Recently, Christopher Ward have been on a releasing frenzy. 2014 has definitely been a year to remember for the British brand. And no wonder, as it’s their 10th year anniversary! Congratulations to them for doing so incredibly well in a tough market. What’s more, they report growth of 30% every year consistently, which again goes to show their excellence as a watch brand.
To celebrate their 10th anniversary, they have released a remake of their very first model, the C5 Malvern. But this is a bit special – it is an extra smart, super classy watch thanks to its slimness due to the handwind ETA movement. It’s called the C5 Slimline, and will cost you £400. Let’s see if it provides the usual excellent value for money Christopher Ward watches are renowned for.
The C5 Slimline is the perfect size for a smart and classy watch. With a diameter of 40mm, it sits delicately yet surely on the wrist. Small enough to be comfortable, and large enough to be noticed.
With a height of a mere 8.7mm, it is thin for a mechanical watch – hence the name of it being Slimline, which fits snugly under a cuff. With it’s light weight, it is super comfortable on the wrist. The case has a lug to lug length of 48mm, which isn’t too long, so it should fit well on wrists that are on the smaller side.
The lugs are very thin and elegant, matching the whole aesthetic of the watch. They are brushed on the main top surface, with a small polished ledge running along the outer edge, which continues along the sides of the whole case. This contrast in finishing in such close proximity is difficult, plus it looks great to the eye and makes the C5 Slimline look expensive.
The crown is simply push-pull, so when it is in it’s parked position you can easily wind the movement. Pulling it out to its one and only position allows you to adjust the time. Dead simple. The crown has sufficient grip thanks to its decent knurling, and it also has the usual CW logo embossed on the end. The crown is polished, matching the side of the case. One thing I have noticed is that due to the thinness of the watch, it’s very hard to wind it up whilst it’s on your wrist. So you’ll have to take the watch off in order to give it a wind.
The bezel is highly polished with a very reflective and flawless appearance. This makes the case and indeed the whole watch look very high quality and expensive. Personally, from a design standpoint I think that the bezel is ever so slightly too wide for my liking, I think the watch would have looked a lot classier if it was slightly thinner, allowing for a larger dial.
The main body of the case itself is slightly wider than the bezel and caseback, so there’s a tiny step out along the centre of the sides, which follows through to the lugs too. Looking at the case side-on, this main centre section is polished, and the side edging of the bezel and caseback are brushed, again creating a lovely contrast in finishing.
Sitting atop the case is a very slightly domed sapphire crystal. This crystal offers excellent visibility and clarity and you can only see the slightest of distortion at the tightest angle. There is a very effective layer of anti-reflective coating on the underside, which reduces glare and reflections very well.
The caseback is secured with 6 screws and is incredibly simple. It has a polished finish on the top side, with the very outer edge brushed as mentioned before. It’s main and only feature is the exhibition window in the centre to see the movement. The only other aspect to it is “Swiss Made” and the serial number deeply etched at the bottom. It has a very slightly domed / rounded shape to it, avoiding a flat sharp edge, aiding the C5 Slimline’s comfort on the wrist.
Although the case is very simple, I feel it’s a great size, especially the depth thanks to the movement. It’s also excellently finished and made with impressive precision, especially the aspects where there are different finishes close to one another.
Much like the case, the dial is simple, elegant, and finished and constructed flawlessly. The main thing going for it is the impressive galvanic sun-ray effect, available in blue, charcoal or white. The colour I chose is a beautiful deep sea blue, with a lighter accent following the light reflection around the dial.
The hour markers are thin and long, which look very elegant. The application is extremely accurate as you’d expect, and the polished finish is spotless and a reflects the light along with the hands creating a stunning appearance when you catch it right.
There is minimal printing on the dial. The Christopher Ward logo takes precedence, located in the top half. In the bottom half is the word Slimline, all in capitals and is a small, unobtrusive size. Right at the foot of the dial are the important words “Swiss Made”. All the printing is very accurate and precise, with no smudging, even on the very small and fine printing at the bottom.
The C5 Slimline has very classy dauphine pitched hands for the hour and minutes, which are basically a long thin triangle, with another dumpy triangle as the counterweight. They are also raised in the middle, so each hand will reflect the light in different ways due to the difference in angle the light will hit them. The second hand is a very plain and simple thin point, stretching out and extending all the way to the edge of the dial. The minute hand is a little shorter than the second, and the hour hand reaches the base of the hour markers. All the hands are finished the same mirror-like polish as the hour markers, and look very impressive. The legibility of the watch is very good thanks to the high contrast between the dial and the hands.
