CW then and now

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peterh
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CW then and now

Post by peterh » Wed Sep 04, 2019 1:24 pm

In another thread, welshlad asked me about "my take on CW as it is now compared to how you knew it back in the day".
First of all, I am aware that, probably, nobody that matters except welshlad would give a single fornicate. After all, who am I? And I'm even wondering why welshlad would want to read... but ok. Here goes nothing.

Back in 2005, I was the owner of a couple Seikos (all quartz) and an Omega Genève from 1961 or thereabouts, which I inherited from my grandfather.
I was, however, interested in getting another mechanical watch, but found most of them prohibitively expensive.

This is when I bumped into the C5 Malvern Mark One -- the Origin Of The Species (with apologies to MiniMpi). I was... stunned. I was in love. I was smitten. There was something in this design that grabbed me. At the time, as well as right now, I think it was how rigidly all non-time-related (minute markers, hands) design elements used only one geometrical chape: the circle. Including the date window, and including the brand logo! This made it a very simple, very beautiful thing to look at. I had to have it.
Then I found out what Chris charged for it. At the time, this was an amount with two figures before the decimal dot.

... ok, this cannot be right.

So yeah... I did a lot of research to figure out if I was being conned. In retrospect, it was quite evident that sales were probably suffering from the ridiculously low price point. But everything I read about the C5 was positive, so I went ahead and ordered a C5 and a W1 for my wife.
20190903_081252.jpg
Here it is, 14 years old, scratches and all, but still kicking ass aesthetically, and still quite accurate (losing about 3-5 secs a day).

The only thing I regret about that is that I didn't include the C3 in my order. A C3 Malvern Chronograph on a brown strap, with a tan dial and a gold case, would have been one of my more-often worn watches.

In the years after that, I managed to lay hands on a C5 Mk1 prototype (without serial number and the shorter minute and second hand -- it's the watch in my avatar), I got me a C4, I jumped into the first Forum LE opportunity (the C6 Automatic), I got me a Peregrine LE and, in 2011, I made my last CW acquisition: a C40 Speedhawk. I was initially not a fan of the VJ7750 movement, but warmed up to it later, so when I got the chance of getting one in a CW guise for an affordable amount, I jumped at it. Oh, and I ordered a W1 GKG for my wife to join her SSS W1.

And after that, my CW lust diminished. I loved the Kingfisher, but never really fancied the Trident. And at some point... CW's character changed. Commercially, probably for the better... but it was no longer "the odd one out". The redesigns of the Malvern didn't live up to the uniqueness of the Mk1 models. I understand why the original logo (the one that looked suspiciously like the ChronoSuisse logo) was discontinued, but I still miss the circular logo. It's probably telling that all my CWs, including the two my wife owns, carry that first logo.

And then, there's the price point. Mind you, this is not criticism: from a business standpoint, it's probably right. But I liked CW because it offered unique watches at a Seiko'ish price point.
This is definitely no longer the case. Regardless of what kind of watch you're looking at, Seiko will outdo CW in terms of value for money, as well as in terms of quality at the same price point, across the whole range.

I guess how I feel about it is that CW is now firmly not the rebellious "microbrand" challenging the watch establishment anymore, but an established commercial operation, making luxury watches, and charging accordingly.
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Re: CW then and now

Post by nbg » Wed Sep 04, 2019 1:49 pm

An interesting read. Thank you for taking the time to post. :thumbup:

Your comment on the initial level of CW pricing is interesting. I recall coming across CW, probably in about 2007, IIRC I read an article about them. I too was apprehensive about the low pricing and didn’t explore the brand any further at that point. I then forgot all about CW until about 2012 when I was researching a further “affordable” purchase.

The C5 Malvern Mk 1 has many fans on the forum and rightly so.

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Re: CW then and now

Post by lisnalee » Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:39 pm

I for one enjoyed reading your thoughts on your CW watch journey so far. Prices sure have moved on a lot from the early days, I too remember a lot of watches mostly quartz mind, in around the £100 mark. That's the price of good strap these days. I still think the watches available now offer good value for money considering what you get. But it sure would be nice to have them at the the yesteryear prices!

