When it comes to young, relatively affordable brands in the watch market, few have built the cache or the distinctive style of Christopher Ward. While the brand’s look has evolved dramatically from its initial starting point, the soul of the marque’s style has always come down to a combination of reinterpreted midcentury design cues, clean and complex finishing, and a quintessentially British design sensibility. In an era in which skeleton dial designs are becoming increasingly common in sports watches as luxury brands look to show off their movement prowess, taking these exciting and technical design cues to a more affordable price bracket is a daunting design challenge. The Christopher Ward C60 Sapphire manages to capture a touch of that same energy in a fun, vintage-inflected package that neatly masks some of the watch’s budget-friendly elements with the brand’s signature style.
The Christopher Ward C60 Sapphire begins this vintage-inspired take with the 40mm stainless steel case. This is a carryover from the regular production C60 Trident 3 series of divers, featuring a classic sports watch form with wide tapering lugs and a coin-edge dive bezel. While it’s a shape we’ve certainly seen before, the execution and finishing give this one a unique personality all its own. Rather than blocky protrusions from the case side, the crown guards flow organically all the way into the lugs, with a wide polished bevel along the top that serves to both slim down the case profile, visually, and create an eye-catching highlight. The lugs themselves contribute heavily to the vintage feel on the wrist, with a relatively average 47.46mm lug-to-lug length masked to look far shorter by a pronounced flowing downward curve, as well as a sharp undercut on the lug tips. The end result is a 40mm case that wears more old-school compact than the figures suggest, combining solid ergonomics with complex faceting for added light play. This case philosophy, like so many other parts of the C60 Sapphire, doesn’t directly echo any particular model from the past but follows the same principles that helped to set Seiko apart from its Swiss competitors in the ‘70s.
While there’s certainly a touch of vintage Seiko DNA in the case surfacing, the steel dive bezel is a much more modern affair. Steel bezels tend to make cases feel smaller on the wrist, and this is no exception, further accentuating the compacting elements of the lug design. The insert itself is clean and modern, with shallow cutouts for added visual depth and a blue-filled track marking out the first 15 minutes. It might not look like it at first glance, but this is a fully lumed insert with an impressive two-tone lume application in blue and green to highlight that 15-minute track. Around back is one of the C60 Sapphire’s other party pieces. Despite maintaining a heavy-duty 600-meter depth rating, the caseback is equipped with a sapphire display window backed with a layer of smoky blue polycarbonate. This helps to reinforce the vintage feel here, as many early display backs in the ‘70s were made from colored material, but also works to elevate the rather humble Sellita SW200 within. While the custom rotor features some impressive patterning, this isn’t the world’s most intricately decorated movement overall, and the blue helps to mask this. It also provides some welcome visual drama, giving the effect of the movement rising up from the ocean depths.
The dial of the C60 Sapphire follows much the same vintage inflected design philosophy as the case. The main dial layout should be familiar to the Christopher Ward faithful, as the applied rectangular indices, distinctive sword and arrow handset, and signature trident counterweight are shared with the rest of the C60 Trident line. The main attraction, of course, is the namesake sapphire dial. Like the caseback, this is a two-layer affair, with a transparent sapphire layer above colored polycarbonate in a deep, oceanic blue. Also, like the caseback, this gives just enough of a view of the gear train and date wheel below without exposing too much of the movement’s workhorse nature. The effect feels mysterious, deep, and, above all, suitably marine for a 600-meter dive watch. With the punches of orange on the seconds hand and minutes track, the colorway feels dynamic and playful. This is also one more place where Christopher Ward echoes the styles of the ‘70s without directly copying, as colored clear dials like Seiko’s Time Sonar and the Bulova Accutron Spaceview provided enthusiasts a tinted look inside movements before skeleton dials became commonplace. Of course, the elephant in the room with this and so many other Christopher Ward dials is the branding. While the ghosted twin cross logo at 12 o’clock is excellent, the clean and sterile Christopher Ward text at 9 o’clock would feel more at home in the New York City subway than on a luxury watch dial.
Christopher Ward powers the C60 Sapphire with the tried-and-true Sellita SW200 movement. While the brand does top this with its custom etched cross pattern rotor, the internals are unchanged. That said, the adjustment on our particular loaner movement was excellent, consistently gaining only seven seconds per day, which is well within the stated +20/-20 second accuracy range. The 38-hour power reserve was unchanged from stated figures, however.
While Christopher Ward offers the C60 Sapphire on a variety of straps including two different rubber-lined blue fabric options, the test model arrived with the brand’s three-link oyster style bracelet. Fit and finishing are solid here, with flush solid endlinks and smooth brushed surfacing. The two-button clasp, as well, is handsomely finished and works with a sturdy, satisfying click. The only real downsides here come in the sizing department, as the clasp offers no micro-adjustment outside of a short ratcheting dive extension, and the pin-collar bracelet links can prove tricky to swap out.
With the C60 Sapphire, Christopher Ward has created a uniquely playful take on the classic diver formula, combining vintage charm with a clever solution to the problem of creating a compelling skeleton design for the sub-$1000 market. The Christopher Ward C60 Sapphire is available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of $995. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.
>Brand: Christopher Ward
>Model: C60 Sapphire
>Price: $995 USD
>Size: 40mm-wide, 12.95mm-tall, 47.46mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a fun, colorful alternative to the classic summer dive watch.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone looking for a sporty, vintage-tinged alternative to a skeleton or open-heart model.
>Best characteristic of watch: Case finishing is varied and high quality, lume application is stellar for the price range, and the sapphire blue dial is a playful conversation piece.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Christopher Ward’s logo design and placement continues to be a point of contention, and the pin-collar bracelet links are difficult to remove with no micro-adjustment on the clasp.