The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

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jkbarnes
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The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by jkbarnes »

Steve’s (Amor Vincit Omnia) post about model longevity got me thinking about the design DNA of Christopher Ward. When thinking about longevity with watch design I can’t help but think about design DNA - what are those elements or design cues that define a brand or a particular model they offer? With CW’s current offerings, I think this might be a bit hard to identify?

I would consider the C60 Trident to be the defining model for CW as a brand. But if one looks at the current Mk 3, it’s hard to define what might be design cues consistent with this model over all three versions, other than the trident counter balance on the seconds hand.

I find it especially interesting to compare the three versions of the C60 to see how it’s evolved. When comparing the Mk 1 to the Mk 2 we see the onion hands and wavy patterned dial carried over while the minute markers change from buttons (blobs? what’s the term here?) to batons. With the move from Mk 2 to Mk 3, we see the batons carry over (with slight evolution) while the hands and the dial are changed.

When looking at other models across the line, it’s hard to identify any element that seems to be consistent across models or across the years. None of this is meant as a criticism of CW; it’s just an observation. I think it’s fair to say the company might be too young to have an established design DNA yet. But with talk in Steve’s thread of legacy pieces, is CW reaching a level of brand maturity where it needs to start thinking about this and slow down the evolution of the C60? Have they “found themselves” yet, so to speak?

Thoughts?


DB47EF19-3A18-48AD-AB14-5F29B43B4ADE.jpeg
C60 Trident Mk 1 , photo credit CWArchives
F9F92EB9-A1EF-44A7-B879-446BE9888CFB.jpeg
C60 Trident Mk 2 , photo credit CWArchives
204A1446-A12E-45AB-88F9-712385462223.jpeg
C60 Trident Mk 3, photo credit CWArchives
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

Interesting. I do like these slightly philosophical topics, and we seem to have developed one or two good ones in the last few weeks.

Design DNA. I guess by that we mean features that have become embedded in the brand as a whole, or within specific ranges of its watches, which have been there for a long time and which help to make the brand quickly recognisable.

The obvious example from my own watch box is probably Cartier’s use of oversized Roman numerals and the railway minute track. Imitated, as we have seen on another thread, but still pretty instantly recognisable. Another oft-imitated feature is the Mercedes hour hand on the Rolex sports models. Logos, dangerous territory. Obviously you can’t argue with Ω.

I think CW almost had it there with the Mk 2 Trident. Superb (and different) logo in a good position, best date position, wavy dial and totally distinctive hands. No-one else was doing those.

I like the Mk 3, it’s super smart and the case is a huge advance. But the counterbalance is about all that’s left. Other elements have taken a step in the direction of generic.

One thing we must bear in mind is that this company is only 15 years old. It takes time to find these things, especially in what is looking more and more to be a competitive online market. They are releasing watches with lots of innovative features right now, but I’ll come back to what I said in the thread on longevity and obsolescence. They have to stick with them. Gone in two years won’t be good enough.
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by monkeymax »

Agreed that it's an interesting topic, and one which I too have been thinking about in light of the model longevity topic. Looking at Omega Seamasters as an example, you can see how the DNA has carried through for decades. For example: https://www.esquire.com/uk/watches/g228 ... the-years/ . But in the early decades it also changed a fair bit too. CW at least have other brands history they can look upon to see what works and what doesn't.

I do, however, think that in looking at the DNA of the C60, you missed a vital part. That is, the predecessor of the C60; the C6. I've picked the black dial one here for easy comparison with the images above, but it doesn't pop as much as the yellow one on my wrist...

Image

There are some similarities between C6 and Mk3 C60 - the lug shapes are very similar and batons used for markers. There's the obvious white outline around the date window... The crown guards are probably closest here too. I'd say the Mk3 is closer to the C6 than the C60 Mk1 was...
(Though this image of the black dial and bracelet C6 Kingfisher makes it look really dated to me!)
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by H0rati0 »

I think the "lightcatcher" cases very distinctive and these along with logo could serve very well as basic DNA elements. I agree the Poire hands were great (practical and traditionally English) and could also have been varied as a house design element across ranges.

The Trident counterweight doesn't really count being model specific, ok an important model but while on that I feel the mk3 dials look too generic and the hands I actively dislike - firstly "dive watch generic" and secondly the exaggerated overhang for me sort of says imprecise finishing.

