Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

Today, London-based watch brand Christopher Ward introduces their first totally in-house assembled and designed movement, known as the caliber SH21. This development is such a big deal for the company that I spend time on a conference call with them to discuss it. Most watch brands simply would not take the time, but Christopher Ward understands how important the caliber SH21 is for them, as well the C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic watch that the movement debuts in.

Just an in-house made movement? Yes and no. What is important to understand here is the quality of this particular in-house produced mechanical movement and the price being asked for it compared to similar Swiss movements. For about $2,000, you can own a really nice movement with very attractive features.

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

Christopher Ward also announces a new corporate development on this day, and that is a merger with the Swiss company Synergies Horlogeres. Christopher Ward will be the holding company and will use Synergies Horlogeres as their development and production arm of all in-house made movements and components. Synergies Horlogeres is already responsible for the in-house modules Christopher Ward has placed over base ETA or Sellita movements in various Harrison collection models. They have now logically extended that work into a fully in-house made movement with the caliber SH21.

Christopher Ward credits the master watchmaker Mr. Johannes Jahnke at Synergies Horlogeres for the development of this exciting new base movement. That's right, like most new in-house made mechanical movements we see popping up these days from luxury Swiss watch brands, the SH21 was designed as a workhorse base movement that future modules will be placed on top of. For its debut, Christopher Ward has designed the three-hand with date C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic watch. In the future, additional variations of the SH21 will be produced and include a range of dial layout variations and complications, ranging from a GMT hand to a chronograph.

The Harrison collection is already Christopher Ward's premium collection of watches. Christopher Ward is a unique watch brand for a few reasons. Based in England, Christopher Ward was designed from the outset with a direct-to-consumer model in mind, selling directly to customers via the internet and catalogs. In fact, coincidentally enough, the release of the SH21 movement occurs during the 10-year anniversary of the company.

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

To many people, Christopher Ward is the producer of very reasonably priced quartz and mechanical watches. Many aBlogtoWatch readers are existing Christopher Ward fans, and it is difficult to dispute the value of their watches. Though, Christopher Ward has never touted themselves as a high-luxury brand. With the advent of the Harrison collection, Christopher Ward began to tip toe in the halls of the major Swiss watch makers.  With the release of the C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic and the SH21 movement, Christopher Ward has the potential to make thunderous steps.

Let's discuss a bit more about the caliber SH21 and what you can expect from it. Devised from the ground up with performance and reliability in mind, the SH21 is truly modern in its size and feature set. It takes into considering modern demands of a Swiss watch movement, while keeping in mind that value is very important. Without any additional complications or modules, the SH21 contains 164 parts total, with 112 different types of components. Each is produced via a range of suppliers, and Christopher Ward has done some interesting things in order to get the parts it needs.

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

Christopher Ward, of course, works with some of Switzerland's best watch industry suppliers in getting the parts for the movement, but they also work with "alternative" suppliers, such as companies that produce parts for the medical device industry. Of course, a legitimate question is whether or not the SH21 can be defined as "in-house made," since many of its parts are produced by suppliers and then assembled under Christoper Ward's control. That is a good question and is an added element on top of "in-house designed and assembled." The basic notion is this: the investment to acquire the machinery and talent to produce parts right off the bat makes little sense, and most brands work with suppliers to get parts for their movements - just to varying degrees. I wouldn't focus on whether or not Christopher Ward actually currently owns the machines that produce each component, but rather that the movement is designed by them and assembled under their quality control guidelines in-house. I will also add that according to Christopher Ward, the SH21 movement is 100% Swiss Made.

All SH21 and later variants are going to be COSC Chronometer certified, which means they need to be be consistently built with that level of accuracy in mind. The SH21's most important feature is the double mainspring barrels which offer 120 hours (5 days) of power reserve. This, of course, is merrily coupled with a 4Hz (28,800 bph) frequency of the balance wheel. This is very good because you have a long power reserve without the sacrifice of a slower operating speed (that translates to more accuracy over time).

The SH21 is also an automatic, and uses an automatic rotor, produced from solid piece of tungsten. This helps reduce the thickness of the rotor because it doesn't need to have a weight applied to it in order to increase its mass for winding efficiency. Actually, unless you were told the rotor was produced from tungsten, you'd likely not know, as it is finished to look the same as the rest of the movement.

