Review: Christopher Ward C1 Moonphase
Just when you thought Christopher Ward couldn’t blow you away again, they come right out of left field and punch you straight in the face with this, the C1 Moonphase. It’s not the first moonphase the brand has made, but it is the moonphasingest… and it’s also way, way cheaper than you’d expect.
Quick recap for you on the Christopher Ward story so far: they made a bunch of watches for nearly twenty years that were fine, and then all of a sudden a traveller from the future came back in time and gave them the secret to success, a chiming watch known as the Bel Canto that they were able to sell for the price of a Tudor Black Bay.
It’s like that bit in the film where the nerd girl takes off her glasses and everyone’s like, “Oh damn!” but instead of long hair and big eyes it’s some well-polished cocks. And before anyone has a moment to take stock of the situation, out comes the Twelve, which is where it turns out the former nerd kid is also the heir to an ancient fortune. It just can’t go any better for Christopher Ward right now, and so everyone is waiting with bated breath to see what they do next. Will it be the rule of three or will their luck run out?
Well, the next big thing from Christopher Ward is this, the C1 Moonphase. It’s rather stark, with little going on—oh yeah, except for the ridiculously big moon at the top of the dial. This isn’t the biggest moonphase ever made, but it’s big enough to make you wonder if it might be. It’s not the first moonphase watch Christopher Ward has made either, with the C9 Moonphase and C1 Moonglow having graced the catalogue prior.
So, what makes this one standout and the others not? Really, a lot of things and not a lot of things… if that makes sense. Contrasting the moon that’s the size of, well, a moon, is almost nothing. A pair of skinny hands and the “Swiss made” script at the bottom. That’s it. If you’re looking for something to get you places to the nearest second, this ain’t it.
In fact, Christopher Ward went so far as to make the hands as inconspicuous as possible, swapping out thicker items on the prototype for these instead. Don’t worry, they’re not entirely invisible. Catch the light just right and they glow bright and crisp.
Speaking of glowing, that moon there is not only slightly three-dimensional, it’s also painted with lume. It’s not going to sear your retinas, but step into the shadow after a good blast of sunlight, and you’ll notice is has a soft radiance that is uncannily like the real thing. The real moon painted on the inside of the dome that keeps us all in must be painted with the same lume.
You’ll even notice the absence of the new, slick Christopher Ward logo, it having been relegated to just the crown. It’s just as well reverse image search is a thing, but I don’t know how many people will go that far to track it down. What Christopher Ward is relying on here is word-of-mouth, or at least type-of-key. By designing a watch that truly slaps, it should find success even without a prominent name or a logo.
It’s a big gamble, and that’s why Christopher Ward have doubled down with a party trick that’s, ahem, out of this world… a dial made entirely of aventurine. Side bar on aventurine: there is a mostly greenish mineral called aventurine, which is a form of quartz stone often used in fancy gravel. This isn’t it. This is what used to be called goldstone, a glass peppered with copper flakes to make it shine and shimmer like a diamond chandelier on the Fourth of July.
This kind of aventurine has been in production since the 1600s, perhaps unsurprisingly first made by the Muranese glassmakers still famous today. It was very difficult to make with unpredictable results, with chance or “aventura” taking the wheel. So they called it aventurine. The original aventurine was orangey-red, but since then has also been formulated in blue, which definitely has healing properties and is brimming with water energy. Definitely.
So combine a dark blue stone with copper flecks and what do you get? An impression of the night sky that looks so good it makes the real night sky look crap. Christopher Ward isn’t the first to dress a dial with this stuff and certainly isn’t the first to think of using it with a moonphase, but typically we’re talking Omegas, H. Mosers and even A. Lange & Söhnes. Those are all very expensive watches.
What the C1 Moonphase does differently though is how it uses that aventurine. There have been other watches with aventurine dials with holes cut out for the moonphase, sure, but there hasn’t been one when the moonphase disk itself is also aventurine. This is where the magic really happens.
Because the blue is so deep and the sparkle so sparkly, the big moonphase window in most lights seamlessly blends into the dial, so the moon simply looks like it’s floating in a sea of stars. The effect is startlingly good, to the point where owner images of it have caused viewers to question the use of Photoshop.
Where this watch separates itself from the previous Moonphase and Moonglow is quite simply a resolve that comes from taking a risk with the design, being bold and pushing hard with the concept. This could have—and many people will still suggest it should have—been made with markers, logo, lumed hands etcetera etcetera, but it would quite simply not have been as eye-catching as this if it was.
And when I say resolve, that’s apparent all throughout. Take the moonphase itself, which once set is accurate for 128 years. It doesn’t click along a notch every single day like a typical moonphase, it glides smoothly through the aperture just as you’d expect the real moon to do. And the 40.5mm steel case, that gets the skinniest bezel imaginable to give that bottomless aperture as much space as possible. Despite having a not-that-slim Sellita base calibre with the JJ04 moonphase module on top, it maxes out at just 13.3mm thick.
That might not sound immediately impressive, but this thing stacks a 4.6mm movement with a module and then two layers of glass, one of which has a 3D movement on it. From the side you can see how thick each glass layer needs to be to be stable and secure, and it’s by pushing the dial right up inside the crystal that it all comes together to feel well-proportioned and not like a coffee mug balanced on the wrist.
In fact, that miniscule gap down to the dial only goes to serve to make the effect even more convincing—more so when the light hits just right. In practice, this is an almost impossible watch to image, with the dial looking flat when the hands pop and vice-versa, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: in-person the effect is so convincing it’s almost hard to reconcile what it is you’re seeing.
What’s even harder to believe is the price. Moser’s aventurine moonphase costs over £30,000. The C1 Moonphase from Christopher Ward, on the leather strap, is less than £2,000. Name me one watch at that price that match the conceptual excellence, attention to detail and sheer opulence of this thing. Sure, there are manufacturers like Zelos that make watches with aventurine dials for less than a thousand bucks, but they don’t feel like this. They feel like good, one thousand buck watches with aventurine dials.
What’s really surprised me about Christopher Ward isn’t just the ability to take a mix of components I expected to cost more and sell them for cheap, but that they can actually make watches that reflect the concepts of those far more expensive, and actually pull them off. The Bel Canto, the Twelve and this don’t feel awkwardly proportioned or somehow compromised—they’re just excellent, and it’s almost a secondary benefit that they just so happen to be cheap. The fact that I’m seeing them popping up in the collections of people who can afford way, way more really says everything you need to know.
What’s your take on the Christopher Ward C1 Moonphase? Does it light up your sky or should it be nuked from space?