Source: Loupe Issue 13 - Summer 2019
The first C60 Trident quickly became Christopher Ward’s bestselling watch; the second version improved case design and quality dramatically; and now, for the eagerly-awaited Trident 3, hawk-like attention has been paid to every detail. Trident has never been as gorgeous, or as beautifully made, before…
Trident reborn - Highlights from the reinvention of an icon
- New case - A new incarnation of CW’s ‘light-catcher’ case, but in rugged, sporty Trident form
- New performance - All versions are water resistant to 600M, and one can dive much deeper than that…
- New sizes - All Tridents 3s come in a new, sleek 42mm case, but the Pro 600 and GMT 600 also come in a 38mm version, and there’s a 40mm Pro 600 too
- New attention to detail - Top to bottom, front to back, everything is more beautifully made and designed
- New hands - Including a striking triangular hour hand
- New faces and bezels - There’s new thinking everywhere, from lume on the cermaic bezels to polished gloss faces and highly detailed indexes
- New lume - Better and brighter than ever before, and there’s more of it – even on the bezel
- New backplate - With a newly redesigned Trident logo
- New straps and bracelets - New quick-release bracelet design and Cordura/rubber hybrid straps
- Same attitude - From the Pro 600 to the incredible new Elite 1000, Trident is just as tough, rugged and do-anything as before
If there’s one model that defines the Christopher Ward proposition, it’s the C60 Trident, a classic diver’s watch with rugged good looks that seems at home anywhere, on holiday or at work, with jeans or a suit. Just lately, however, Christopher Ward has been changing, with range after range reinvented using the company’s new, sleeker, more sophisticated ‘light-catcher’ cases. It’s left Trident as, in many ways, the last bastion of the old Christopher Ward.
Until now, that is. What you see here is the most important new model the company has ever created, the long-awaited C60 Trident Mk 3. It boasts a new case, new bracelets and straps, and refined design details beyond any Trident before it. And, as a statement of intent, it will only launch in automatic mechanical form – yes, there may be a quartz model in the future, but don’t hold your breath.
“Creating a new Trident impacts on every area of the company and every supplier we use,” says CW co-founder Mike France, “so it’s been thrilling to see the collaboration that’s gone into Trident 3, and we’ve been able to make improvements across the board.”
To celebrate this co-operation, we’ve spoken to the creative brains at Christopher Ward for an oral history of Trident 3…
Creating the first Tridents
Mike France (co-founder): Our first diver’s watch wasn’t a Trident at all, but the Kingfisher. It still has its fans, but – in retrospect – lacked the design cues that are most potent in this market. Did it sell well? It did okay. Eventually, though, we began to notice the ubiquitousness of diver’s watches influenced by the Rolex Submariner. Well, okay, we thought – if everyone else is doing it, why swim against the tide? We needed a Submariner-influenced watch of our own.
Chris Ward (co-founder): It was the right thing to do, but we took some stick when we launched Trident 1. The real problem, I think, was that we acknowledged the Submariner influence – not realising that most companies keep deathly quiet about it! [laughs] But, being straightforward about these things, we came clean – and got hammered for it!
Peter Ellis (co-founder): Not that we minded too much, as the first Trident immediately became our bestselling watch. Partly that was because of the way it looked, but it was also because it demonstrated a step up in quality, too. We had our new – at the time! – partnership with Synergies Horlogères to thank for that. For the first time we had a supply partner capable of creating a great dive watch.
Chris: We launched with quartz, Pro Automatic and GMT versions, and soon added a chronometer. The original Trident quickly became synonymous with CW.
Creating the Trident Mk 2
Peter: Soon after the launch of the first Trident, we started working with our current case supplier, which meant the Mk 2 version, launched in February 2015, could offer a real increase in quality. It looked very similar to the original Trident, but had a ceramic bezel on the Pro and GMT models for the first time. And we improved the lume too – although, in hindsight, perhaps not enough!
Mike: Though the hands and dials remained the same as with the Mk 1 – remember, this was in the days before [head of product design] Adrian Buchmann joined us, so the design was done by me and Fraser Palfreyman, our graphic designer – the engineering was vastly improved. The Mk 2 was really just a far, far better version of the Mk 1.
