A lightweight marvel or merely a lightweight? Christopher Ward C63 Sealander Elite review

The C63 Sealander range was launched on April 29th by Christopher Ward. The launch has been a great success for Christopher Ward with the first batch of watches selling out within a few days and some models on pre-order for October delivery. It consists of three watches; the C63 Sealander Automatic, GMT and Elite the Automatic and GMT are 39 mm in diameter and share design cues with the other watches whilst the C63 Elite is a more individual watch and one where Christopher Ward have added some of their engineering prowess to the design.

The C63 Sealander Elite is a 40mm diameter, COSC certified, titanium watch featuring a spoke design for the dial and a novel push-in crown. It’s an ambitious watch that has to sit firmly at the apex of the good, better, best philosophy of the C63 range. Does it? And, what’s it like to wear a small, lightweight watch if you’re used to heavy-weight chronograph and dive watches? Let’s find out.

 Design

The C63 Elite has a 40mm case made from Grade 2 titanium. The case retains the varied surface finishing of the Light-Catcher™ case used in other Christopher Ward watches. The use of titanium means the case has a dark grey luster which sets it apart from stainless steel watches. The use of titanium also makes the watch head very light and combined with the titanium bracelet this is a lightweight and comfortable watch to wear. An unsized bracelet and watch weigh a total of 104 g (3.7 oz). It’s also a small watch with its 40mm diameter, 11.55mm height, and fixed inner bezel. Smallness is part of the C63 design brief but does it go too far or is this a new sweet spot in my collection?

Scottish Watches and Bark and Jack

The use of Grade 2 titanium isn’t new for Christopher Ward and is currently used in the larger C60 Elite 1000 watches. Grade 2 titanium allows the case to be made at an affordable cost. Grade 2 titanium also has superior corrosion-resistant properties in environments like seawater (handy for a watch…) and minor surface marks can heal/fade over time.

The C63 Elite has a textured matte, black dial. The textured finish also means that in many lighting conditions the dial can appear to be a graphite grey colour. The indices and hands are the same as those found on the C60 Sapphire and other parts of the C60 range. They are polished and faceted and highly detailed when looked at closely. The seconds hand is simple but retains a trident counter-weight. It is painted orange to match the 12 o’clock marker triangle and secondary indices on the spokes. The hands and indices are well lumed too.

The “Christopher Ward” word mark is at the 12 o’clock position on the inner dial with the word “Chronometer” printed in white and the depth rating printed in orange at the six o’clock position above the date wheel. The date wheel is black with white printing for the numbers. The numbers are properly centered in the date window and are sufficiently large to be read easily.

The bezel is fixed and contained within the case. is separated from the dial by a series of slots cut from the dial creating twelve spokes. These slots allow you to see through to the back of the clear case back. If you hold the watch up to a strong light you can see right through it. The slots are supposed to make the watch head lighter but probably make only a tiny difference. I suspect that being made of titanium helps more. This does add detail to the dial. The bezel, spokes and inner dial work well together and the clever but minimal use of orange details against the black surfaces makes this an attractive and subtle watch.

I like bracelets and the titanium, three-link bracelet is very good. It tapers slightly from the lugs to the clasp and has half-links to give more sizing options. The bracelet is quick release and the titanium clasp has the push button micro-adjust system built into it allowing for easy adjustment when conditions change. This is a very comfortable watch to wear. I wore it at an outdoor event where the temperature change from 13⁰ Celsius (55⁰ F) in the morning to 28⁰ Celsius (82⁰ F) in the afternoon and it was comfortable all day.

The C63 Sealander Elite is powered by a COSC certified Sellita SW200 movement which is visible through the case back and which has a rotor decorated with the twin flags design. Christopher Ward supplies the COSC certificate for the movement in your watch. During the time I’ve worn this watch, it has lost less than a second a day which is a great performance.

By now I would have talked about the crown very briefly and then moved on. So why am I about to make a big think out of something missing from the review? Well, have you looked at pictures of the watch and noticed what’s missing? Yup, the crown. It’s gone… Not really but there is no crown sticking out from the case and no crown guards. On the C63 Elite, the crown is retractable. Under normal use, the crown is flush to the case. Pushing lightly on the crown makes it pop out of the case so the watch can be wound and adjusted. Then the crown can be pushed lightly back into place in the case. The spring loading is enough to stop the crown from popping out when not needed and allows the watch to have a 150m water resistance.

