Thanks to a message from Kevin Wylie at the Christopher Ward Enthusiasts group on Facebook I had the privilege of being invited along to the first ever CW event in Scotland. This followed on from a group meet up earlier in the day for lunch (you can read all about the get-together and see photos of some of the great watches on show here).
Located on the 5th floor of the Hilton conference centre in Edinburgh, just down from “that” triangle, the gathering impressed from the outset. On arrival, we were greeted by Helen who had helped coordinate the event and after pointing us all in the direction of the different collections off we went to sample the delights on show.
As a complete beginner with the brand, this helped me out a lot as I had no idea what was already available and what was new. Again being unfamiliar with the pieces I had no bias, so was able to appreciate each watch on its own merits. The only experience with Christopher Ward I’d had was seeing their name mentioned online within forums, Facebook groups and YouTube videos but apart from that, I had little concept of where the business came from or where it was heading.
Going from display to display the first thing that struck me was that for the prices these products command, you are getting an exceptionally well-crafted product. If they had Oris or Tudor on the dial I’d would have believed it. It was later explained that the cases themselves are produced by the same firm that indeed does supply Oris, Tudor and TAG Heuer which explained why they looked so well manufactured.
Beside each watch box and display were a range of jewellers loupes available so you could not only hold and try on the watches, but inspect them in excruciating detail. That’s a big plus as it shows that CW are keen to put their money where their mouth is, and having owned Tudor and more recently Omega watches, I know that their mask of glamour can slide when under magnification.
My styling is very much contemporary to futuristic with perhaps some callbacks to the ’70s and ’80s, so I was immediately attracted to the red C7 Apex (https://www.christopherward.co.uk/c7-sh21-apex-limited-edition-1#).
As I was moving the watch around to get the best light for photography, Helen the marketing manager approached to bring me up to speed on what I was about to capture. She explained a little of the history of the brand, how its developed over the past decade and a half and then on to the watch I was interested which it turns out was a limited run of 50 which were all snapped up instantly and I was on to plums if I wanted one. Typical!
Soon after it was time for the panel talk and Q&A session with Chris Ward himself and the other two co-founders. This was a masterclass in how to run a business the right way and the three were open, honest and candid in their responses to some hard hitting questions. There were no softballs at all, everything from questions on negative points on previous releases and how they are being remedied in new ones, through to advertising and marketing campaigns and how successful they have been were asked, pondered and answered.
The willingness to converse with those in attendance and from questions fielded from the YouTube Live stream kept the conversation entertaining and flowing for nearly an hour and a half. If you want to check out the full stream it is available on YouTube, link at the end of the article.
Points touched on were included avoiding group think when it comes to product design as taking an average of everyone’s ideas leads to creating an average product, plus an explanation of the merging of CW and Synergies Horlogères SA to create a powerhouse moving forward and how their custom calibre was brought to market.
Once the panel was over the founders stayed around to chat with the members of the group and I managed to grab 10 minutes to interview Chris for a future edition of the Scottish Watches podcast – for which I am extremely grateful.
As a CW noob it was an education that not only can you get honest to goodness value and quality at a price far lower than other Swiss Made watches, but that this company really have “disrupted the industry” and trailblazed the way forward with online watch sales.
These aren’t guys in their 20s or 30s playing around on Kickstarter like your MVMTs or Vinceros, trying to make a fast buck then cash out when a bigger player like Movado comes knocking on their door with bags of cash. 15 years in and as they said in the talk “we’re having the best time of our lives, why would we stop”.
A massive thank you to Kevin and the Scottish group members for being so welcoming and to Helen and the team from Christopher Ward for their time and patience.
Link to YouTube video of the panel talk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBHVqY5ZwR0
Link to podcast – Coming soon!
Link to CW group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1879355139014914/
Link to CW website – https://www.christopherward.co.uk/
Got into the horological hobby only a couple of short years ago; but got, as us Scots like to say, “baw deep” pretty quickly. Thanks to buying a lemon of a Rolex he spent hours researching why his watch wasn’t working and along the way gained an interest in what makes them tick. He now runs the Scottish Watches website and keeps cohort Rick in check on the twice weekly Scottish Watches podcast.