Robert Frost’s short, famous poem starts with apocalypse – the lines above – and ends with a wry little joke. We can only hope, in this era of melting ice caps, rising sea levels and endless hurricane seasons, that we too end up with a smile on our faces.
Of course, one way to ensure at least a little grin is through the C65 Anthropocene, a go-anywhere, do-anything watch with a uniquely crisp, clean look – and one of the most genuinely useful complications in all horology.
But though a beautifully simple piece in many ways, it actually has quite a complicated story behind it: one that takes in the pressing issue of climate change, an old art form in one of its most modern incarnations, the burgeoning career of the offspring of one of Christopher Ward’s founders, the company’s renewed commitment to green issues, and the appeal of the clean, modern and practical in the face of the complex, old and esoteric.
Let us explain – and perhaps we should start with opera.
There are few art forms with quite the history this has – a key part of the Western musical tradition, it spread from late 16th century Italy right across Europe in only 20 or 30 years – or that are quite as polarising in their appeal. Basically, opera is amazing – but it’s never been for everyone. Some of classical music’s biggest, most knowledgeable fans find themselves respecting opera, yes, but never really getting it. Others love it from the off. And for a fair few, the epiphany comes late in life. Just as people may suddenly find themselves with a taste for whisky, or tokay, or strong blue cheese, opera unexpectedly starts making sense to them.
One natural comparison is with ballet, an art form that opera has much in common with; both tell simple yet often fantastical stories though a medium of great beauty, be it human movement or the human voice. Yet even ballet lovers sometimes take against opera. It’s crude and melodramatic and over exaggerated, or so run the more common criticisms. An art form populated by static, oversized singers doing things no normal human ever would – like singing their hearts out right after getting stabbed through said organ.
And in Italian too, so most of us have little idea what they’re actually saying.
On one level it’s hard to argue with most of this. But at the same time, of course, it just doesn’t matter.
Think on this, for instance. How many of our most popular singers have the pipes to perform at full pelt for hours – sometimes accompaniment free – in front of thousands? Hardly any; yet opera singers do exactly that, and seemingly effortlessly too. The fact that we don’t always understand the detail of what they’re on about can be part of the magic too – sometimes the heartfelt and beautiful is actually better without any hum-drum specifics to spoil the intensity.
We’re mostly talking here, of course, about classical opera: amazing pieces by Mozart and Puccini, Donizetti and Verdi. In watch terms, these might be a 1940s Patek Philippe chronograph, a Vacheron Constantin Tour de I’lle, a Breguet pocket watch from 1814… Old, rare, undeniably beautiful – but hard to imagine fitting into our everyday lives.
There’s another tradition, though – a more recent and, some would say, more vibrant and exciting one. We’re talking about modern opera, covering contemporary themes through experimental staging – and often sung in English. You might get the Oedipus myth set in 19th century Maine (Emmeline, 1996); watch an Irish football hero survive paralysis in the trenches of WWII (The Silver Tassel, 2002); or witness dinner party guests mysteriously unable to leave, as chaos inevitably ensues (The Exterminating Angel, 2016).
And then there’s a recent favourite of the team at Christopher Ward – Anthropocene, a 2019 opera informed by horror movies like The Thing and the historical ice-field adventures of Scott and Shackleton, while at the same time tackling head-on certain increasingly pressing environmental issues. (Indeed, the very name comes from the concept that we’re entering a new geological age – one in which human activity has become the dominant influence of the environment.) For the key role of Ice – a woman dug out of an ice block, Captain America-style, by a near-future Arctic expedition – Jenni France, daughter of CW co-founder Mike France, essayed the sort of assured performance that’s made her one of modern opera’s rising stars.
This is a world the C65 Anthropocene fits into rather nicely: a modern, accessible, practical limited edition watch actually named for said opera, and one of the most exciting incarnations yet of Christopher Ward’s highly popular 1960s-inspired diver. Powered by Sellita’s SW330 automatic GMT movement, it boasts the striking combination of a uniquely textured matte white dial with a sharply contrasting orange-tipped GMT hand. It’s a striking, unusual colour scheme that speaks of windswept Arctic Wastes and bright orange snowmobiles and survival suits.
Then there’s that useful sweet-spot size – 41mm, currently the wristwatch equivalent of Baby Bear’s porridge for many of us – and the much-admired case design of the C65; the real-world usefulness of the GMT function – and the ability to simultaneously display two time zones is surely more handy than any more esoteric complication – is not to be sniffed at either.
This is not a watch with great history to it – nor the extreme price point that often comes with that, of course. But then it never pretended to be. It’s simply handsome, useful, and – starting at £995 – incredibly good value, with a percentage of each sale being donated to an environmental charity. It suits the modern world – and the world that’s coming – perfectly.
To discover the C65 Anthropocene, it’s available on our website now.