In watchmaking, as in so many other things, it’s the details that matter.
So when Christopher Ward decided to update its bestselling Trident dive watch, giving it a design refresh wasn’t good enough – every element had to be improved. And that started with the bezel.
“There was nothing wrong with the previous bezel – it still ranks up there with the best,” says Christopher Ward co-founder Mike France. “But it wasn’t as pleasing to the senses as we thought it could be. We knew it could be better.”
If you’re not familiar with how a dive-watch bezel works, or have been too scared to ask (entering the world of horology can sometimes be a little intimidating), it’s worth knowing. Introduced around 1953 by Rolex and Blancpain on their Submariner and Fifty Fathoms models, the bezel helps divers gauge their time underwater.
It’s easy to do – you match the dot at 12 o’clock on the bezel with the minute hand. By doing this you can see how long you’ve been underwater without having to remember what time you went in. It’s also unidirectional because if you knock it, you can only move it in the direction that would show you’ve been longer in the water than you actually have – another useful safeguard.
But how a bezel works is just a small part of its significance. Like the satisfying clunk you get when you close the door on a perfectly engineered car, it’s also a sign of quality. And for Christopher Ward’s head of product design, Adrian Buchmann, one that buyers engage with almost immediately.
The new C60 Trident Pro 600 Mk 3, complete with scratch-resistant zirconia ceramic bezel
“Most of the people who buy a diving watch aren’t going to dive,” says Adrian. “But they’ll turn the bezel to hear the click, so they need to feel precision and sturdiness. When we began work on the Trident 3, we knew we had to improve it.”
In what resembled a horological version of a 1960s spy movie, Mike France, Adrian and senior product manager Jörg Bader Jr toured London’s finest watch shops, comparing the bezels on high-end dive watches, sometimes even recording the results on their phones. On their return, they concluded the gold standard was the Rolex Submariner. Now they had something to aim for.
After a period of experimentation, the team created a bezel with completely different engineering to the previous incarnation. “Most bezels have a flat piece of metal that sticks out to make sure it only moves in one direction,” says Adrian. “But our new version has a tube with a spring inside and a metal piece in the top that goes up and down in a vertical axis. It’s incredibly precise.”
A quick spin shows where he’s coming from. There’s a satisfying smoothness to the movement that brings to mind the sound and feel of a combination lock on a safe door. But the upgrade doesn’t end here – there’s also the small matter of increased visibility in the dark.
“If there was one complaint about the last Trident, it was that the lume wasn’t quite strong enough,” says Mike France. “So with the new version, not only have we increased the lume by 138 per cent, but we’ve deep-filled the bezel’s numbers, too. And by using the best lume Super-LumiNova® produces, we’ve delivered maximum visibility no matter how dark it is.”
The Grade X1 GL C1 Super-LumiNova® used on Trident 3’s bezel features in many of the world’s best watches
Of course, the improved bezel, which is standard across all new Tridents, is just one part of the watch’s offering, but it’s also a sign of Christopher Ward’s maturity, self-confidence and individuality.
“We were incredibly happy when we signed off against a bezel that we believe can’t get any better,” says Mike. “But even though it’s better than everyone else’s, it’s still a smidgen beneath the Submariner. Which means there’s room for improvement on Trident 4!”
Time to take it for a spin then.