Chris: And sales stepped up again – by 2016 it accounted for 50% of our business.
The road to a Trident Mk 3
Peter: By 2017, as we approached Trident’s 10th anniversary, the question became, ‘How should we celebrate this?’ Well, with a Trident Mk 3, of course – but only if we could improve on what we already had. We knew we’d have to go further than ever before, upgrading the engineering again, but this time putting just as much effort into the aesthetics and detailing too.
Adrian Buchmann (head of product design): Put the first and second generation Tridents side by side, and the thing you notice is the improvement in case quality. This time around, though, we wanted to really delve into the details – including things you won’t really see, but will feel.
Mike: Think of the sensation when you close the door on a luxury car, the noise it makes as it thunks shut. It helps give the impression of quality. This is the way we’ve approached Trident 3. Pick it up and you’ll notice the additional tooling to the hands and face, and the polished dial offering more contrast against the hands.
Helen McCall (head of marketing): Trident carries plenty of weight, and will inevitably be the focus of a lot of scrutiny, so we had to get it right. This is not some brand new design we’ve conjured out of nowhere, and it clearly references previous Tridents – but, at the same time, it moves the design on considerably. In fact, it might be more radical than people were expecting. There were moments where we found ourselves asking each other, ‘Shall we go for it, or hold back?’, and most of the time we’d just egg each other on.
Jorg Bader Jr. (senior product manager): Very early in the process I did market research, looking closely at what our competitors are doing – where they’re strong and where they’re less so. Watches are definitely a bit smaller these days, and a lot sleeker, so we knew we needed to deliver a slimmer look than before – while remembering that a diver’s watch is first and foremost a sports watch, so needs to have some masculine weight to it too.
Helen: One of the main things we wanted was a Trident that was distinctively Christopher Ward. We’ve now moved beyond a place where it should be possible to criticise Trident as looking like a homage to something else – not matter how unfair that always was! The Mk 3 had to be be the loudest, proudest iteration of the new Christopher Ward look we’ve ever done.
Designing the new case
Jorg Jr.: In recent years we’ve made huge strides with our case designs, and a consistent aesthetic has developed. We’ve started calling them our ‘light-catcher’ cases, because of the way light bounces off them, and Trident 3 is the latest of our key lines to adopt this look. The challenge was to apply it in a more muscular form than before, taking inspiration from the way great car design makes even a bulky vehicle look as close to the ground as possible. With Trident 3 it was like applying this principle to an SUV – which is perfectly possible, as the Range Rover Velar shows.
Adrian: The swage lines around the sides are crucial, and with Trident 3 we initially got it almost right – but not quite. We started to think that the ‘waist’ was maybe a millimetre too high – so we redid the entire design to bring that down by just a fraction, giving the perfect balance between polished and unpolished elements.
The new hands and face
Mike: One thing we started playing around with early on is how the name Trident evokes the idea of ‘three’ – so there are three points on a trident; this is the third iteration of the watch; dive watches tend to have little triangles at 12 o’clock on both the bezel and face… Threes and triangles seemed to be everywhere, so how could we make the most of them?
Chris: As Adrian sketched endless hand combinations, we kept coming back to the idea that the hour hand should be a big triangle, balanced by a strong but simple minute hand. Everyone in the company voted on it, and we all agreed that this was the way to go.
Jorg Jr.: Technically, the biggest problem was getting all the details right – especially the ones we hadn’t used much before, like the shiny lacquered finish on the dial.
Adrian: Actually, some of my favourite things about the new Trident are the shiny new dial, hands and indexes. The indexes are now more raised, with brushed top surfaces and little polished facets that catch the light; each one shines like a tiny individual bulb as you turn the watch in your hand. We spent ages getting the height of them right, and went through a ridiculous number of hand iterations too – often the difference between the versions was a fraction of a millimetre. I also really like the new backplate, with a fresh take on the Trident logo, and openings that make it look like a valve you’d see on an aqualung.
The new lume
Adrian: The most consistent complaints we heard about Trident Mk 2 concerned the lume, so we knew we had to knock that out of the park this time. Applying lume is actually quite easy – the more you use, the more your watch will shine at night – but at the same time you don’t want gigantic, blobby potato indexes with no elegance to them.
