The hand-wound C65 Trident Diver has been Christopher Ward’s biggest hit in years, but here comes a piece to challenge it: the attractive new automatic version. And the changes don’t end there...
With the ’60s cool of Connery-era Bond never out of style, the team at Christopher Ward always expected the retro styled C65 Trident Diver to be something of a hit – but no-one thought it would do quite as well as it has. Indeed, this new range’s initial hand-wound iteration immediately became one of the company’s best sellers, the first watch in ages to really challenge the long established C60 Trident as top dog.
Clearly, then, the hand-wound version wasn’t going to be the only C65 Trident Diver, and we’ve had a couple of spin-offs already – a GMT version, and a limited edition, bronze-cased model. The automatic you see here, though, is the really important one: an everyday self-winding C65, with the same 41mm case and glass box sapphire crystal as the hand-wound, and Sellita’s SW200 automatic movement inside, complete with Christopher Ward’s twin flag pattern engraved on the rotor. Crucially, it will sell at exactly the same price, while offering a unique look all its own. If any C65 is going to eclipse the spectacular sales performance of the hand-wound, it’s this one.
“As we’ve developed the range, the core DNA of the Trident Diver has become increasingly clear,” says Mike France, Christopher Ward co-founder. “The shape of the case is a major part of it, of course – it has a sleek yet rugged feel, and sits at the current sweet spot in terms of size, being 41mm across. But perhaps even more important is our particular take on the 1960s diver aesthetic, which is retro but also distinctively Christopher Ward, and strong enough to accept various interpretations.”
An automatic C65 Trident Diver was planned from the very beginning, of course, but the hand-wound came first because the Christopher Ward team had fallen so deeply in love with the idea of a watch that you interact with regularly. “Going hand-wound seemed more purely ’60s somehow,” Mike says, “though there were, of course, plenty of automatics around in that period, too. The really important thing was that any C65 launch model should do well enough to justify exploring other iterations, because from the start this collection clearly had such amazing potential.”
In that spirit of exploration, then, a GMT version was fast-tracked – the team felt it important to add a genuinely useful complication to the range early doors – as was the development of a bespoke bracelet for the C65 case; taking advantage of the trend for bronze, and wanting to combine the vintage look with CW’s in-house Calibre SH21 movement, saw the arrival of a bronze-cased limited edition too. Both had different bezels and faces to the Trident Diver hand-wound, but the family ties were clear.
The really big news, though, was always going to be this automatic, which manages to squeeze its bulkier movement into the same height case as the hand-wound. “As with the width, the height seems at a sweet spot too,” Mike says, “being tall enough to have presence, yet slim enough to look elegant on the wrist.”
There are two ways to go when developing any range. You can make each version look basically the same as the others – so a BMW 7 Series looks very similar to a 3 Series, just much bigger – or you can play around with the styling, while keeping the underpinnings similar. (The thinking that brought us the Ford Capri and Volkswagen Scirocco, sports coupes with everyday underpinnings.)
With the C65 range, Christopher Ward is taking something of a middle path, so each version looks different to the last, while retaining much of the same design language. The hand- wound has stylised numbers at 12 and 6 and batons elsewhere; the GMT has batons only, directing attention to that big GMT hand; and the LE has a small second sub dial, as well as that unusual case material. This new automatic, too, has its own look, with a bespoke bezel and – perhaps even more noticeable – the use of bold dots instead of batons.
In doing so, it more directly references that most influential of dive watches – the 1960s incarnation of the Rolex Sub- mariner – than any C65 before it. “The more complications you add to a watch,” says senior designer Adrian Buchmann, “the easier it actually is to design. Take a chronograph, which is easiest of all. As soon as you add all those sub dials, it immediately looks interesting; it almost designs itself. My job is much harder with a relatively simple watch, like this one.”
Indeed, the design process here was surprisingly involved, Adrian and the team going through dozens of permutations and directions, all inspired by the dive watches of the 1960s but each quite different to the last. “Eventually, though, we decided that if the original hand-wound version references the early ’60s, then the new automatic should look forward to the late ’60s,” he says. “It’s around then that design became a little clearer, bolder and more practical. Thinking like this allowed us to keep the two core C65s separate from each other in a way that made sense, while allowing them to remain closely linked too.”
It was with the late ’60s very much in mind, then, that the watch started to take on something of an early Submariner look, with raised old radium dots and indexes surrounded by slim polished bevels. “The Sub is, of course, an iconic design, and few dive watches – even famous ones like Omega’s Seamaster escape its influence,” Adrian says. “But we also enjoyed taking this route because people like our vintage lume so much, and we wanted to give them more of it. The dots allow that, while also softening and lightening up the overall look of the watch – and perhaps making it even easier to read.
To make the look our own, though, we’ve avoided such obvious design elements as Rolex’s triangle at 12 o’clock, and we’ve paired the new face with a modified version of the C65’s narrow bezel, but the same hands as the hand-wound. We’ve taken an iconic design and refined it in a very Christopher Ward way, one that makes it a little more dressy and less sporty; this really is one watch that would be at home in any situation.”
The success of the C65 range is definitely down to the ongoing interest in vintage to some great degree, so does the team see this fading any time soon? “I don’t think so,” Mike says. “After all, it’s been an influence all century – the new Mini came out in 2001 – and, if anything, recent years have seen it step up a gear. It’s no secret, for instance, that the watch that most closely inspired the C65 Diver range in spirit, if not in detail, was the Oris Divers Sixty-Five, which we were so impressed by at Baselworld 2015.
Our Trident Diver was encouraged by the reaction that it was getting, though it was also very much an extrapolation from the existing, retro designed C65 Trident Vintage. The Oris showed us where to go, but the C65 Vintage showed us how to get there.” This being the case, there must surely be further models in the pipeline too? “We’ve already got a new, khaki face version of the hand-wound,” Mike says, “and at some point we’ll be looking at a chronograph and a Super Compressor.”
The chronograph will doubtless look spectacular, but the Super Compressor is really interesting, more of a hard-core diver’s version, but using period tech to cope with the pressure of being deep underwater. Super Compressors have a distinctive look – with dual crowns and an internal, rather than external, rotating bezel – but it’s the way the case com- presses as you go deeper, becoming ever more water-tight, that’s really fascinating. Many of the great watch brands offered models from the ’50s ’til the ’70s, and in recent years there’s been renewed interest.
“Not every modern watch with ‘Super Compressor’ in its name has been a genuine Super Compressor, though,” says Mike, “as they often take the look, but forget about the compressing case. Ours, however, will be – which points towards another great thing about retro design. It allows you to explore retro technology too, which has an authenticity people really respond to.”
That’s in the future, though. In the meantime, there’s this C65 Trident Automatic, a gorgeous watch, very easy to live with – “most modern watch wearers prefer automatic movements, after all,” Adrian says – and, it’s worth reiterating, at the same accessible price as the hand-wound. It will initially be offered with black or blue dials, and on a stainless steel bracelet or a range of leather straps.
“With the hand-wound, the blue dial version is outselling the black 65% plays 35%,” Mike says. “But with this new automatic, I think I prefer the black face. It’ll be interesting to see if every- one else agrees, but having the two designs look quite different certainly offers real choice.”
The C65 Trident Automatic is available now, £695 - £760
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