PUBLISHED BY Joshua Clare-Flagg ON 6 Oct, 2015.
Christopher Ward are continuing their impressive run of new releases featuring in-house or modified movements with their brand-new Moonphase. It’s my pleasure to have received the very first Moonphase sample to review – so thank you Christopher Ward for that! It starts at £1295, and the main feature of it is pretty hard to miss – the moon (or lunar) phase indicator. This is very tastefully done, and rather than the usual piddly little window they’ve decided to really go for it, by allowing it to take a lot of real estate on the dial.
Rather than base it on their in-house calibre SH21, it utilises a ETA 2836-2 with a special module made by Johannes Jahnke. Here’s Christopher Ward’s video on the making of the JJ04 calibre:
Let’s take a closer look to see if it’s a good buy.
The case is nothing particularly out of the ordinary The Moonphase is a part of the C9 family, therefore it uses the same case. It measures 40mm in diameter – it’s a relief that they opted for this size rather than the alternative 43mm size as that’s just too large. I personally find this to be a great fit for my 7 and a quarter inch wrist. It has a 48mm lug to lug length, which is fairly standard – the lugs are well curved and fit nicely around the wrist. With a height of 13.3mm, it is a little tall for a smart/dress watch. Personally it doesn’t concern me too much, as it still fits well whilst wearing a suit and shirt.
It’s also a good reasonable weight at 93g. Not too heavy to be an annoyance; but rather a decent weight to know that this is a quality timepiece. The case is entirely made of 316L grade stainless steel, and is a simple barrel shape. It has brushed sides, with all remaining aspects polished. The finishing is generally as good as you’d expect on a watch costing this much, with all surfaces spotless and very well machined.
The crown is the usual Christopher Ward design, which is a suitable size that provides a good amount of purchase for adjusting the time, date and moon phase. It is well made, with the CW logo embossed on the end and deep, yet subtle grip.
Sitting either side of the case is two museum grade sapphire crystals with AR08 anti-reflective coating. The top is domed, which produced more reflections than the flat museum grade sapphire crystals (comparing it with the C11, the C9 Moonphase is much more reflective). So whilst it is reasonably effective, the AR coating isn’t the best, which is a shame. It was a bit of a pain to photograph because of this.
The case is rated with a water resistance of 50m, which is good enough to go swimming in, although I personally wouldn’t do that to a watch like this. At least you know that it’s sufficiently protected against any accidental drops in water.
The case in general is certainly very good; albeit not mind-blowing. It’s the same as the whole 40mm C9 range so it’s one we’ve seen many times before. It is sufficient for a watch of this price. Really, though, the Moonphase isn’t about the case. It’s more about the dial.
Moon phases aren’t the most popular choice out there – you don’t see a great amount of them out in the wild or in ADs. I think it’s probably because the moon phase indicator is never really a stand-out feature, or the main focus of the watch – it’s usually just a tiny little window on the dial that tends to look out of place.
This is not the case with the Christopher Ward Moonphase. They’ve made it all about the lunar indicator – which is why it’s so appealing. It’s not ashamed of what it is, but rather it shouts about it. With the eye-catching foil moon, and the beautiful midnight blue dial, it is pretty hard to deny that this is a stunning watch.
Tied into the day indicator of the ETA 2836 (see the movement section below to read more about that), the moon dial rotates every 29.5306 days. With two moons, one is always on show (unless it’s a no-moon).
The moon dial has a matching midnight blue base that is exactly the same – it pretty much looks like part of the dial. The moon itself is a silver foil-like material, with quite impressive detail – it even has craters, making it look pretty accurate to our faithful nighttime compatriot. Alongside the moon are a selection of gently printed stars. They’re subtle enough that they don’t really take much attention but are neatly printed to keep things interesting and to mimic the night sky.
The main dial body is split up into two layers – an outer edge contains the hour markers whilst the lower, inner area has the moon phase indicator cut out of the top half and a pleasant and different wavy pattern to it. With the moon phase disc taking so much space, it almost gives the impression that the dial is split into three layers – so it has an impressive amount of depth to it that catches the eye.
The hour markers are exactly the same polished nickel mixture of batons and Roman numerals as the rest of the C9 range. Very elegant, superbly manufactured, and great reflector of light mean these fit right in on this watch and aid its classy looks.
The nickel hands are also classic C9 territory – more or less exactly the same shape as the C9 5 Day, except for the fact that they’re not pitched or coloured on the Moonphase. They’re completely flat and polished, to match the hour markers and provide the best visibility against the blue dial. The hands are spotlessly made, and I really like the design and how elegantly long they are – the hour hand just reaches the base of the hour markers and the minute and second hands stretch right out to the very edge of the dial. No space wasted.
