Inside & Out Review: Christopher Ward C5 Malvern 595
Right now, I could read a book, watch the latest episode of Westworld, listen to nearly every song ever recorded and order a pizza all from one device (though not all at the same time). Our phones are not dedicated commutation devices anymore, they are vast multimedia centers that also can call someone at a moments notice. Watches haven't fully succumbed to this trend yet, but with Switzerland feeling the pressure from increasingly affordable tech wearables, expect more watches that ding, buzz, bleep and bloop. Yet, sometimes you don't need or want a watch that aims to do everything. Sometimes you want a singular experience.
If the experience you're looking for to own a very thin dress watch, for under $1000, then you should consider the Christopher Ward C5 Malvern 595.
Christopher Ward has spent two years redesigning their watches, and the refined Malvern range is a real accomplishment in balancing style, substance and affordability. There is a sense of uniformity and cohesion that perpetuates across the entire range, from the thin, stick hour markers to a standard style of case that rarely varies in thickness or finish. Yet the new C5 Malvern 595 does vary in thickness as it is one of two manually wound watches in the Malvern collection (the other being the C1 Grand Malvern Small Second) and is the thinest at 5.95mm. I've never been one to worry about the thickness of any of my watches and whilst wearing the Malvern, that concern went from minimal to non-existent.
The slightly downturned lugs allow the already razor thin watch to hug the wrist even more (not that verticality would have been a problem without them) and the simple case design allows the watch to vanish on the wrist and under a cuff. Some may say that the case is simple to a fault, and whilst it didn't leave me gazing at it all night long, it was attractive enough not for me to worry about it.
Budget watches, like the Alpina Alpiner Automatic A4, can have some really captivating facets but every new bevel means more money spent paying a case polisher and at $680, I'm sure every effort was made to keep the Malvern as affordable as possible. If this means that more people have access to a thin, mechanical watch then I'll happily accept a slightly uninspiring case design.
Considering that most ultra-slim dress watches in this price range are typically traditional in stlye, the C5 Malvern 595 dial offers a modern alternative compared to more established brands.
The C5 Malvern has such a minimal dial that you could imagine it being sold via Kickstarter by a brand 'looking to disrupt the watch industry'. I thought I'd missed watching the passing seconds hand sweep around the dial, but honestly, I was rather enamored with the experience of glancing at the tableau-esque dial, as like the 'slow' watches that only have an hour hand, there is something relaxing in having only the essentials on a watch. One big boon to those die-hard anti-date windows, the C5 Malvern 595 has no date window at all. I'm much more liberal in my acceptance of date windows but I do agree that if you're going to make such a minimal watch, then forgoing a date window is a sensible conclusion.
When I first received the C5 Malvern, I was curious as to how practical the grey dial would be and after two weeks, I'm still somewhat unconvinced, but not entirely dissuaded. I specifically chose the grey dial because I knew I'd like the white and wanted to experience something I may not love. The even lighting in my office meant that the Malvern was never difficult to read, but stepping outside into more natural and uneven light sometimes left me having to squint or maneuver into the shade to read the dial better. The hands, whilst stylish, are very similar in width and fattening them up would have made reading the dial a lot easier. I may not have been in love with the practicality of the grey dial or the case, but I did appreciate the overall style of the watch. It's a very tidy watch that succeeds in fulfilling all the promises it makes; it's thin, it's mechanical and it's very affordable.
And now, the obligatory discussion of Christopher Ward's logo placement.
It took me 5 watches but now I'm finally coming around, for the most part. For those that are unaware, Christopher Ward previously used an abbreviated version of their name (Chr. Ward) on their dials, written in a traditional serif type. Around two years ago (Wait. two years ago? Where the hell did all that time go?!), they changed to a simpler sans serif type that extended the name to Christopher Ward. They then placed it at 9 o'clock.
I remain on the fence about the logo placement on sports watches, like the C60 Trident Pro 600, but on dress watches I'm a total convert when it comes to Christopher Ward. The simpler yet specific style that Christopher Ward watches have evolved into work really well with the alternative placement and the style, whilst sometimes not entirely awe-inspiring, is always unique to the brand.
Something that disappointed me about the watch was the non-tapered, 20mm, black calf strap. As a piece of material holding the watch to your wrist, it does it's job, but it's rather drab and does little to showcase the case. A strap is an opportunity to elevate a watch into something more; an tapered alligator strap creates a feel of elegance, a rally strap creates a feeling of speed, but a plain, non-tapered, black calf does little to stir the imagination. I've said many times that complaining about a strap is like complaining about shoelaces, they are so easy to change that it's barely an issue, but when Christopher Ward positions themselves as a value investment then every additional purchase has to be considered. I feel that a textured calf going from 20mm to 16mm would frame the watch really well on the wrist.
Like every other movement inside a Christopher Ward, there is no pretense in calling it what it is, an ETA.
Inside the C5 Malvern 595 is the ETA/Peseux 7001, a movement as fascinating as it is simple. Peseux was an ebauche maker founded in 1923 and by 1933, Peseux were making over 215,000 movements a year and in 1972, they released the hand-wound Peseux 7001. The 17 jeweled, 23.3mm movement was large for its time but was adopted by a number of brands because of how easy it was to convert and decorate at different price points. The three bridges (one for the escapement, one for the going train and another for the mainspring and winding mechanism) were very easy to decorate as they were, but also could be slimmed down into something more intricate if desired. Blancpain, Junghans, Montblanc and Omega all used the movement but perhaps the most famous use of the movement today is by Nomos, who used it as the inspiration for their in-house movement, the Alpha.
Christopher Ward has chosen a more middle of the road approach when it comes to 7001, now well into middle age. The standard three bridge structure remains unchanged and it has a smattering of Cotes de Geneve finishing with an angled, polished bezel running around the outside. I will say that after spending time with the 5 day power reserve last year with Christopher Ward's SH21 caliber, I'm a little disappointed with a return to Cotes de Geneve finishing. The unique cross pattern that was engraved onto the bridges of the SH21 were a delight to see, and now 5 years into this passion of watches, a Cotes de Geneve doesn't excite me as much as it used to (Of course, I'd be wrong not to mention that the 5 day power reserve is nearly triple the price of the C5 Malvern). That lack of wonderment at the more simple side of watchmaking is one that I'm having to come to terms with as my passion for watches matures (even if I don't) but to someone who is entering into this wonderful world of watches for the first time, I think they'd be jubilant with how the C65 Malvern 595 looks.
In terms of performance, the 7001 held up well over the course of my time with it. I still maintain that 42 hours is not enough for a modern power reserve but seeing as this watch is so thin, I'll accept a little compromise. One element to the 7001 that is a hallmark of its age is the fact that the crown will stop winding when the main spring is full. Most modern movements now have a clutch that will disengage the winding stem from the main spring to allow the crown to continue rotating, but this isn't the case with an ol' timer like the 7001. Both systems are a good way of stopping the mainspring from being overwound, but I do find the clutch system a little more graceful.
I wouldn't describe the C5 Malvern 595 as a home run, especially compared to the fantastic C1 5 Day Power Reserve I tried last year, but considering the alternatives, you'd be hard pressed to find a manually wound, thin dress watch anywhere near close this price. For more information, please visit www.christopherward.com