Inside & Out: Christopher Ward C8 UTC World Timer
How I Got This Watch: I contacted Christopher Ward and asked to review this piece. I wore it for two weeks before returning it to them. This is not a paid review.
The Christopher Ward C8 UTC Worldtimer is a fun weekend watch for a great price
Every watch that Christopher Ward watch I've worn has impressed me. The C60 Trident Chronograph had a great nautical design and was a great alternative (cheaper) sports watch over more known brands and the C9 Moonphase was one of the most visually striking watches I've worn all year thanks to a gorgeous 3D embossed moon. So here we have the C8 UTC Worldtimer, an aviation inspired watch with a very useful complication for frequent fliers, the worldtimer.
Louis Cottier, a small town watchmaker working out of his wife's stationery store, invented the worldtimer complication in 1931. There had been previous attempts, Cottier's father had presented his own design to the Societe des Arts in 1885, but Louis perfected it. The simplicity of his design elevated his watches above the cluttered alternatives that were being made at the time.
There were three main parts to his first design; an adjustable outer chapter ring, a rotating inner ring and a static center dial. Printed on the outer chapter ring were names of various cities around the world, each representing a single timezone. Located at 12 o'clock was the 'home' city, which would vary depending on the intended market of the watch and printed on the inner ring was a 24 hour scale. As the hour hand rotated clockwise, the inner ring would rotate anti-clockwise with the current home time always shown at 12 o'clock. So, to know the time in others timezones, you would find the desired city and read off onto the 24 hour scale, simple!
Only made 455 worldtimer movements in his lifetime, at a rate of 13 movements a year, finding an original worldtimer is going to be expensive. Cottier worked almost exclusively for Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin and his design was so perfect that many other brands would copy it. Whilst designs may vary, there is one constant that defines what a worldtimer is: You must be able to read all 24 time zones at once.
The C8 UTC World Timer is actually Christopher Ward's second world timer as the brand released the C900 World Timer back in 2014. Whilst the C900 World Timer had a dynamic design, it was not a true world timer as only one other timezone could be read at any given time. This is not the case with the C8 UTC World Timer which allows all the cities to be read at once.
The C8 UTC has a major point of different from the original Cottier design as the 24 hour scale is static and does not rotate. I have to assume that this was to keep the watch affordable ($1200) with other world timers that have a rotating ring cost nearly 10 times as much as the C8.
So how do you use the worldtimer?
There are two ways of using the C8 to track another time zone. You can use the GMT hand or use the rotating city ring combined with the 24 hour scale. Say you're living in London and want to know the time in Moscow. You rotate the crown at 4 o'clock until London printed on the city ring lines up with the current time on the 24 hour scale. You then find Moscow amongst the cities and read off onto the scale to learn the time. The light half of the scale, running from 3 o'clock to 9 o'clock, shows daylight and the dark half represents night time.
It is worth pointing out that I received the worldtimer at the worst possible time for my particular needs. I'm from Great Britain but I live on the East coast of America so I always set my GMTs to London time so I can call friends and family at a reasonable hour. Unfortunately the days the two countries change their clocks for Daylight Savings are about a week apart,
Great Britain changes its clocks for Daylight Savings time on October 29th and America changes its clocks on November 6th and for those 9 days my worldtimer was 1 hour off. This is a problem shared with all worldtimers, not only the Christopher Ward. It's a minor complaint and the inclusion of a GMT hand, something not usually seen on worldtimers, allowed me to have an accurate second time zone.
The watch is powered by an ETA 2893-2 with an approximate power reserve of 42 hours. Something I do like about Christopher Ward is their lack of pomp when talking about movements. They could have called this a CWsomethingsomething but instead they went simple and honest.
The crowns are nice and large with the thick knurled edge providing a good grip for adjusting the city dial. The design was inspired by the Smiths Mark II A clocks found in Spitfire cockpits but whilst they look great, the top crown doesn't offer enough resistance when winding the movement. Also when setting the GMT hand, there is an awkward pause between each hour where you're winding the crown waiting for the gears to mesh. These quirks are reminders of the lower price that the C8 worldtimer sells for, though the study case and great dial go a long way to make you forget this.
The watch sits at 44mm with the two aviation style crowns adding a few millimeters on the right hand side. The watch was very wearable despite the large size as it was flatter than I expected. It's not thin by any means and it is not dress watch but it's thinner than the Bremont Boeing 100 I wore a few weeks ago. It will fit under a cuff if pushed though it will be more comfortable poking out from underneath a sweater or waterproof during a quick weekend getaway. The brushed finishing on the case case is great and reinforced the worldtimer as a casual watch and the addition of some Blushark Nato straps really made this watch shine.
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The quick release spring bars made changing over to a 22mm NATO very easy though I did have to purchase spare spring bars online, as I couldn't work out how to safely remove the ones inside the strap. The light cognac strap was comfortable to wear though it did show up scratches and scuffs more than I would have liked. There are three strap options when purchasing new (Black, light cognac and dark brown) as well as an option for black PVD finished case.
The dial design of the World Timer is all about legibility as the light, cream colored hands and hour markers contrast well against the deep black dial. The applied 12 and 6 digits are very striking and pair well with the rectangular markers, which are actually cutaway slots revealing the cream color underneath. If I had to offer one minor complaint, it's that the date window is a little too small and the type little too thin. A larger date window might have balanced out the dial against the new Christopher Ward logo at 9 o'clock,
The caseback is finished with an engraving of a propeller, along with a repeating circular pattern around the outside bezel. It's a simple design that harkens back to the aviation theme without being overly gimmicky. A comment on my C60 Trident review asked why they didn't include a sapphire crystal caseback and as some might be asking the same question here, I'll offer my thoughts.
Lets remember that the display back trend is a recent one and for the entire lifecycle of the wristwatch, a solid case back has been the norm. Blue chip brands might maintain the solid back motif out of a sense of traditionalism, I would wager that for Christopher Wards case, its about saving money.
Sapphire crystal backs need more work which means more money spent in production which means in a higher RRP. Christopher Ward is very open about their pricing model on their website, cost price times 3. Using a steel case back is an example of their desire to create as much value for the customer as possible. This is why I continue to admire Christopher Ward and the watches they make.
Christopher Ward doesn't make cheap watches, they make watches that are excellent value for money. A seasoned collector might continue seeking a Cottier original (Good Luck to you) but the C8 UTC costs less than the flight out to Geneva to find one.