Still to do better with logo and don't mention left justified.......

My tuppence FWIW.
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by albionphoto »

I do wonder if CW has a brand standard document somewhere on a shelf in Park Street. Seiko had one for the Seiko five and I'm sure that Rolex or Omega have them for the Submariner or Seamaster.
I always thought that the defining part of the Trident Mk 2 was the handset. I really liked it. It was distinctive and fitted the (ill-defined but recognisable) British watchmaking theme. I haven't bought a Mk 3 (apart from the Apex) because I don't like the handset. The C60 BLUE will test my tolerance of the hour hand to the limit.
I didn't get involved in the previous discussion about parts longevity and model cycles because I would have to be tedious about product life-cycles and business practices but if you are on a four year product lifecycle which seems to be the case for the C60 then the evolution/revolution of the design should be considered fairly early in the lifecycle of the product.
What is missing is from CW design, to me at least, is an acknowledgement of where their design has been and where it might be going. CW don't have a legacy to protect (unlike, for example Rolex) but I do wonder how they relate design to sales? Can they correlate design changes to sales increases over and above a generally growing market?
At the end of the day I'm not going to buy every CW watch. Some of them like the Abyss range or the C65 chrono really don't appeal to me at all but overall their designs are successful enough (to this old fart) to get me to buy something on a regular basis. I guess their strategy is working after all.
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Kansas City Milkman »

Good question JKB. I’ve been a long time follower of CWL and have liked many (and disliked a number) of their watches over that period. Your question prompted me to scan the archives and I can only conclude that there have been short-term design cues but no DNA.

This will have to change as they aim to become more established. I read a comment on another forum that CW is nothing more than a fashion brand alongside Fossil etc. That was seen as a bit unfair by respondents, but if there is no thread of DNA and a constant churning of models, designs and brand/logo there will be some that see CW as nothing more
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by TigerChris »

In my opinion the brands DNA was in the MK1/2 C60 - the handset and the seconds hand counter balance, much like the DNA of a sub is the ‘Mercedes hands’. The C60 lost its identity to me when they changed the hands and, to a lesser degree, the wave dial. I have to partly agree with the post above about being a ‘fashion brand’ - whether we like it or not that’s the direction CW seem to have taken recently and will just keep churning out different stuff and not keeping anything in the catalogue long term. It’s a tactic that’s gonna gain new followers but lose others. I’m probably not alone in thinking that I’m not the type of person/customer that CW are targeting anymore. The brand has changed, you either like it or you don’t - personally I, currently, don’t.
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Lavaine »

Interesting topic, and one I've thought about often. I think that the brand DNA has changed over the years, and TBH, I'm not sure exactly what it is right now. With the early models (C1, C3, C5) the family resemblance was strong, and their was a clear design language. Simple cases with a specific lug design, stepped dials, narrow bezels, and long thin hands. The C4 and C6 didn't adhere to this design DNA, but they had a design that was still quite unique to CW. I still think that the C6 is one of the only truly unique diver designs in many years. As CW has moved upmarket, the designs have also become more 'mass market'. Less unique, more similarity to other designs that obviously sell well do to familiarity. I love my C60's, but they lack the originality of my C6's, C5A and C3.
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

Lavaine wrote:
Fri Nov 13, 2020 8:37 pm
As CW has moved upmarket, the designs have also become more 'mass market'. Less unique, more similarity to other designs that obviously sell well do to familiarity. I love my C60's, but they lack the originality of my C6's, C5A and C3.
Interesting observation, Chris. While working on the Archive description for the latest release, I looked at the timeline for this year, specifically the model launches by collection.

Total Models launched 13
Dive/sport 11
Military 1 (also a C60)
Motorsport 1
Dress/classic 0
Aviation 0

:shock: :problem: :silent:
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by nbg »

My view:

- CW is still a young(ish) company.
- therefore hardly surprising that the style of watches has changed over the years.
- the early shape cases (with the exception of the Tridents) were primitive.
- whilst the Mk1 and 2 Trident cases were ok (I.e. different to a typical oyster style homage) they wouldn’t work particularly well with non dive/tool watch styles. Therefore no opportunity for a case led DNA at the time.

