Photos by Jake Witkin

Having evolved from a rather generic dress watch brand founded in 2004 to a British watchmaking juggernaut focused on tool and sports watches in 2024, Christopher Ward probably needs no real introduction. There is one constant feeling I’ve experienced when reviewing the brand’s timepieces: impressed. There’s also a feeling of value I have when handling the watches, often remarking that such finishing or features (whatever they may be) are unheard of at such price points. Well, the train keeps rolling and the brand is at it again, this time with a titanium skeleton model, the Christopher Ward The Twelve X.

What’s most remarkable about the titanium Twelve X (and the titanium Twelves in general) is that they appear steel because of their exceptional finishing and tone. You approach it expecting a heavier watch and are instantly surprised by the lightness. Especially with the larger X, it takes a moment of adjustment to reconcile the expectation of weightiness with the lightweight reality. The form factor may look identical to the regular Twelve offerings, but the case has been enlarged to accommodate the in-house SH21 movement. Compared to the other Twelve titanium models The titanium case is a full millimeter wider at 41mm and 3.35mm thicker at 12.3mm. Those dimensions are certainly noticeable on the wrist if you’re used to the regular Twelves. While the watch still wears well, it feels chunkier, and were it not for the rounded cases and smooth transition from case to bracelet, it would wear like the Bell & Ross BR 05.  The finishing here is impressive. There’s an almost even end of polishing and brushing and it’s all incredibly crisp, with sharp transitions between. Beautifully, the chamfer of the case is continued onto the bracelet and its links.

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Interestingly, CW opted to blend titaniums, using grade 5 on the bezel and caseback and grade 2 everywhere else. There’s no difference in appearance that stood out, and the brand says it’s for greater durability in those areas (grade 5 is harder). The finishing is exceptional throughout, with sharp transitions between the brushing and polishing, which exist in balance. There seems to be a tendency among brands using titanium to make titanium look titanium. Because it’s a durable material, brands think they have to have it blasted or brushed in its entirety. Even those that do add polishing, it’s usually kept in check and not allowed to shine properly. Christopher Ward has wisely realized that titanium should be treated like any other material and finished dynamically (the brand is all about dynamic cases, as evidenced by the light-catcher design that permeates its catalog). While higher-end brands seem to have gotten the same memo (cc: Vacheron, GP, Roger Dubuis), I think it’s high time the entire market takes note and acts accordingly. Further, the isolation of exceptional titanium finishing to these elite brands perpetuates two untruths: that titanium is special and that it’s hard to finish. It’s not and it’s not.

For the first time on a Christopher Ward watch, the butterfly clasp offers a one-step micro-adjustment that extends the size by 3mm — about the size of a normal micro-adjustment step and just enough to dial it in perfectly. The brand claims this is unknown in an integrated bracelet, but Vacheron solved this problem with the Overseas bracelet almost a decade ago and Formex has had a similar mechanism on its Essence bracelets for some time.

Typically, with skeleton watches, you sacrifice legibility for the intrigue of seeing the movement fully exposed. While the Christopher Ward The Twelve X doesn’t share the legibility of the other Twelves, it’s miles beyond most. The trick is the contrast. By coating the movement’s bridges in a matte black finish, the brushed steel hands are allowed to contrast instead of blend in. It’s not perfect, but it’s quite a bit better. I’m happy to report, too, that the hands get rid of the triangle-baton combo that CW uses in other models, in favor of the same triangular hour hand with a tapered obelisk minutes hand. They work far better than the old handset.

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The Twelve X shares its overall dial design with the brand’s first skeleton release, the C60 Concept. That means a big wide-open center with a floating chapter ring around the edge. Just like the C60 Concept, the entire ring is lumed, though here the execution is more practical. Instead of a smooth ring of lume, protruding plots mark the hours. While the C60 had a huge block of lume at 12, the 12 o’clock marker is more restrained here, offered in a contrasting green-glowing lume. Overall, the lume shines bright on both the ring and the hand, so low-light visibility was excellent.

On full display through the front and back sapphire crystals is the in-house Christopher Ward SH21. Introduced in 2014 as a hand-wound movement, the caliber underwent modification a few years ago to become an automatic movement. The skeleton version was introduced in 2021 with the C60 Concept; for that process, CW went to Armin Strom, who helped to perfectly carve the bridges out for something that looks intentional and engaging. The finishing is about what I’d expect from CW, but unlike the case, doesn’t impress next to higher-end pieces. Beyond this being a truly in-house movement at under $5k, the specs here are impressive: COSC-certified and a double barrel configuration for a 5-day power reserve at 28,800 vph.

Once again, Christopher Ward is forcing us to challenge the notion that certain types of watches need to be prohibitively expensive when executed well. It did so before with the chiming Bel Canto and its dial-side mechanics, and it’s doing so again with the Twelve X and its titanium case, skeletonized in-house COSC movement, and integrated bracelet design. Pricing is subjective, and people place different value on different things like finishing, movement, and case materials, but do similar watches from Moser, Czapek, Parmigiani, Piaget, and Girard-Perregaux really justify their exorbitant premium over this watch? After spending time with the Twelve X, it’s hard for me to think they do. The Christopher Ward The Twelve X is priced at $4,865 USD on the bracelet and $4,495 USD on a rubber strap (not pictured). For more information, please visit the Christopher Ward website

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