I can’t really fault the dial. It’s simple, beautiful, and excellently executed.
The movement powering the C5 Slimline is the ETA 2801-2, a hand-wind only mechanical movement. It is the base movement for the much more famous ETA 2824-2, has been in production since 1982, and can be found in other brands such as Stowa, Meistersinger and Oris to name a few.
From a visual perspective, the ETA 2801-2 looks quite simple and industrial. It’s top plates are plain, unfinished steel. I would have liked some sort of Geneva stripes, finishing or patterns visible, but nevermind.
It runs at 28.8k bph (8 ticks per second) and the second hand sweep is incredibly smooth. The C5 Slimline is Christopher Ward’s first handwind only watch (bar a small run of a few hundred for a Forum Limited Edition), and it’s actually one of my first real experiences with one too, the only other time I’ve had one was a brief fling a few years ago with a Panerai homage with an Asian 6497 movement. I’ll admit, being so used to automatic movements, I do keep forgetting that I have to wind it. But when I do, just a few winds will get it going again and it’s easy to set.
Winding the watch provides a lot of feedback, reassuring you that the movement is reliably made. One of the main positives of a handwind only watch is the connection you develop with it. It becomes part of your routine, or a ritual, and knowing this watch is completely dependant on you taking your time to give it it’s life force brings you closer together. A bit surreal I know, but you develop quite a close friendship.
The strap on the C5 Slimline has a width of 20mm at the lugs, reducing to 18mm at the buckle. I think this is the correct sizing, both aesthetically and practically. It balances the watch head well which results in an unobtrusive wear.
It is made of Italian leather, with an embossed alligator pattern. This is the same strap CW have started to use on their slightly higher quality watches, such as the C65, C9 Big Day Date, and Jumping Hour. It truly is lovely quality and a step up from their existing already great leather straps.
It is very soft to the touch, both on the outside and the underside, resulting in a luxurious feel on the wrist. You can choose from a black or brown strap on the C5 Slimline. I chose the brown, and I think it looks beautiful – the deep colour with it’s darker accents really sets off the blue on the dial perfectly. The brown strap’s stitching is a lighter shade of brown, which compliments the strap perfectly.
Finally, we have the bader deployant buckle. Usually the C5 Slimline will come with a standard buckle – but for £25 more you can upgrade to the Bader buckle. I highly recommend it, it’s definitely worth the extra money. If you’ve read my recent reviews of the C65, C9 Big Day Date, and C900 Worldtimer, you’ll realise that these are excellent buckles. These are very similar to the Omega deployant buckle which will set you back a couple of hundred pounds if you were to buy it direct. There’s a few things I like about them.
First, the minimal amount of steel that is visible on the top and bottom of the strap. There’s just a small amount of the buckle exposed on the underside, so you’re pretty much only feeling leather on your wrist.
Second, it’s exceptionally thin – it only adds a couple of mm to the strap, which allows it to do its job without spoiling the wearability of the watch.
Thirdly, the way it is secured means that your leather strap will last much longer. This is because the long flap sits under the buckle, and straight onto your wrist – without any folding, or creasing the strap, which results in wear and tear.
Finally, it is very secure. It is released by the two buttons either side of the buckle head, and I haven’t had any problems whatsoever. It’s extremely quick and easy to put on and take off – and when you’re in a rush, that can be a great positive.
So I really like the Bader buckle, and it’s great to see CW using and offering them more and more on their watches. On the C5 Slimline, it is all polished bar the centre section of the head, which is brushed. This is where the Christopher Ward logo is deeply etched. As you’d expect, it is solid in its construction, and feels very sturdy and well made.
I challenge you to find a ETA 2801-2 based watch for cheaper than the C5 Slimline. The only ones I can find is the Stowa Flieger costing £670, and the Meistersinger N. 01, which will set you back £1050. Suddenly £400 for the Slimline isn’t so bad, especially when you consider Christopher Ward’s exceptional customer service and 5 year warranty. You can’t put a price on that service.
Obviously, as indicated by it’s name, the main feature of this watch is it’s slim height for a mechanical watch at 8.7mm. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a fantastic positive, and it feels great on the wrist, looks exquisite, and is extra cuff-friendly. But it’s not just a thin watch. The C5 Slimline is an all-round excellent dress watch. Plus it marks the 10th anniversary of Christopher Ward, the first of many major milestones the wonderful British brand will no doubt arrive at.