When I first started this watch hobby, I was obsessed with complications. Ten years ago, my purchasing decisions were made mostly based on how many complications I could get for the money. (Montblanc’s Nicolas Riessec chronograph is worth checking out.) Now, I’m the opposite. The simpler the watch the better. Simple three-hand, time-only watches are great, and two-hand time-only watches are even better. But if I had to pick a watch with complications, it could only be a GMT. And one particular GMT watch that caught my eye recently was the Christopher Ward C65 GMT Worldtimer.
I travel frequently for work, and a GMT watch lets me easily keep track of time in my current location and back home. It’s the only complication I find useful. And truth be told, I have been looking for an affordable GMT watch for some time. The Christopher Ward C65 GMT Worldtimer ticks a lot of my boxes.
For a start, the C65 GMT Worldtimer is a good size. Good is relative, so by “good,” I mean it’s contemporary and sensible. The stainless steel case is 41mm, but the bezel actually sticks out a little so one might say it’s actually 42mm-wide. No matter because, on the wrist, it looks and feels just about as big as my 40mm Grand Seiko Hi-Beat GMT and Rolex GMT-Master II.
A lot of thought has gone into the case design. Its rated water resistance is 150 meters but case thickness is just a speck over 12mm. The case flanks are sensuously beveled so it looks even thinner. The bevels guide your eyes to the gently curved lugs that help keep the lug-to-lug distance short — 47mm, in case you’re wondering — and improve wearing comfort. The quality of the finish is also remarkable. In short, the case is a triumphant combination of aesthetics and functionality.
The crowns on earlier C65 models were push-in, so it’s good to see that Christopher Ward has made the crown on this model a screw-down. It doesn’t matter what your rated water resistance is, a push-in crown doesn’t inspire as much confidence as a screw-down crown. The exposed crown is large and easy to operate. But because the bezel sticks out from the case, it’s easy to accidentally turn the bezel as you screw the crown in.
I love boxed sapphire crystals, and the C65 GMT Worldtimer features a prominent one that sticks quite a fair bit out over the black dial. It’s meant to reproduce the look of old acrylic crystals, and I think it mostly succeeds. One aspect of the matte black dial that I particularly like is that it is devoid of unnecessary text. Apart from the brand’s logos at 12 and 9 o’clock, and a small unobtrusive date window at 3 o’clock, there’s only two lines of text at 6 o’clock that say, “Water Resistant | 150m / 500ft.”
The dial is clean and there’s a harmony to the elements. However, I will concede that the placement of the Christopher Ward logo is contentious. I can’t think of another brand that has its logo at 9 o’clock. But does it bother me? No, not really. It looks odd for the first couple of days, but you get over it. What bothers me more is that the date window is rather small and the thick minute hand makes it quite hard to set the time to the minute accurately.
The upside to the stocky hands is that the watch is highly legible. The hands also hold a lot of lume — Super-LumiNova Grade X1 GL C1, by the way — which makes them easy to see in the dark. It’s not Seiko bright (nothing much is) but it gets the job done. The oversized yellow GMT hand is a treat and adds a bit of much-welcome pizzazz. Flair aside, it also makes it easy to see where it is pointing to on the bi-color yellow and white 24-hour chapter ring.
That 24-hour chapter works in conjunction with the bezel to let you tell time around the world. Before I elaborate on how it all works, let’s talk about the bezel for a bit. As I said earlier, the bezel sticks out a little from the case, and it’s actually fairly wide. However, the combination of brushed steel and black DLC sections helps hide its girth. The bi-directional bezel is engraved with the names of cities around the world and has 120 positions for adjustment.
The way the worldtimer works is quite simple. Just align the city that represents your timezone on the bezel to the time on the 24-hour scale. So, if it’s 2 pm in Tokyo and you want to know the time in London, you would turn the bezel until Tokyo sits at 14 on the 24-hour scale, and then you would be able to see that it’s 5am or 6am in London, depending on whether daylight savings is in effect.Inside the watch beats the self-winding Sellita SW330, which is a clone of the ETA 2893-2. It beats at 4Hz, has a power reserve of 42 hours, hacking, a quickset date, and an independent GMT hand. It’s important to note, at this point, that it doesn’t function like a “true” GMT (such as a GMT-Master II or Black Bay GMT) in that the local hour hand cannot be isolated and adjusted independently without affecting timekeeping. Instead, it’s the GMT hand that can be independently adjusted by hourly increments in either direction.
You might wonder at this point, “So what?” This means when you are traveling to a new timezone, you’ll have to stop timekeeping and adjust the time. This is annoying if you have already synced your watch to a reference time. And when you do adjust the time, it updates the GMT hand too, which means you’ll have to readjust the GMT hand should you wish to use it to keep track of home time. WIth a “true” GMT watch, when you travel to a new timezone, adjusting the local hour hand does not stop timekeeping and neither does it affect the GMT hand. It’s a lot more convenient.
But like so many things in life, there are upsides and downsides to this. One of the advantages of the Sellita SW330 is that the date is quickset. In a “true” GMT, the only way to adjust the date is to move the jumping hour hand forward or backward in time. It sounds trivial now, but trust me, it will get tiresome at some point if you frequently rotate your watches. Which is more bothersome? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Nothing is perfect unless you travel with a GPS-capable watch. And of course, watches with true GMT capabilities are also a lot more expensive.
The C65 GMT Worldtimer has four strap options: a stainless steel bracelet, a brown leather strap, a hybrid rubber and Cordura strap, and a canvas webbing strap. I asked for the brown leather strap, and I was glad I did. It’s slightly padded and it’s wonderfully soft. Christopher Ward calls it “vintage oak.” It has a suede-like finish and comes in a light shade of caramel that I think complements the watch well. However, it does feel a bit delicate, and I’m not fond of the waxed finish on the sides. It would look a lot better if the sides were untreated. It comes with quick-release spring bars that make it easy to remove and change the strap if you like. Lug width is a very sensible 22mm, so there is no shortage of options. Plus, I have the feeling that it will be an absolute strap monster.
Taken as a whole, the C65 GMT Worldtimer is a charming watch. It looks pleasant, the size is right, it comes with a nice strap, the build is good, and the complications are genuinely useful. And in the price range of $1,000 to $1,500, I think this is one of the more refined and thoughtful options. My only hope now is that we can leave this pandemic behind us so that I can go traveling with this watch strapped around my wrist. The Christopher Ward C65 GMT Worldtimer as tested with the leather strap is $1,140. Learn more at the Christopher Ward website here.
>Brand: Christopher Ward
>Model: C65 GMT Worldtimer C65-41AGM1-S0KK0-VC
>Price: $1,140 USD
>Size: 41mm-wide, 12.05mm-tall, 47.1mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: For traveling.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone who is looking for an affordable and hardy GMT watch for traveling.
>Best characteristic of watch: Size and case design is excellent, as is legibility and overall functionality.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Placement of the logo is as controversial as it is unusual. Strap is supple but feels delicate.