Once a maker of all sorts of “homages” the British company Christopher Ward puts a lot of effort into becoming a serious brand. This new, dressy Chr. Ward C9 Moonphase automatic wristwatch looks like a step in the right direction for the relatively young watchmaker.
Taking a perfectly stock ETA mechanism and expanding its functionality may sound like a simple task, but it is not that simple for an average independent brand. Or, at least, anecdotal evidence clearly shows us that an overwhelming majority of independents (and majors alike) prefers to simply buy an add-on module to streamline the process of making a new watch.
However, this sort of approach -while absolutely legitimate both in terms of cost-cutting and profit-maximizing- is not as popular among picky customers as, say, even ten years ago. When a watch is priced well above $1500 USD, a customer wants to have something more exclusive than a mass-produced movement with a mass-produced expansion module. And, with its new C9 Moonphase, the young British-based brand Christopher Ward gives us just that: a well-designed, pleasant to look at watch that has the original Swiss made mechanism modified by Johannes Jahnke himself: the guy who brought you the gorgeous C9 Jumping Hour Mk. III.
Case & Strap
While, being just 40 millimeters in diameter, the C9 Moonphase is not large -at least, by today’s standards for dressier timekeepers- it is the base ETA 2836-2 caliber that is a bit too small making the watch look somewhat oversized when you look at it from the back. The extra-thick rim of the transparent case-back cover, too, takes a part of the blame here: like a well-designed sports car’s body, it probably needed a “power” line circling around it to make the rim look as thin as the front bezel.
Still, you don’t show your timekeeper’s back too often, so this is not really a problem, just a minor annoyance.
In other regards the case seems to be very well done with its curved lugs allowing for a perfect fit for most wrist types and the oversized crown giving you that extra grip when it is time to correct, um, time. As usual, I can’t help but praise Chr. Ward’s designer for choosing a relatively short crown that allows for more comfortable fit for those who prefers to wear their watches on loosely set straps or bracelets with the watch hanging lower on their wrists.
Both the straps and a bracelet look very nice with the former sporting a very impressive deep blue color with a nice hint of purple in it (it only comes with a model with blue ‘Midnigth Silver’ dial) while the latter featuring a nice set of satin-finished solid links. However, you should take into account that the alligator-style pattern on this Italian leather is not real, but is simply embossed to make the strap look more imposing. Well, for this price range, this is really not a problem.
As I have already mentioned, the Caliber JJ04 is based on the good old ETA 2836-2 ebauche that differs from the ubiquitous ETA 2824 only with its ‘native’ day/date function.
As far as I understood, the “day” part of the equation was sacrificed here in order to give you this oversized moon display that possibly brought your attention to this watch. Mr. Johannes Jahnke had to replace a couple of gears in the day module in order to make the moonphase complication work. In fact, he did such a good job that, without increasing costs too much, he managed to create a moonphase indicator that only needs to be corrected just once in 128 years. Even you plan to live that much longer, this doesn’t look like a hassle to me.
Of course, the dial of this new C9 Moonphase is the main attractor here. While clearly not something revolutionary in terms of moon-phase display design (similar “Big Moon” layouts were offered a couple of years ago in, say, Marvin Malton Mini-Cushion Moonphase (Ref. M022.12.39.12) and Arnold & Son HM Perpetual Moon Hand-Wound) it still offers a very nice take on the idea with its stamped three-dimensional moon disk and the way the central part of the dial is finished with “tidal” guilloche pattern.
To my taste, to make the dial feel perfect, the British brand only needed to equip it with more expensive-looking hands (these ones look a bit too plain to me), but they probably wanted to keep that aura of deliberate simplicity about it that was set so nicely by the aforementioned Chr.Ward C9 Jumping Hour MKIII one-hander that was released earlier this year.
The fact that the hands of this night-themed watch lack even a single drop of lume on them may, too, put off some people, but this a dress watch after all, it was not designed to be used by a special ops operator on a mission.
Pricing & Availability
The British brand has already placed this model for pre-order on their web-site with first shipment scheduled for mid-November 2015. The initial price of £1295 (£1080 for non-EU countries) will probably scare-off a good number of people, but I am fairly sure that in a while it will be eligible for all kind of discounts, so the price will probably be corrected in a more acceptable way.
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
See also: Chr.Ward C900 Worldtimer GMT
Photos: Chr. Ward
Chr. Ward C9 Moonphase Automatic watch specification
Price: £1295 (£1080 for non-EU countries)
Movement: Automatic, Caliber JJ04 (base ETA 2836-2, modified in-house by Johannes Jahnke), Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 25
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 38 hours
Movement decoration: Branded oscillating weight with vertical Geneva stripes pattern
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, big moonphase
Case material: Stainless steel
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 40.00 mm
Case height: 13.30 mm
Lug width: 20.00 mm
Dial: Midnight Silver / White-Midnight-Gold
Numerals: Roman, raised
Hour markers: Nickel-plated
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: Embossed alligator pattern Italian leather strap with Bader Deployment clasp
Crystal: Sapphire, anti-reflective coating (AR08)
Case back: Transparent, screw-down