I bought my dad a C5 maybe 5 or 6 yrs ago and he still wears it as a good wear watch, relying on a Timex for daily duties.
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Re: CW then and now

Post by peterh » Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:11 pm

lisnalee wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:39 pm
I still think the watches available now offer good value for money considering what you get.
When compared to other "luxury brands", sure thing.
What sets CW apart from most of the brands in, for instance, the Swatch group, is that they have the guts to, as a comparatively small player, come up with their own movement. That alone is an accomplishment.

But here's the thing:
When CW started out, they profiled themselves as the rebel, bound to upset the greedy watch establishment and their huge markups. Now, they are part of that establishment. Their spot has now been taken by new microbrands (like Hamtun, who has done some interesting stuff). But none of them has come up with a design so balanced as the Mk1 Malverns...
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Re: CW then and now

Post by welshlad » Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:13 pm

Thanks, Peter, for giving us your thoughts. I found it very interesting to hear your perspective as one of the "early days" customers.

I used to have the same initial C5 as you, but I sold it and I rather regret doing so now. I also had the cream-dialled C3 Mark 1 which, after a while, I gave to my son for his 11th birthday. My only regret with that is the number of scuffs and scratches he's added to it in the 5 years since then (when it was pristine)! :(

Thanks again - and please do stick around and contribute to the forum.
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Re: CW then and now

Post by peterh » Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:29 pm

welshlad wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:13 pm
I also had the cream-dialled C3 Mark 1 which, after a while, I gave to my son for his 11th birthday. My only regret with that is the number of scuffs and scratches he's added to it in the 5 years since then (when it was pristine)! :(
If he ever kicks it into a corner, or otherwise neglects it... please let me know! :mrgreen:
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Re: CW then and now

Post by lisnalee » Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:51 pm

peterh wrote:
lisnalee wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:39 pm
I still think the watches available now offer good value for money considering what you get.
When compared to other "luxury brands", sure thing.
What sets CW apart from most of the brands in, for instance, the Swatch group, is that they have the guts to, as a comparatively small player, come up with their own movement. That alone is an accomplishment.

But here's the thing:
When CW started out, they profiled themselves as the rebel, bound to upset the greedy watch establishment and their huge markups. Now, they are part of that establishment. Their spot has now been taken by new microbrands (like Hamtun, who has done some interesting stuff). But none of them has come up with a design so balanced as the Mk1 Malverns...
That is so true!

Once they move away from quartz movements the cheapest CW available will probably be around £695. That leaves a lot of room for the micro brands to expand into that opening. Just progress I guess onwards and upwards in pursuit of the likes of omega etc.

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Re: CW then and now

Post by QPRcat » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:03 pm

Pete, interesting read as I’ve only been familiar with CW for the past three years.

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Re: CW then and now

Post by FloridaPhil » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:11 pm

The original C3 is still one of my favorite pieces.
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Re: CW then and now

Post by Devarika Woulf » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:47 pm

Peter, your original C5 has that beautiful galvanic finish in the middle. By the time I came over to CW in 2012, the only ones they offered in the sales were the matte versions. They're not the same thing and I never bought one. :( I think certain aspects like the case and logo have aged, but it's without a doubt the king CW that started it all.

FloridaPhil wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:11 pm
The original C3 is still one of my favorite pieces.
Mine as well. The other CW that started it too, I picked my black model up before they completely vanished. I always coveted a bracelet badly, and luckily I was able to grab one in the sale last year. :thumbup:
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Re: CW then and now

Post by peterh » Wed Sep 04, 2019 11:37 pm

lisnalee wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:51 pm
That is so true!

Once they move away from quartz movements the cheapest CW available will probably be around £695. That leaves a lot of room for the micro brands to expand into that opening. Just progress I guess onwards and upwards in pursuit of the likes of omega etc.
Yes, but also if we stick to quartz, they don't compete with Seiko anymore. Seiko's cases are as scratch resistant as CW's later offerings (and more so than my original C5 Mk1), their movements keep better time than any run-of-the-mill Ronda quartz movements I've seen (a couple; my wife has two and I have one), and they are a lot more frugal with batteries. And that at 20% to 40% of the price of a CW quartz watch.
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Re: CW then and now

Post by Kip » Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:11 am

peterh wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 3:11 pm
lisnalee wrote:
Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:39 pm
I still think the watches available now offer good value for money considering what you get.
When compared to other "luxury brands", sure thing.
What sets CW apart from most of the brands in, for instance, the Swatch group, is that they have the guts to, as a comparatively small player, come up with their own movement. That alone is an accomplishment.