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

Even though the caliber SH21 movement is Swiss, Christopher Ward is British. For that reason, they decided to not finish the SH21 like a traditional Swiss movement. The bridges are mostly brushed but little details, such as machine-beveled edges, add a hint of flair to the otherwise intentionally industrial design. I inquired as to what a movement like this lacks that a much high-end movement might have, and we had a nice discussion about that. The short of the story is that with a high-end movement from a Swiss brand, you'll probably get a lot of hand-finishing and more decorative parts, but for the most part, there aren't any major features lacking in the SH21. Overall, Christopher Ward has a pretty serious contender.

It goes without saying that the backdrop of the ongoing saga of Swiss ETA not supplying outside companies with movements was a major reason for Christopher Ward's investment into producing an in-house movement. While Christopher Ward products will always be highly diversified in regard to price, consumers can expect that more and more of their mechanical movements will be produced in-house. Christopher Ward also has confirmed long-term plans to offer the SH21 and related movements to outside companies interested in purchasing movement kits.

Overall I am pretty happy with the SH21 movement and thrilled to see a quality movement at a price that doesn't feel like another luxury company is stiffing me. So let's get back to talking about the Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic watch itself. Sized at 43mm wide in steel, the C9 Harrison is a handsome timepiece with what is easily Christopher Ward's best case design.

Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic Watch Review & Debut Wrist Time Reviews

What do you think?
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  • ZL

    This is very exciting.

  • Glad to see them doing this. The “Harrison” name might have been Swiss instead of English considering where the movement was designed and made, but that’s a small quibble. It will be interesting to see when this movement becomes available to outside parties and at what price and quantity. The double barrels and long power reserve are great – even in an automatic – so its nice to see them not just cloning a 42 hour ETA 2824.
    This watch doesn’t do that much for me, but the guts are the story here. Thanks for the post. Just wish there were more movement tech specs, but I suppose that will come at some point.

  • Ulysses31

    It’s a very beautiful watch from a casual glance.  The hand length issue is a pretty serious mistake though.  The movement finish is not something that delights in the same was as the dial does. Having become used to the fact that the majority of Swiss manufacturers don’t make everything themselves, I am not that fussed about whether or not the movement is in house.  It’s a laudable effort though.

  • Nice to see them stepping it up, but this one needs a little help methinks. The movement view is about as spartan as you can get, not in any good way. And the handset, aside from the length problem, just looks like a sprinkling of metal splinters dropped on the dial. They have zero personality and are barely indistinguishable from one another. Love that grey-blue dial though. 

    I’m sure this line will evolve and get better – looking forward to it. Guaranteed to become a forum favourite in no time (no pun intended).

  • X2Eliah

    Incidentally, this watch also pretty much seems to set the base price for future CW endeavours with this movement; CW did a twitter-based Q&A, so I asked what prices they estimate for watches with this movement in 5 yrs time; CW representatives said that the 1500 gbp mark is pretty much the lower baseline (no comment on top of the range prospects). (source: https://twitter.com/ChrisWardLondon/status/485115792804294656 )

    Wrt finishing: I might be an outlier, who knows, but personally I much prefer an industrial, technical finishing style that this movement has over the constant overuse of guilloche and whatever other fancy patterns on plain surfaces on typical swiss movements. So mad props to CW for designing the visual look of the SH21 in a nicely different manner.

  • OngWeisheng

    I believe they have other variations of this model, to which I saw one with a white dial, silvered hour and minute hands BUT a blued second hand which makes the whole watch look very put together and lovely.

    The only issue I have with CW watches are their sizes. There’s really no point to having anything larger then 40mm if your dial is relatively clean and when your movement is so much smaller then the case size.

    Other then that, really dig what CW is doing and hope they continue along this great path.

  • GBD

    It’s exciting and refreshing to see a watch company working hard to offer a good value proposition. I’m impressed with CW’s effort, and the 5 day power reserve is a bonus. I really dislike the hand set and the case size of this watch, but I’m sure this is just the first of many designs that will get the new movement.

  • socabaptist

    The minute and second hands are too similar. Maybe a slightly shorter minute hand? Also a different color for the second hand? I won’t be getting one of these but the movement is the real star here. I actually like the finish on the movement. I also love the fact that CW is moving in the direction of creating their own movements. I’ll wait for other watches using this movement, there will be something that I’ll love more.

