As watch enthusiasts, we tend to build and explore our understanding of horology. Inevitably, we go down the rabbit hole of complications. Most of us strive to add useful complications to our collection (at least we tell ourselves that). Some complications, though, are less useful than others but built as an expression of horological art. The Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto features a chiming complication that achieves a higher art form than many others. While not a true minute repeater, this limited edition takes the auditory expression of time and brings it to a broader audience.

Most complications take the form of a visual representation on the dial of the watch. Think the 24-hour hand for a GMT complication, an additional ring around the dial for world-time watches, and sub-registers for chronographs. A whole slew of bezel-based complications/features exist as well, whether it is a timing bezel for diving, a 12- or 24-hour bezel for time-zone tracking, or a slide rule for calculations. Very few complications are expressed in any other format. However, two auditory complications spring to mind — the humble alarm watch and the minute repeater. Decidedly different, one alerts the wearer at a specific time while the other allows for a musical representation of the time upon request. A simple buzz will suffice for an alarm complication, while the minute repeater requires distinct notes to be effective.

Christopher Ward has continued to push its technological envelope, pursuing the brand’s first-ever passing-hour complication. The watch chimes at the passing of each hour with a melodious note to alert the wearer to the top of each hour.

Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto

Lateral thinking — Stretching the movement

The caliber that allowed Christopher Ward to create the C1 Bel Canto already existed in the brand’s catalog. The movement is based on the JJ01 movement from the C9 Harrison jumping-hour watch from 2011. Master watchmaker Frank Stelzer is responsible for adapting the jumping-hour complication for the caliber FS01 in the Bel Canto.

By developing 50 new components, Christopher Ward was able to create the chime complication for the Bel Canto. First, a titanium gong that runs along the movement’s perimeter creates the musical note at the top of each hour. The hammer for this gong takes its position on the dial side of the watch so the wearer can also enjoy the visual show it puts on.

The wearer can set the complication to chime each hour in the “on” position. Alternatively, the user can also silence it should the moment require so via a button at 4 o’clock. Near the 4 o’clock position on the dial, a red arrow brightly highlights the status of the chime. While the chime is the main feature of this timepiece, the actual time is told via a smaller sub-dial at 12 o’clock.

Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto

Wrist presence

The Bel Canto is a watch that highlights the mechanical chime with a strong wrist presence. The dial is done in rhodium with an azzuro-blue finish. The hour and minute hands are also filled with C1 lume should you need to know the exact time in the dark, not just the passing of the hour.

The case is a Grade 5 titanium construction that measures 41mm in diameter, 13mm in thickness, and 48mm from lug to lug. While it’s not svelte, it is certainly not overweight either. Speaking of weight, the titanium case weighs just 53 grams and provides 30m of water resistance. The lug width of the Bel Canto is 22mm, and it comes on either a titanium bracelet or an Italian leather strap.

The FS01 movement, developed by Christopher Ward, contains 29 jewels and provides a 38-hour power reserve with a beat rate of 4Hz. It is regulated to +/-20 seconds per day and features the passing time complication. Finally, the watch is limited to 300 pieces and is priced at £2,995 / $3,595 / €3,895.

Christopher Ward C1 Bel Canto

Final thoughts

Auditory complications tend to be going the way of the dodo, especially in the more approachable segment of the watch world. While a few alarm watches remain within the realm of reason from a price perspective, most minute repeaters tend toward or exceed the six-figure price category. By creatively modifying an existing caliber, Christopher Ward was able to create something unique and charming. The overall presentation of the watch and the complication is well executed but allows Christopher Ward to experiment with various complications without abandoning its value proposition. While this is not a grand complication, the C1 Bel Canto offers something unique at a price point that remains within reason for most enthusiasts.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below! And for more information, please visit the official Christopher Ward website.