Words by Raj Hunjan
Four is the magic number; four Grand Prix races, four cars and four countries that have been commemorated by Christopher Ward with their limited edition C70 GP Chronometers. Christopher Ward have chosen the winning cars of the first Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps Belgium in 1925, Brescia Italy in 1921, Le Mans Belgium in 1906 and Brooklands Great Britain in 1926 as the four designs, with just 500 examples of each available with either a metal, leather or rubber wristband.
Just like the finest race cars, the C70 GP range of chronometers is made from the highest quality components and assembled with great care so they stand the test of time and competition. Much like a chassis or build number plaque found on some of the most desirable sports cars, a commemorative plaque is engraved with the winning driver’s name and the winning time to complete the Grand Prix on the side of each timepiece. The national flag of the country the race took place in is beautifully reproduced in ceramic beneath museum-grade sapphire crystal on the case-back.
This range of watches are COSC certified, making them some of the most accurate chronometers to leave Switzerland. Just 3% of annual Swiss watch production achieve this status. “The dial is one of our most complex yet,” says Chris Ward, one of three company founders. “It’s got several layers and intricate detailing, especially around the sub-dials, and is covered by high-grade, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The C70 design has become a CW classic and the leather straps in particular are a key feature of the watch, picking up the colour theme of the dial.”
The first watch in the line-up is the C70 Ascari 1925 which has a brightly coloured yellow, white and black dial with red needles and dashes. Italian racing driver, Antonio Ascari, drove his Alfa Romeo P2 to a famous victory at the inaugural Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps on June 28th 1925. Four weeks later he was dead – fatally injured during the 23rd lap of the French Grand Prix at Montlery on 26th July.
This tragedy is a stark reminder of the risks associated with motorsport, particularly in those pioneering years when little more than a leather helmet and trailing scarf protected drivers, but also adds a pithiness to this chronometer that celebrates the boundless joy for Ascari of only a month earlier. Remembered as a driver for his daring skilfulness behind the wheel, Ascari won the race in a time of 6 hours, 42 minutes and 57 seconds. The rest of the watch is devoted to the Belgian nation that played host to its first ever Grand Prix at a circuit that is revered in motorsport.
The luxury watch market is extremely competitive for the manufacturers, getting into the limelight and staying there is almost as important as making great watches in the first place. With many makers their biggest expenditure is focussed around brand advertising and celebrity endorsements. Christopher Ward turned this market norm on its head when they were founded in 2004.The luxury watch company was born on a boat on the River Thames by Mike France, Chris Ward and Peter Ellis. The three set about with a clear goal to give everyone, regardless of budget, the opportunity to own and wear a quality Swiss made watch.
The company have come a long way, releasing watches that have become icons in the Motorsport, Aviation and Diving themes as well as building on their classic and dress watch origins. A key development in the companies past is working with Jörg Bader, the founder of Synergies Horlogères from 2008. The two companies formed a strong working relationship that brought about some stunning watches. When Bader took on Johannes Jahnke, regarded by many as one of the most talented young watchmakers in the world, everything stepped up another gear. Pioneering projects such as the JJ Calibres resulted and were followed by the joint ventures first entirely in-house designed and developed movement, the Calibre SH21 in July 2014. This achievement was also the point in which the two companies announced their merger.
The Christopher Ward range spans from the understated and elegant up to the bold yet stylish. I have long been a fan of the brand, the recently launched C1000 Typhoon Cockpit Edition has also caught my eye.
With its red, black and white dial featuring green and yellow highlights the C70 Rosso Corsa 1921 is clearly an Italian styled watch.On 4th September 1921, at Brescia, a town nestled at the foot of the Northern Italian Alps and famous mainly for being the start and finish for the prestigious Mille Miglia race, Frenchman, Jules Goux, drove his 3.0 Litre Ballot car to victory at the first ever Italian Grand Prix. The car, commissioned by Edouard Ballot specifically to win Grand Prix races, is worthy of note as it had, unusually for the time, twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It was also one of the first cars produced with front and rear servo-assisted breaks. This advanced configuration helped Goux achieve a fast winning time of 3 hours, 35 minutes, 9 seconds. The Italian flag (il Tricolore) is diplayed on the case back alongside the year of the race.
Another classic colour combination of blue, black and white with red highlights are featured on the face of the C70 Grand Epreuve 1906. Although a Hungarian, Ferenc Szisz, was the winning driver on 27th June 1906 at the inaugural French Grand Prix. Local businesses in Le Mans, sensing the growing attraction of motorsport in France at the time, had clubbed together to finance the events prize of 45,000 francs. It was to prove a very worthwhile investment whose returns are still coming in to this day! The winning car was French, a Renault 90CV, and completed the 12 lap race in a time of 12 hours, 14 minutes and 7 seconds. Szisz had been an engineer in Renault’s Paris factory before becoming riding mechanic for Louis Renault. Marcel Renault, Louis’s brother and co-founder of the automobile dynasty, was killed in 1903 during the Paris-Madrid road race and Szisz became the marques leading driver.
Two Frenchmen, Robert Senechal and Louis Wagner, drove their equally French Delage 155 to victory in the first ever British Grand Prix , no doubt to the chagrin of the British industry which, for years, had been in the shadow of a French automobile industry that was at the time the largest in Europe. That Malcolm Campbell came in second probably rubbed salt into the wound rather than being cause for celebration! This the story that inspired the C70 Brooklands 1926, which has a green, black and white dial with red highlights.On an overcast day at the famous Brooklands track in Surrey, the Delage was brought home in a time of 4 hours and 56 seconds, a time that is etched onto a plate on the case side of this stunning chronometer. Although the victory was a French one, the British Racing Green colours of this watch, including a ceramic Union Flag on the back of the case, signify the importance of the event (and venue) which was the birth-place of British motorsport and aviation.
C70 GP CHRONOMETER FEATURES
- Swiss made chronometer
- Special limited edition of only 500 pieces worldwide
- 27 jewel Swiss quartz COSC certified movement
- Chronograph dials; split mins/secs/ 1/10th secs
- Convex sapphire crystal
- Multi-layered precision dial
- Marine-grade stainless steel case with screw-in crown
- “Winning Race Time Plate” on case side
- Back-plate with flag in ceramic under sapphire crystal
- Individual serial number
Click here to view the full Christopher Ward C70 Grand Prix Series Limited Edition range.