So let me discuss the positives first. The case is a great size and, at 13.45mm thick, is substantial in its poise. If there is anything negative to say about the SH21, it is that it isn’t a small movement in diameter or thickness. So for a slim dress watch, go elsewhere, but if you like larger timepieces, then the SH21 range is going to make you pretty happy. The C9 Harrison case has a brushed middle section with a polished bezel and caseback. On the wrist, the curved lugs make it very comfortable, and I appreciate the quality of the Christopher Ward logo on the crown in relief (versus being engraved).
The Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic comes on a Louisiana alligator strap with a “Bader deployant” that is perhaps one of the best simple fold-over locking deployants around. Push-button operated, it just feels nice and works well. I always appreciate it when a brand realizes that most of what people operate in a watch is the clasp/buckle. So making that part of a high-quality package is really important to the overall ownership experience.
So where can the Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic watch be improved? Thankfully, in a place that won’t be that difficult. My major complaint about the C9 Harrison is the sapphire crystal and dial combination. The dial design is really lovely in theory. Christopher Ward continues the Harrison theme with minimalist baton hour markers and needle-style hands. The first mistake is that the hour markers and hands are all polished. That means legibility-interfering light reflectivity. Second, the minute hand is almost identical to the seconds hand which is perhaps a millimeter longer. In fact, all of the hands are the same design but just different lengths. The comparatively low contrast mixed with high reflectivity of the dial means that immediately knowing which hand you are looking at is not clear.
The third issue with the dial is the sapphire crystal over it. The crystal is domed, but domed in a manner that creates a distortion creating lens effect. That is mixed with a high amount of reflectivity, despite Christopher Ward’s use of AR coating on the crystal over the C9 Harrison’s dial. On paper, the dial design is really lovely and attractive. I like little details such as the bevel edges on the date window and the elegance of the hands. However, this particular execution needs some material and finishing refinements before the dial of the C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic lives up to its potential. I am reviewing a pre-production model, so it is entirely possible that Christopher Ward will remedy some of these issues by the time you are thinking about buying one of these.
What you have in the Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic watch is something very special. The in-house SH21 movement is really lovely and I am personally going to wait for versions with a few added features, such as a power reserve indicator. Having said that, after understanding what the movement offers I have immediate “want” and look forward to seeing watch-lovers immediately gobble these up and compare them to their much more expensive timepieces. With a long power reserve, COSC Chronometer certification, automatic winding, and 100% Swiss Construction, these are going to be the in-house movements other brands will need to contend with in the sub $5,000 range (and then some) for years to come. The best part is the price. The Christopher Ward C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic watch is priced at £1,500, which is just $2,065. christopherward-usa.com
>Brand: Christopher Ward
>Model: C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch lover who values in-house movements, who has been dying for a quality mechanical watch at the $1,000 – $3,000 price point.
>Best characteristic of watch: Caliber SH21 is a fantastic movement which will be worth it for most people. Good case quality and very comfortable.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Dial finishing and sapphire crystal require some work to improve legibility.