But here's the thing:
When CW started out, they profiled themselves as the rebel, bound to upset the greedy watch establishment and their huge markups. Now, they are part of that establishment. Their spot has now been taken by new microbrands (like Hamtun, who has done some interesting stuff). But none of them has come up with a design so balanced as the Mk1 Malverns...
Just to clarify Peter....you may think they are part of the establishment now, although I disagree, but just to clarify, CW works with the same margins now that they did when they started out. the costs, overhead, move to Switzerland etc have all had their effect on pricing over the years. As much as I loved that original C5 and C6 etc. as well, the quality of today's watches is far superior to those early models. They still provide a great value, Just not in those early price ranges.
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Re: CW then and now

Post by peterh » Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:44 am

Kip wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:11 am
Just to clarify Peter....you may think they are part of the establishment now, although I disagree, but just to clarify, CW works with the same margins now that they did when they started out. the costs, overhead, move to Switzerland etc have all had their effect on pricing over the years. As much as I loved that original C5 and C6 etc. as well, the quality of today's watches is far superior to those early models. They still provide a great value, Just not in those early price ranges.
Oh, but I didn't say they're wrong in doing so. Again, from a business point of view, it actually makes perfect sense. :)

It's things like CW's move to Switzerland, and getting some of their watches COSC-certified and whatnot, that indicates they have found their place in the established (rather conservative) luxury-watch-universe.

Now, I agree that, from a business perspective, remaining the odd one out while aiming for long-term success as a company is something you can only do if you've got deep pockets and a huge market. I think the only watch company who can afford to do that is Seiko.

When CW was still a "microbrand", they were probably a lot more vulnerable to circumstances outside their control. I can see how, if Chris would have found himself in a medical emergency, or otherwise out of commission for, say, 6 months, that might have been the end of the company. Most smaller companies will want to attain some form of 'critical mass' to be capable of surviving such setbacks, and that seems to be exactly what CW is doing.

ps: I'm also pretty sure that, when Chris sold the C5 Malvern for 99 quid, and the W1 for half that price, I don't think he actually made any money on them. But it was around that time that this forum saw the light of day, and it was around that time that Dave Malone's review hit Timezone, so it must have worked for them.
Man with one watch, always know time. Man with many watches, never sure.
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Re: CW then and now

Post by PaulJS » Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:28 am

Kip wrote:
Thu Sep 05, 2019 1:11 am


Just to clarify Peter....you may think they are part of the establishment now, although I disagree, but just to clarify, CW works with the same margins now that they did when they started out. the costs, overhead, move to Switzerland etc have all had their effect on pricing over the years. As much as I loved that original C5 and C6 etc. as well, the quality of today's watches is far superior to those early models. They still provide a great value, Just not in those early price ranges.
[/quote]

I think it maybe slightly niaive to take the whole 'margin = a given and declared percentage of costs' equation as a simple one.

Costs can be calculated in many ways depending on what the company chooses to apportion to any given product. In the early days the initial setup costs of the company would have made it impossible to price their first product competitively had they used this as the basis of their pricing rationale. So clearly a number must have been chosen to allow them to break into the market and survive in the first instance.

Now that they are years down the line they have economies of scale, but also greater overheads going forward - R & D into future models, a customer service department ( no laughing at the back of the room please! ), higher profile advertising etc etc.

Having run my own company I don't believe that CW have the capability ( even if there is the desire ) to accurately apportion all of the costs per model to come up with a definitive baseline upon which to calculate 'the margin' so there is going to be an element of 'finger in the air' when it comes to pricing.

I think this is demonstrated by some of the apparent inconsistencies in perceived VFM: the latest military releases look great VFM - under a grand for a COSC in a great looking watch ( almost harks back to the days of the likes of the C11 Extreme offering similar spec for the same money ).

Compare this to the cost of Trident quartz which is a ( cheap, literally ) run of the mill movement in a case that they are producing lots of - it does not look like the same margin as a proportion of cost equation has been applied.

None of this is a criticism - it makes sense to milk your most popular models for as much as the market will stand as these are the bread and butter products that allow a bit of indulgence in other areas.


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