The basis of the design DNA going forward should be the current light catcher cases that are far better looking, proportioned and different from the case shapes of other brands that CW are competing with. They work with dive, tool and dress style watches (and with a bit of tweaking probably ok for the minority that want aviator or pilot style).


Stick to a case shape. Pick two different styles of hands, two styles of plots and markers, to be used to distinguish between different categories of watch and stick to them. Job done.

It seems to work for some brands. :D

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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by albionphoto »

nbg wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:05 pm
My view:

- CW is still a young(ish) company.
- therefore hardly surprising that the style of watches has changed over the years.
- the early shape cases (with the exception of the Tridents) were primitive.
- whilst the Mk1 and 2 Trident cases were ok (I.e. different to a typical oyster style homage) they wouldn’t work particularly well with non dive/tool watch styles. Therefore no opportunity for a case led DNA at the time.

The basis of the design DNA going forward should be the current light catcher” cases that are far better looking, proportioned and different from the case shapes of other brands that CW are competing with. They work with dive, tool and dress style watches (and with a bit of tweaking probably ok for the minority that want aviator or pilot style).


Stick to a case shape. Pick two different styles of hands, two styles of plots and markers, to be used to distinguish between different categories of watch and stick to them. Job done.

It seems to work for some brands. :D

Neil
Very well said, Neil.
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Viognier »

First Andrew, great thought provoking post!

As others before me have mentioned, the DNA for CW seems to vary (as it should) by collection.

Two comments above from albionphoto and nbg resonated with me; like automobile marketing there seems to be a requirement of some kind of refresh every few years. Even the empire Rolex and done this on their Submariner line.

The DNA for the C60 MK3 is the fantastic light catcher case design and I speculate we will see tweaking of the dials for a full refresh into a Mk4 in a couple of years (right round that 4 year mark that albionphoto hypothesized )....but all built around that case
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Lavaine »

I think Neil and Viognier have nailed it. The new CW "DNA" should be based on the lightcatcher case, with a distinct but consistent design language in each line. Being 15 years old now, I think CW needs to start looking at a longer lifespan in is designs. The lightcatcher case (with updates if warranted) needs to anchor CW designs for at least the next 10 years.A 25th anniversary collection would be an appropriate time for a design update.
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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Commisar »

nbg wrote:My view:

- CW is still a young(ish) company.
- therefore hardly surprising that the style of watches has changed over the years.
- the early shape cases (with the exception of the Tridents) were primitive.
- whilst the Mk1 and 2 Trident cases were ok (I.e. different to a typical oyster style homage) they wouldn’t work particularly well with non dive/tool watch styles. Therefore no opportunity for a case led DNA at the time.

The basis of the design DNA going forward should be the current light catcher cases that are far better looking, proportioned and different from the case shapes of other brands that CW are competing with. They work with dive, tool and dress style watches (and with a bit of tweaking probably ok for the minority that want aviator or pilot style).


Stick to a case shape. Pick two different styles of hands, two styles of plots and markers, to be used to distinguish between different categories of watch and stick to them. Job done.

It seems to work for some brands. :D

Neil
Correct

CE seems to have settled on the "light catcher" case for all of it's sporty models at the moment

The Trident seconds hand is another item that's been settled on.

IMHO is they stuck with the wavy dial people would be SCREAMING "OMEGA SEAMASTER KNOCKOFF" sadly.

The Indices on the Trident lineup also seem to have stuck.

Also, love it or loathe it..... The brand name at 9 seems to be there on most models now

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Re: The Design DNA of Christopher Ward

Post by Dancematt »

When you go back to the beginning you can see a clear design DNA across the initial range, a simplistic Britishness almost, very subtle and under the radar. ...matching the prices at the time, over time this got massively lost and now the company just pumps out whatever designs will sell best. There is no real grounding points or areas of design that pass over from model to model.

They are not a young company anymore. Design heritage needs to be established early on, it was but it's been bulldozed so many times it's a bit of a 1930s terrace house. Charm in areas, modern in others, vintage in others but not overaly cohesive because wltoo many people have rocked the boat over time.

They aren't selling watches based around a set design idea like Bremont , Rolex or bell and Ross for example they are just selling any design ideas that are popular and that will sell due to fashions of the times.
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