Hands-On: The Christopher Ward C65 Dune Automatic And C65 Dune GMT — Showing What “Best In Class” Means
I must admit that I missed the introduction of Christopher Ward’s Dune collection. It wasn’t until I read Vincent’s article about it here on Fratello that I got a glimpse of what is essentially my favorite Christopher Ward line. Vincent had a chance to check out the black-dial Automatic and GMT and a bronze COSC version of the Automatic. But there was more to the story. The standout piece of the Dune collection that truly celebrates the sandy colors is the C65 Automatic with a beige dial. As it turns out, it is a stellar and affordable daily wearer. Oh, and I got a taste of the Dune GMT too — a taste that I can’t enough of.
This story simply started with a color scheme. I have a huge soft spot for watches with a “desert” look. That’s why I love the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition Mojave Desert, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Day Date Desert Edition, the Zenith Defy Extreme Desert, and the list goes on. All of these are examples of watches that are available in regular colors but that stand out for me with a beige colorway. There can be a little more to it than that, such as a nice canvas strap. But overall, it’s mainly a change of colors. So when I read Vincent’s review, I saw three great Christopher Ward Dune models. But after catching up on my reading, the beige-colored C65 Dune Automatic also stood out as the piece that embodies the collection perfectly. A hands-on review seemed like a logical next step.
My story with the Christopher Ward C65 Dune collection
I won’t go over all the specifics of the Christopher Ward Dune collection. Vincent already did a great job covering the three available models in his thorough article. I will say this, though: these Explorer-esque models lend themselves perfectly to the desert aesthetic. The stainless steel C65 Dune Automatic White Sand and Dune GMT stand out for me, especially the latter. It had an instant appeal that was magnetic.
As some of you might know, I am a great fan of GMT watches. But the GMTs I tend to like are the classic travel watches that take after the iconic looks of the Rolex GMT-Master. This means watches that have a characteristic two-color rotating bezel with a 24-hour scale. There are exceptions, of course, but that is what I naturally gravitate towards. That’s why I was so surprised that I liked the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT when I saw it in the pictures. The watch has the 24-hour scale on the rehaut of the dial. But the way it was done with a beige and black part and the match with the beige lume-filled indices made perfect sense.
Finding the love for Christopher Ward
But there was one problem: the C65 Dune GMT was a limited edition of 200 pieces that sold out very quickly. Needless to say, I understand why. I was both disappointed and mad at myself when I figured that out. But the other watch that caught my eye was the C65 Dune Automatic with the beige dial. On a canvas strap, it has the perfect desert/safari looks for the summer, and on a stainless steel bracelet, it makes for a standout daily wearer. I was happy to find out that Christopher Ward was able to send both models over for review. I can honestly say it has been a long time since I was genuinely curious to find out more.
You see, I have great respect for Christopher Ward because the brand’s watches look great and offer incredible value for money. But the main thing missing for me was that X factor that took me from liking the watches to loving them. I often find them missing that “click” that would make a Christopher Ward watch a must-have for me. The one model that comes closest is the C65 Aquitaine GMT that Tomas reviewed last year but on a stainless steel bracelet instead of a leather strap. That seems like a great GMT, but is it true love? Not quite. It’s a matter of details, yes, but important ones. I am not a fan of the brand’s logo. On top of that, I had my doubts about the characteristic handset. But the two C65 Dune models seemed to offer a lot, so I was curious to try them out.
The C65 Dune Automatic White Sand
When the watches arrived at our office, they were on straps. The Automatic model looked fantastic, but I knew the GMT needed the stainless steel bracelet, so I was a bit disappointed at first. Thankfully, Christopher Ward also included the bracelets, and as soon as I put them on both models, that’s when the love blossomed. Let’s start with the Automatic model as that one is unlimited and available right now. The watch has a 38mm stainless steel case that is 11.7mm thick and a modest 43.6mm from lug to lug. Those dimensions would usually be on the small side for me. Depending on the watch, the size may work for me or not.
But I was happy to quickly find out that the watch sits very well on my wrist on both the canvas strap and the stainless steel bracelet. The thing that immediately draws my attention is its beautiful sand-colored dial underneath the box-shaped crystal. It is graced by applied indices filled with beige-colored lume and the characteristic Christopher Ward handset with beige lume as well. Overall, you could describe the looks as vintage-inspired, but it never felt like I was wearing a reimagination or an homage to the past. If anything, the watch felt contemporary and instantly relevant.
Mixing it up in style
While alternating between the bracelet and the strap, I found out that I prefer the practicality and looks of the watch on the bracelet. It was great to change it up during the hot days and wear the watch on the strap. But while on the topic of the strap, it needed time to break in. The ends of both parts that connect to the case are very stiff and gave a false start to the wearing experience. But with a bit of help and some wear-in time, the strap slowly became more comfortable. Of course, with the bracelet, this isn’t a problem at all.
And I must say that the Oyster-style bracelet seems remarkably well made. One thing that I found particularly impressive was the quality of the clasp. It closes with a firm, reassuring click and wears comfortably. But as Vincent already explained, the sheer size of it is quite big.
