo on the dial. It’s a bit large and I do find it interesting that the company uses a “CW” logo on the crown and buckle, yet eschews it on the dial. I suppose that dress watch brands tend to have more names versus symbols on their dials, but to me, it takes up a bit too much real estate. Still, though, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker as the rectangle blends well.
The last area to explore is the caseback, or engine bay, of the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase. This is the realm of a watch where Robert-Jan likes to set up his soapbox to decry all those who use a display back. Well, R-J, in the instance of the C9, I think that the window into the movement is appropriate. First off, the use of six screws to “batten down the hatch” comes off as areal nod to build quality. So, the back of the watch doesn’t look haphazard and is if someone just slapped a window on a piece of steel.
The movement itself, while it’s simply an ETA automatic, does contain some beautiful finishing and the blue “CW” logo works very well along with the blue “enameled” verbiage that highlights the movement name. With Christopher Ward, it’s clear that they’re proud that they’re not simply dropping store-bought movements into their cases – they’ve invested in development. So, I’m fully in support of showing off the movement, especially when it’s done this nicely.
The Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase on the wrist
I mainly wore the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase into the office and due to the high polish and colors, it received some serious glances and comments. People were rather surprised at the low price (1835 Euros on the CW website) as well. I found the watch to function perfectly and wear really well. Of course, the thickness “argued” a bit with some of my shirts containing slimmer cuffs, but it was generally a good match. I may not run out to buy a moonphase, but if I were, I’d give this careful consideration. If nothing else, Christopher Ward has sold me on the brand’s values of providing a great, Swiss made watch at an amazing price without any sacrifices to quality or service (you probably gain on that last topic).
We’ll look forward to testing more pieces from Christopher Ward and seeing the brand at this year’s SalonQP. The Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase was a bit of a revelation for me as I’d never held a watch of this complication before and I really did not know much about the marque. Needless to say, I came away suitably impressed with both.
Price: €1835 Euro / $ 1865 USD (only available via their e-boutique, click below)