In the rarefied world of haute horology, the movement is the acknowledged star.
There’s a reason for this. Mechanical movements not only deliver accurate timekeeping but are a sign of traditional watchmaking expertise. Seeing a movement whirring away through the back of a watch is to glimpse a magical world of cogs, wheels, barrels and springs. All in miniature.
The case, on the other hand, receives far less attention and is often taken for granted. What is there to talk about?
The answer is rather a lot.
A case not only holds the movement, dial and crystal in place but is the public face of a watch. An exceptional case is one of the defining characteristics of an iconic timepiece – think Jaeger LeCoultre’s Reverso or Heuer’s Monaco for proof – and is the main the physical interface between the watch and the wearer’s wrist.
Which is why when Christopher Ward began to redefine itself three years ago, case design was one of the critical elements that had to be overhauled for the company to be considered a serious player in the industry. To senior product designer, Jorg Bader Jr, this improvement is a sign of broader progress throughout the business.
“We’ve made huge strides with our case designs, and a consistent aesthetic has developed,” he says. “We’ve started calling them our ‘light-catcher’ cases, because of the way light bounces off them.”
A process that began with the C1 Grand Malvern has now reached the company’s iconic diving watch, the C60 Trident, and its three new models: the Trident Pro 600, Trident GMT 600 and Trident Elite 1000 Limited Edition.
“On the C60, we’ve designed it so wears beautifully on the wrist, despite the fact it has to be thick to work at a depth of at least 600m,” says Adrian Buchmann, Christopher Ward’s Head of Design. “It has the same design philosophy as the other ‘light-catcher’ cases, but a more masculine, powerful look.”
On the wrist, the Trident feels as solid ever, but thanks to Adrian’s ingenious design it now sits lower on the wrist, enabling it to slide under a cuff with ease.
“The swage lines around the sides are crucial,” he says. “With this watch, we initially got it almost right – but not quite. We started to think the ‘waist’ was maybe a millimetre too high – so we redid the entire design to bring that down by just a fraction, giving the perfect balance between polished and unpolished elements.”
One thing that strikes the wear is the interplay of light on the case’s brushed, and polished surfaces. It reminds that we’re experiencing something built, not just for timekeeping, but pleasure, too. The Trident has always been a watch that you could wear at the pool, in the sea or at a board meeting, but the sleeker feel – alongside all the other new developments like the improved dial and hands – takes it to a whole new level.
“We’re lucky that our case manufacturer is as obsessed with quality as we are,” says co-founder Mike France. “He wouldn’t stop until he’d perfectly replicated Adrian’s design. And you can feel that obsession every time you wear the Trident 3.”
For Adrian, the case is a homage to the great timepieces of the 1960s and ’70s which so influence his work.
“I love vintage watches,” he says. “They had beautifully engineered cases which managed to hold the thicker movements of the time. Then in the 1990s and 2000s, the watch sector became more ‘industrial’ and case design more basic. Some brands lost the soul through this. But a great case adds intricacy and emotional depth.”
Like the painstaking work that went into creating the Trident’s sublime new diving bezel or the attention to detail you’ll see on the dial, the case is another step in Christopher Ward’s mission to create the world’s best watches at prices that belie their quality.
For Adrian Buchmann, the company is starting to reach its full potential. “We’re not at the level of Rolex – yet,” he says. “But we’re second or third in line. And the light-catcher case is a reflection of that. Other brands could do it, but they’d prefer to keep the money and not invest in their products. Our case is an outward sign of the inner quality of the watch.”
Discover more about the reimagined, re-engineered Trident 3 Collection here.