When we previewed the new Christopher Ward C5 Malvern Automatic MK III there were obvious design inspirations from the flagship C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve. Hands-on, that inspiration is still evident, but it’s faint. Everything that made the C1’s design special is here, but more muted. Still, this is a far cry from the stuffy old MK II version of CW’s entry-level automatic dress watch.
The case is the standout design feature on the flagship C1, and the C5 has similar sweeping lines on the underside. Here the 39 mm case is all polished and the lack of any brushed elements makes the sweeping lines more subdued. The C5 has a slender profile that slopes in toward the snap-on case back. That shape lets the watch wear even thinner than its already thin 10.4 mm. (CW claims 9.9 mm, but that’s not measured at the tallest spot.) The snap-on case back answers one criticism I had of the C1 by doing away with the screws at each corner. Admiring the movement through the crystal case back is easy and the back of the watch is as clean and pleasingly minimalistic as the front.
The crown moves from winding to date setting to time setting with solid clicks at each stop; it was easy to set the time and move directly to date setting without having to push the crown all the way in. The signed crown itself is slender at 6.5 mm x 2 mm, but a pleasure to use thanks to robust knurling and that positive engagement.
The Sellita SW200-1 automatic is a fairly standard movement, dressed up with only an obligatory signed rotor. The movement has a pleasantly audible tick and its 28,800 bph rate gives the second hand a nice steady sweep. With the SW200-1 you’ve got nothing to complain about, but nothing too exciting either. The C1’s in-house 5-day power reserve chronometer-grade SH21 movement is too expensive for this price point, but it would be nice if CW could adapt the SH21. Maybe a non-chronometer version, less decoration, or a more modest single-barrel power reserve?
The dial mimics the alternating applied batons and dash minute register of the C1, but the printed batons are chromed here, rather than matching the minute register like the C1. The combination of applied chrome and printed chrome seems like a compromise more than a design choice. Matching the minute register or going all applied with the batons would have made more sense. The dial rises up just inboard of the batons, adding some visual interest without clutter. The semi-circular date window is a unique touch, but I could take it or leave it.
The handset again mimics the C1, and here the difference in price point is more evident. I’d be curious what the cost difference is between the two, because the quality difference on the second hand is clear. It looks thinner, with a bulbous flared counterweight. But the blued hands pop against the silvery white dial and look a lot like the blued hands of the C1.
The standard leather strap is supple and comfortable out of the box, with a basic (albeit signed) pin buckle. The optional cordovan leather is a bit nicer, but the brilliantly simple Bader deployant is the real reason to upgrade. My tester came on a standard honey brown strap, and all the MKIII straps are quick change. I also have a C3 Malvern Chronograph MK III on a black strap (look for the review here), so I swapped them—I think both watches are better for it and they can be spec’d this way from the factory.
If you’re in the market for a moderately priced Swiss-made dress watch, the C5 is a strong contender. It’s not the showstopper that its big brother is, but it wears much thinner and still brings some interesting style. christopherward.com
Christopher Ward C5 Malvern Automatic MK III
- Price:$565 (leather/pin buckle); $625 (cordovan/Bader deployant); $660 (mesh bracelet)
- Who’s it for? Champagne taste with a beer budget.
- Would I wear it? It’s a solid, thin-wearing dress piece that makes a good value-priced substitute to the C1.
- What I’d change? Adapt the in-house SH21 movement to this lower price point.
- Standout features? Sexy thin case with a subtle but interesting dial.
- Diameter: 39mm
- Height: 10.4mm
- Lug to lug: 45.8mm
- Strap: 20mm
- Claimed Weight: 45g
- Case: 316L stainless steel
- Claimed Water Resistance: 3 ATM (30 meters)
- Movement: Sellita SW 200-1 (28,800 bph; +20/-20 seconds per day)
- Anti-reflective double curve top sapphire crystal