Jorg Jr.: On Trident 3 we’re using better quality lume than before, and we’re using it over bigger areas too. The funny thing is, all the lume in the industry is made by just one company – so even Rolex has more or less the same lume as we do.
Adrian: The really big change is that, for the first time – except for on the Trident Mk 2 Titanium Variation #2 – we’ve added lume to a Trident bezel too, making Trident 3 one of the brightest diver’s watches on the market, at any price point. Tudor, with their Pelagos, was the first to crack using lume on the bezel, and even now you only find it on a few very high-end watches.
The click of the bezel
Mike: One detail we really sweated over was the way the uni-directional bezel clicks around. Every dive watch sounds subtly different, and we became obsessed with making our click the very best it could be.
Jorg Jr.: Mike, Adrian and I spent an entire day in London going to all the major watch shops, listening to all these clicks – and even sneakily recording the ones we really liked. We had to go to lots of shops, because if we’d tried to do it in just one they’d have sussed us – and thrown us out!
Mike: By the end of that day it seemed clear that Rolex has the best bezel – not too stiff, not too soft, but solid and just right – so that became the benchmark.
Jorg Jr.: The truth is, we didn’t need to go to all this trouble at all – nobody ever criticised the bezel on Trident 2 – but if we were really going to produce the best Trident we could, every aspect had to be improved.
The quick-release bracelet
Mike: For Trident 3, we’ve introduced our first-ever quick release stainless steel bracelet, which is a really big deal – we’re one of the first brands in the world to do so. Of course, one of the great benefits we have is access to the experience and expertise of Jorg Bader Sr., who spent a large part of his 40 years in the watch industry specialising in bracelets. He and Adrian came up with a new quick-change design which is going be a quiet revolution, I think.
Adrian: Swapping between straps or bracelets is a fiddly task that no-one likes, especially as you risk scratching your watch case in. At the same time, there’s no better way to refresh your watch, or tailor it to different circumstances. In coming up with an elegant design solution to make this happen, Jorg Sr. was our secret weapon. He’s a walking, talking watch industry dictionary who seems to know everyone.
Jorg Bader Sr. (head of Christopher Ward’s Swiss atelier): We already offer quick-release on our leather straps, but bracelets demand a different yet compatible system, using two spring bars rather than one. It makes swapping between a strap and a bracelet easy, though – you can do it in 20 seconds.
Adrian: Quick release bracelets are only available from a handful of really highend watchmakers, and they’ve each come up with slightly different designs. Our solution is comparable, but not so expensive that it eats too much into our value for money proposition.
The new hybrid strap
Helen: Our latest rubber strap is also unusual, in that it’s our first hybrid, combining a high-strength waterproof textile called Cordura on the upper surface with rubber underneath. The reason? Added comfort, flexibility and a much better look. It comes in all the key colours like black and blue, and there’s a blue-and-orange version that supports our flagship Trident 3, the C60 Trident Elite 1000, a real professional’s watch in titanium. It’s limited to 300 pieces and can dive to 1,000 metres – it even has an inbuilt helium release value.
Adrian: Cordura is the sort of material you find on backpacks and sports clothing, and these dual-material straps will last much longer than any single-material strap ever would.
The appeal of Trident 3
Mike: Trident 3 launches in three versions – the entry level Pro, the GMT, and the top-of-the-line Elite 1000, with the Trident Pro costing only £50 more than its equivalent Trident 2. You can still pick one up for under £700, which means the value proposition is better than ever.
Helen: Although it’s a very masculine design, Trident has always had a big female audience too. Yes, 42mm is pretty big, but it’s not unusual for women to wear larger watches these days, and as the Pro comes at 38mm and 40mm too, it’s the perfect size for smaller wrists.
Adrian: That Trident 3 is a success is vital to Christopher Ward, and over the next few years there will be many further iterations of this design, using different materials, colours, specifications and so on. This being the case, it was vital we got the design right from the start, giving us the perfect flexible platform from which to go in all sorts of directions.
Mike: We can’t afford for Trident 3 to date too quickly, so we’ve deliberately kept things restrained – and even a little conservative – so it can naturally evolve over the years. But, at the same time, we’ve been hugely fussy and exacting over the details. Right here, right now, I don’t think it would be possible to make a better Trident than this.