Watchuseek Blog

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Singular sensation: Christopher Ward C900 Single Pusher Chronograph

'One of the most significant watches to be launched by a British watchmaker this year.' That’s the bold claim made by Anglo Swiss watchmaker Christopher Ward for the C900 Single Pusher Chronograph, featuring a rare complication and bespoke movement.

The automatic chronograph can be started, stopped and reset with a single ‘pusher’, or button, and costs £2,450. (US$3,819).  By Christopher Ward’s pricing policies, that’s a big ask, but if you read on you will understand why.

Enhanced Unitas 6497 movement

The watch, with its understated dial, continuous seconds sub-dial and 30-minute totaliser, was designed by Christopher Ward in Britain. According to Christopher Ward, the real star of the show is the extensively developed and adapted Unitas 6497 calibre movement. 

Watchmaker Johannes Jahnke, based in Christopher Ward’s Swiss atelier, aimed to create a calibre which would allow customers to see how every part of the watch functioned, through a wide exhibition back.  

The first step in achieving his vision was to ensure that the main plate and all the connections fitted the base module like a glove.  Jahnke then set about introducing a sliding gear and reworking the bridges, the winding mechanism and the centre and second wheels, as well as the swan-neck adjustment system.

Traditional watchmaking skills

The improvements required a mastery of traditional watchmaking skills and to help him create the new Single Pusher, Jahnke approached Jean Fillon who has worked with chronograph movements ever since the 1940s.  

Despite an age gap of nearly 60 years, the two men struck up a close friendship.  Jahnke, affectionately refers to Fillon as ‘opi’, or ‘grandpa’, while the older watchmaker delights in how ‘JJ’ has drawn on his traditional skills to create such an affordable and contemporary chronograph.

For anyone interested in how a purely mechanical device can measure fractions of a second while also keeping time accurately for months on end, the reverse of the C900 provides one of the finest views in the watch world.  

Jahnke’s JJO2 calibre is supremely elegant, clean and, above all, ‘understandable’.  It is even possible to see how the sliding gear, clutch and brake allows the chronograph to be controlled by a single pusher, set within the crown.

Assembled by one watchmaker

‘The last chronographs I made cost £70,000 and most of them are probably locked up in a safe somewhere.  I have only ever seen one being worn.  I’d like more people to get pleasure from my work and understand what I do.  Christopher Ward has given me the opportunity to do that.  The C900 is a watch which I am hugely proud of, which is also affordable enough to be worn, used and appreciated by a much wider range of customers.’ Johannes Jahnke, Christopher Ward

It is extremely rare for even the most expensive watches to be put together by just one man but that is how each of the 250 limited edition C900s are being assembled – either by Jahnke or his assistant, Frank Stelzer.  More than 100 separate tasks and many more parts go into making every watch, and just fitting the hairspring can take 40 minutes – making the price of the C900 all the more remarkable. 

Haute horology within reach

Aside from the movement, ingenuity and skill has gone into creating other parts of the C900.  For example, the bespoke crown has been designed from scratch in order to overcome the challenge of incorporating the central axis as well as four ‘O’ rings, which allow the pusher to be depressed while still ensuring the watch remains waterproof.

The C900 brings the world of complications and the upper end of watchmaking within reach of more people than ever before. One day we may produce even more complicated watches but the C900 will always be very special for me.  Johannes has accomplished something extraordinary.’ Chris Ward.

The watch will be available to buy at the end of August for mid-October delivery.

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