The date window is different to the rest of the C9 range – first off, it’s round, and also it’s the first to have it positioned at 6, rather than 3. It has a nice little detail in that rather than being cut straight out of the dial, it is surrounded by an indented border. The date wheel is the same blue as the dial and moon phase wheel, so it doesn’t look out of place. The numbers are white but to my eye look a tad too high for my liking – they don’t seem to sit bang on in the centre of the date window.
The logo is located in it’s own plaque that is applied to the patterned texture within the bottom half of the dial. It’s a nice size, not too large, and the printing throughout the dial is very precise.
The dial is the main calling point of the whole watch. Christopher Ward have taken the normal moon phase, and have expanded it to a size that makes it seem fresh and exciting. It’s perfectly manufactured, and looks stunning. Of course, the dial wouldn’t be all that it’s cracked up to be without a relevant movement driving it.
The movement powering the Moonphase is a ETA 2836-2, with a Calibre JJ04 module fitted to it to provide the custom Moonphase indicator. The 2836 is essentially the day/far version of the world famous 2824, so going to perform solidly.
Essentially, the JJ04 module consists of two gear systems. One consists of 4 wheels to drive the moon disc, tied into the day indicator of the ETA 2836, and the other consists of 2 wheels for the setting mechanism.
It’s all very clever as you’d expect from Johannes Jahnke, and let’s not forget that this module is all completely custom designed and built, and would have taken a lot of time and money to develop. So this alone warrants the price tag. It’s not as simple as you’d think either, as a lunar cycle is 29.5306 days, so that accuracy will have to be compensated for somewhere.
As you’d expect, the movement is an automatic, has a hacking seconds hand and hand winding capabilities. It’s also high-beat, so it runs at 28.8k bph or 8 ticks per second, delivering a smooth sweep. The setting is as usual, pulling it out to the second position to change the time. The date / Moonphase settings can be found at position 1, by twisting the crown clockwise for the date an me anti-clockwise to advance the moon phase.
It’s fairly standard in appearance – from the back it looks like any other ETA 2836, bar the inclusion of the CW logo etched and painted on the rotor.
Really then, when you couple all this with the excellent 5 year warrantee Christopher Ward provide, you’re certainly getting a fair amount for your money.
The strap measures 20mm at the lugs, reducing down to 18mm at the Bader deployant clasp. This model I’m reviewing is the midnight blue version, and the colour of the strap is exactly that – a beautiful, deep, dark and moody blue. The stitching is a lighter shade which softens it a little and provides a nice contrast. It matches the dial colour spot on, and this continuity is what impresses people so much. Blue straps aren’t the most common, and this blue is a subtle dark affair, so others tend to have a double take and then pronounce their pleasure and how much they like it.
This model I’m reviewing has the alligator upgrade. Whilst all Christopher Ward leather straps have always been excellent quality, the alligator is even nicer. It’s even more soft, supple, and is very comfortable on. Is it worth the extra for the upgrade? Yes, although my personal preference would be to keep the normal leather strap.
The Moonphase also comes with the Bader clasp on both leather types rather than a paid-for upgrade which is good. I personally really like them, as they’re very solid, excellently machined, secure, very easy to use, and have a surprisingly thin profile. They are very comfortable on, as with butterfly clasps I always tend to get the underneath of them indented on the underside of my wrist. However, with the Bader, as the majority of he clasp is layered with leather on the underside, only a very small and thin bar of steel actually makes contact with your wrist.
The strap is certainly one suitable of the price tag.
For those on a real budget who want an automatic moonphase, then the Perpetual Watch Pointer is a fantastic option for under $200. Sadly, there no longer available.
If you want a Swiss Made automatic, then the Oris Artelier is a good bet at around £1500. I personally don’t think it’s quite as good looking though.
I’ve been pretty surprised by the amount of comments I’ve received on the Christopher Ward Moonphase. Maybe it’s the midnight blue dial and matching strap, maybe it’s the bold, striking moon. Either way, people love it – and it’s easy to see why. It exudes class, and in my opinion is excellently designed. That’s a good start. Then we go into the custom JJ04 module that CW developed and manufactured alongside SH, plus the 5 year warrantee and exceptional customer service that is unmatched in the affordable price bracket.
Of course, £1295 is no doubt a lot of cash, that many of us can’t afford. But if the Moonphase catches your eye and you’re willing to take the plunge – you won’t be disappointed.