The C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve is meant to be something of a flagship for the reborn Christopher Ward, a showpiece for both its in-house Calibre SH21 movement and its new design direction; it serves that role well, if not perfectly. It’s supremely comfortable, the design is fresh without being flashy, and the movement is a technological and visual knockout. There are some near-misses in the execution; but those are quibbles, far outweighed by unexpected touches that make this a special watch. The whole package leaves me wanting more from the boys and girls in Berkshire—which is exactly what a flagship model ought to do.
The technical achievement of the Calibre SH21 is enough to sell this watch to the enthusiast crowd and the decoration on the version in the Grand Malvern should take care of everyone else.
On the technical side, the in-house automatic is a 35-jewel COSC-certified chronometer accurate to -4/+6 sec/day. The movement hums at 28,800 beats/hour (4 Hz), giving the slender silver second hand an effortless sweep. It has an amazing 5-day power reserve, thanks to a pair of in-series barrels. I wound it up out of the box and in a week of daily wear the power reserve indicator at 9:00 never came near the 4-day mark. If this runs out of power, it’s your fault. Given the big gas tank, I’d love to see the power reserve indicator replaced with a more useful complication, like a date or small-seconds dial. All that power is generated by the push-in crown (which makes a pleasant click in the opposite direction) or the tungsten rotor. The rotor spins with purpose, thanks to its obvious heft.
That heft is surprising because there isn’t much of the rotor left. It—along with the rest of the movement—has been radically skeletonized. What’s left of the bridges is engraved with CW’s new twin-flag logo in a polished/brushed Colimaçoné finish. The naked twin-barrels announce themselves on the 9:00 side and most of the escapement, including the pallet fork and escape wheel, is visible at 5:00. The whole appearance is modern and impressive.
The movement is the star here, but the supporting players are strong. The 40.5 mm case has sweeping curves that rise up from the lugs to meet at the crown. It is 48.5 mm lug-to-lug, which fits my 7” wrist just right—it will only look more elegant on a larger wrist. In normal public-relations design bluster, CW says the case is “inspired by the tactile and dynamic lines of an Aston Martin DB9 and the Malvern landscape”; but here I actually believe it. At 12.8 mm, it’s a bit high for a dress watch, but it tucks under a shirtsleeve without a problem—so maybe thin is overrated. However, the case does present my first real quibble: the caseback is held on by four polished screws, which peak out from underneath at certain angles and break up the elegant lines of the case. The C8 Power Reserve has the same movement, but the caseback itself screws into its 44 mm case, so a solution is possible (although maybe not at the Grand Malvern’s size). It’s a very small quibble, though, compared to the Grand Malvern’s swooping case.
The dial is straightforward and modern, with an understated sunburst effect. An obvious problem for many people will be the new Christopher Ward logo at 3:00. It was for me, too, until I got it on my wrist. I don’t love it as I might a nice applied logo, but I like it just fine after wearing it. On the Grand Malvern it balances the power reserve indicator on the other side of the dial and it fits with the watch’s modern aesthetic. The fresh look is rounded out by sans serif Arabic numerals at 12 and 6, matched by applied batons at the other even hours. The minute register and the odd hour markers are printed white (or black on the white dialed version). The slender silver hands are elegant, but I found myself confusing the minute hand and the second hand at a glance (a small-seconds would fix this, see above). This would be a non-issue on the opalin white model given its blued minute and hour hands contrasting with the silver second hand. Here, it just forced me to really stare at the domed sapphire crystal to be sure of the time.
Last but not least is the strap—and there really is a lot to say here. This is no afterthought. The Italian shell cordovan leather is padded to perfectly meet the top of the lugs, and it is supple enough that it almost immediately conforms to your wrist. After a week it feels custom-fit. It is embossed on the underside with the new twin-flag logo, a pleasant little Easter egg, and the spring bars are quick-release so you can throw out your spring bar tool. The Bader deployant buckle is innovative, and I may buy one for all my watches. Unlike an Omega-style deployant, the pin that slides through the strap holes for size adjustment does double duty as the anchor for the clasp. It means the buckle is minimalistic, the leather sits almost completely flat, and the buckle is very secure. Designed by Jörg Bader, he described his buckle best: “The beauty of the new design is its simplicity.” The buckle is unsigned on the outside, but open it up and you are met with the now familiar san serif Christopher Ward logo. A stainless mesh bracelet is also available, but we didn’t have one to review.
The Grand Malvern is a grand start to the new Christopher Ward. Technologically it puts the brand in a different league, the design direction is unique and refined, and the attention to detail is outstanding. I’m excited to see what is next for the Calibre SH21, for Christopher Ward, and for fine watch making. Whoever thinks the Swiss watch industry is in decline needs to strap on the Grand Malvern—consider its price against anything comparable—and repent. christopherward.com
C1 Grand Malvern Power Reserve (C01-40APR1-S00K0-LKB)
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