  • BigMike213

    The movement decoration(or lack of) is not too bad, the beveled edges and brushed finishing is kind of cool. I can understand why they may want to do away with the typical stripes and swirls to be more distinctive due to their English background. Case and deployment look awesome, overall I really like it and the price is a steal. BUT those hands have to change or go away. Haha legibility is a must!

  • mjl599

    BigMike213  Check out the CW website, there is a white version with blued hour and minute hands and a silver second hand. This may not address all of the legibility issues, but it improves the differentiation between the hands themselves.

  • I really like the value proposal by CW. I have thought of them as in for a great future and this step towards making their movement confirms my intuition. Watch makers like CW and FC are poised to shake the Swiss industry up a bit. I, for one, now hold their value as a benchmark in purchasing decisions: I now just refuse to pay for yet another nicely packaged ETA movement more than for a nicely packaged in-house movements from these upstart makers. 

    While this model is not compelling enough for me, I look forward to this new movement being used in other fine watches and gain different complications. 

    Bravo, Chr. Ward!

  • joshgraves

    I love this movement.  The clearly visible escapement and skeleton rotor are awesome touches.  I think the brushed look, versus the Swiss polish fits this design.  Your pictures do a great job capturing the visibility issues with the dial…hopefully their future production models will either address those issues, or at a minimum offer variations to the hand design.  Even the blue hands over white dial model seem too thin.

  • AwsmSpaceMonkey

    This watch looks great. I don’t the minutes/seconds hands will be an issue in real life considering the seconds will be moving. But it’s probably one of those things you have to see in person. I’m a bit concerned that it might be too big though. I’ll be vising the showroom in a couple of weeks and hopefully they have one available to check out. It’s really a killer price for what you get.

  • kunokephalos

    Great value for what you are getting and I rather like the dial and hands design – it would be simple to change the seconds hand to make it instantly recognisable. However I do think it’s rather too thick overall for a dress watch.

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  • kevingrr

    Kudos to Christopher Ward.  It is good to see them continuing to step up there game.

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  • franksmith12

    TERRIBLE WATCHES. went through 3 chris wards, under warrenty. they kept breaking!

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  • Rushwarp

    Hi Ariel,
    Perhaps I have become a fly in the ointment with this topic, but there is massive a difference between an ‘in house designed’ and ‘in house manufactured’ movement’. What we have here is an ‘in house designed’ movement.

    It s exactly the same differentiation as ‘designed by Apple in Cupertino and made in China.’.
    When you make everything ‘in house’ it means you have the machines and people and software and milling stock and all the rest to make the parts in your own workshop. Like Roger Smith or Kari Voutilainen and a handful of others do.
    If you knew how long it took people of that level to achieve that, you would not take the term so lightly.

    Calling this an ‘in house movement’ is a misnomer that (expressly or inadvertently) gives the movement an aura of artistry that it does not possess…. Furthermore it is linguistically incongruous to call something an ‘in house movement’ and then cover all the sub suppliers and Swiss manufacturers who help make it happen ‘in house’.
    In house assembled and finished is all one can say!
    If one really loves and respects watchmaking and watches then clarity of language and ‘telling it like it is’ is important. For yourself and for your readers.

  • Rushwarp Thanks for the note. Patrick wrote this piece and we’ll have to update it. I agree with you and we even wrote a large article about this. Thanks for pointing this out.

  • aBlogtoWatch Rushwarp Well, Christopher Ward and Synergies Horlogères have merged.  Therefore methinks that the SH21 is indeed an in-house, as in designed and manufactured in-house, Chris Ward movement.

  • Rushwarp 
    From this post: http://www.ablogtowatch.com/christopher-ward-c9-harrison-5-day-automatic-watch-review/
    There is more info on their use of their merger partner.
     

    Christopher Ward also announces a new corporate development on this day,
    and that is a merger with the Swiss company Synergies Horlogeres.
    Christopher Ward will be the holding company and will use Synergies
    Horlogeres as their development and production arm of all in-house made
    movements and components. Synergies Horlogeres is already responsible
    for the in-house modules Christopher Ward has placed over base ETA or
    Sellita movements in various Harrison collection models. They have now
    logically extended that work into a fully in-house made movement with
    the caliber SH21.

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