It’s too big for many, I would expect. The reason is that the micro-adjustment system takes up significant space. While the size didn’t bother me when wearing the watch, we have seen that micro-adjustment mechanisms don’t have to be so big. Nevertheless, the bracelet is super comfortable and sturdy, which is certainly not a given for watches around €1K.
A week with the C65 Dune Automatic
Visible through the case back’s sapphire crystal is the Sellita SW200-1 inside. It is a solid movement for a watch under €1,000, and it turned out to be reliable during my time with the watch. The screw-down crown is another element that hints at the great quality of this piece. It is a perfect size, it unscrews nicely, and it operates the movement smoothly.
If you unscrew it and pull it out one position, you will be able to set the date. The color of the date disc matches that of the lume, and the crisp black printing is perfectly in line with the font on the dial. If you pull the crown out one more position, you can comfortably set the time. Overall, my experience with the C65 Dune Automatic White Sand was nothing short of impressive. I initially liked the watch for its looks but ended up loving it as a total package. It looks great, feels incredibly well made, and can only be described as “best in class.”
Final thoughts on the Christopher Ward C65 Dune Automatic
On the strap, the Christopher Ward C65 Dune Automatic is €965. On the stainless steel bracelet, it comes in at €1,165. If I had to pick a watch for around €1,000 that could be my daily wearer and gives the feeling of wearing a proper, well-made luxury timepiece, this would be my pick. I love the White Sand dial as it gives the versatility I love when mixing it up with different straps to create that desert look.
But if you prefer a darker dial, you can choose green, blue, and black as alternatives. While they feel less “duney” to me, they are also great options. It probably comes as no surprise that I would get the watch on the bracelet and go from there. After two weeks of wearing the C65 Dune Automatic, I can say that it’s hard to find a time-and-date daily wearer that is equally impressive for the price.
The Dune GMT has something extra that makes it special
This brings us to the sold-out C65 Dune GMT. I am going to be completely honest: I want this watch. The fact that I missed the introduction is simply frustrating. My first impressions were that I was going to like the watch a lot, but as it turns out, it greatly exceeded my expectations. It comes with a nearly identical 38mm case that measures 11.9mm thick and 43.7mm from lug to lug. This makes it ever so slightly thicker and longer than the Automatic model.
On the wrist, the watches feel similar in size (because they are), but the dial of the GMT version immediately sings. The addition of the 24-hour scale might be a bit much for some, but I adore it. It gives the dial the right injection of zing to bring it to life and keep it from being boring. Some people on the Fratello team th it lookedought busy, but to me, it is perfection.
The combination of black and sand-colored elements gives the watch a nice vintage color scheme, but the overall design is contemporary, just as on the Automatic model. The bright red GMT hand really pops, so reading the time in the second time zone is never an issue. We have the same sand-colored Super-LumiNova here as on the Automatic model, and it lights up blue in the dark. The date window is integrated at 6 o’clock with a black disc and white printing to blend in nicely.
Wearing the C65 Dune GMT
For me, this watch was phenomenal on the wrist. It comes with the same bracelet as the Automatic model, so it’s comfortable and really well made. Combined with the looks that I adore, it was an absolute joy to wear this watch for two weeks. And during those two weeks, I discovered that much of the magic for me is in its design. Because of this, even the few elements that I don’t like didn’t disturb me at all. When I find that happening with a watch, I know that there’s something special about it.
In all honesty, I am not a fan of the brand’s logo. The Trident counter-balance on the seconds hand is also not my favorite. But once I put the watch on my wrist, these seemed to disappear. The rational explanation is that there is a lot going on, so plenty of other elements dominate them. But the emotional explanation is that I love the design so much that these elements blend in and become part of the lovely visual picture. Still, there is more that makes this a spectacular watch for me.
Final thoughts on the Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT
At 38mm, this is a nicely sized GMT. As explained, it would usually be on the smaller side for my wrist, but every time I put this watch on, it felt exactly right. There are not a lot of smaller-sized GMTs, let alone ones that look this good. And then there is the Sellita SW330-2 that powers the watch. While not a flyer GMT, it is a good option for the money. At €1,610, there aren’t too many flyer GMTs available yet. Also, as I’ve said in multiple articles, I don’t travel through multiple time zones that frequently, so if I love the looks, a caller GMT will never be an issue. This was the case with the Laventure Transatlantique GMT, and it’s the same with this Christopher Ward C65 Dune GMT.
A very long story short, I would have loved to buy one of these when it came out. But I didn’t. However, there is hope for everybody that missed out on this limited edition. The nice people at Christopher Ward let me know that there will be another version of the Dune GMT with a new dial color. I honestly can’t wait to find out what color that will be. The black GMT version is a winner in my book that cemented my love for this model.
Alongside the C65 Dune Automatic White Sand, these make for a great duo of watches that represent the Dune collection perfectly. They show why Christopher Ward is among the absolute best in class when it comes to affordable watches, and I hope to add that new GMT version to my collection sooner than later! I didn’t expect to love this GMT so much, but pleasant surprises are always the best, aren’t they?
For more information on the C65 Dune collection, visit the official Christopher Ward website.