There are not many watches with a push-button crown. The most recent being the Omega Aqua Terra Ultra Light which costs nearly 30 times more than the C63. It is not a perfect solution as the crown itself is a narrow disc that is hard to grip and turn when winding the watch. The crown is signed with the twin flags logo. The thin crown does mean that the logo is quite smooth and does not feel rough to the fingers when touched, unlike other conventional Christopher Ward crowns.

Quibbles?

No watch is perfect. If there was a perfect watch, I wouldn’t be buying any more watches (well that’s what I tell myself) so what are my quibbles with this one?

Size: I said in the introduction that this is a small watch. The internet watch size police are probably screaming right now that 38mm is too large but most of my watches are larger, sometimes considerably larger, than this. For the most part, I’ve worn it on the bracelet because the bracelet gives it much more presence on the wrist. On a strap, I find the essentially bezel-less design disappears on the wrist. With the bracelet, it looks like something is there after all. The combination of size, dial colour, and design means it needs more presence than the bracelet gives it. Those with smaller wrists and bear in mind that my wrist is only 6.75” or a more conformist view may disagree but it needs the presence the bracelet gives it.

Bracelet and clasp: Christopher Ward bracelets are normally of excellent value, high quality with quick-release mechanisms and push-button micro-adjust clasps. The titanium bracelet is always going to cost more than a stainless steel one but that’s not the issue here. On my watch, one end of the bracelet is very slightly too large for easy fitting to the watch. This may only be a few microns too big for the lug width but it is too big and this makes removing or changing the bracelet very difficult. The clasp is lightweight and feels quite thin. It is also a scratch magnet. I know that this is a desk diver but the scratches and marks on the back of the clasp were obvious even after a few hours of wear. Some of them will fade because of the nature of titanium but just be prepared for the clasp to lose its looks quickly.

The crown: The push-button/flush crown is one of the signature features of the watch. The push button mechanism is pretty good and the crown stays where it’s supposed to be. As a crown though, it is not very pleasant to use. It is very thin and hard to grasp when winding the watch and on my watch the crown is also quite stiff to use. It feels like you’re trying to wind a watch using a very small Dremel cutting disk. This won’t be an issue if this is your only watch and you wear it all the time. Each time I wear the watch I will have to wind it and I find myself wondering when the crown will shear off between my fingers.

Price: The C63 Sealander Elite is the apex predator of the C63 range and it has a lot of unusual features, titanium, novel crown, etc. It also comes at a price that is a long way from the rest of the C63 range and at $1,695/£1,380 is achingly close to the price of the 40mm C60 Trident Pro 600 on a bracelet is $1,015/£845 or the titanium C60 Elite 1000 $1,895/£1,525. The price potentially makes this a hard sell. You really have to want the push-button crown, small size and slotted dial to make a case for this watch.

Conclusions

I have worn this watch quite a lot since I bought it. I know that it’s comfortable on the wrist. I know that the crown stays flush with the case and is stiff and nasty to use when winding the watch. I like the design. The Light-Catcher™ case rendered in titanium is lovely. The spoke skeletonization, fixed bezel and minimal text give the dial a sophisticated look and the slim profile mean that this could be a go anywhere, do anything watch. From the beach, to the boardroom and the bistro? It’s possible, very possible.

In my perfect world this would be a 42mm watch. In the real world it is a 40 mm watch. I have relatively few 40mm watches and I’m always wary about buying them because of their small size. The C60 BLUE LE works quite well as a 40mm watch but the C63 Sealander Elite doesn’t. The fixed bezel, slots and small inner dial make this wear like a much smaller watch. It needs the bracelet to give it wrist presence and the watch disappears from the wrist when worn on a strap.

The crown is a novel feature which risks becoming a novelty feature. It is unpleasant to wear and I wonder how sturdy the winding mechanism will be. Finally, there is the quality issue with the bracelet being perfectly sized for the lug width. I wonder when the bracelet is going to get stuck on the case. Happily, I’m not a regular strap changer but if I were, I would be worried about that.

For those who like smaller watches this has a place at the top of the C63 range. The watch is high quality and has some novel engineering touches that we should expect from Christopher Ward. It is expensive but it is fair value. There is a lot of watch in a small case here.

The Christopher Ward C63 Sealander Elite is available for pre order in early July 2021 from the Christopher Ward website (www.christopherward.com) for $1,695/£1,380 on the titanium bracelet and $1,395/£1,150 on a variety of straps.