The Christopher Ward C11 Black Manta, and an Introduction
By Matt Himmelstein
As a way to introduce myself to the WristReview.com community, I thought I would review the watch out of my small collection that finds itself most often on my wrist. I am a fan of mechanical watches, but I am not a collector per se, nor am I ever likely to purchase a very high end watch. It isn’t that I would not want to own one, it is just that there is no way I can justify to myself the cost of a $2,000 watch, let alone a $20,000 watch. So with that mindset, I am drawn to watches that are less that $1,000, with sub $500 being the real sweet spot.
Even though I am… frugal (?), I don’t want a department store brand or an overpriced quartz from a lifestyle brand. Enter, The Internet! Most likely, anyone who has found their way to this post has at least a passing knowledge of Christopher Ward. A British company that sources Swiss movements and have their watches assembles in Switzerland, they sell a wide range of mechanical and quartz watches through their web site. Without a brick and mortar distribution network and with no celebrity ambassadors, the brand sells a product that provides a good value for the consumer.
I was very drawn to the aviation designs they offer, especially the altimeter style C11 MSL Black Manta MK1 Automatic (that is a mouthful). With a PVD case, black dial, oversized white numbers and white hands, the watch is not discrete, but it is also not too loud, and it could function as a dress watch, in the right circumstances. There is one spot of color, a red faux pointer at 3:00, reminiscent of a settable pointer that you might find on an actual altimeter. There are four screws on the case outside of the bezel, which in additional to sealing the case, lend to the instrument feel of the watch.
It is a nice size for a contemporary watch, large enough at 42 mm to look masculine but not so large it is comically oversized. It is also thin, just under 11 mm tall, easily fitting under the cuff of a dress shirt. The case itself is a cross between cushion and a square, so you may either think they could not make up their mind, or didn’t want to get too close to a Bell & Ross 01-92, a watch I think that this one more that slightly resembles. My version houses an ETA 2824-2, but they also use Stellita SW200-1 movements. The crystal is sapphire with an AR coating, it is rated to 10 ATM, so don’t ditch the plane in the drink, and it comes on an Italian leather strap.
Straight out of the box, it is a very attractive watch. Speaking of boxes, the standard box is very nice. They offer a deluxe box for an additional $40, but I am wearing the watch, not the box. The leather strap is thin and supple, the weight a barely noticeable 105 grams, and the watch is extremely readable. Maybe I am getting old, but my one real quibble with the design is the use of such a small date window. Frankly, I have a tough time reading the date at all. Offset at 4:00, it is not intrusive, but it is also less functional than it could be because of the size. The hands and numbers are oversized, so the date really feels like it is lost on the face. Speaking of readability, there is quite a bit of superlume on the face and hands, so this watch is not going to be stealthy at night.
In everyday use, the watch is great. The movement is accurate enough, usually requiring a slight adjustment every couple of days. I don’t keep it on a winder, so when it is not on my wrist, the crown gets a few turns in the morning and evening. If I forget, the power reserve will keep it running for a full day, and if I need to adjust the time, the movement and build are both smooth and precise. Without extensive complications, you would expect it to set easily, but the fact that it actually does click into the date and time settings cleanly is appreciated.
The PVD coating has stood up to a lot of wear, as has the crystal; the strap, a little less so. The leather itself is going fine, but the buckle is elongating the proper hole, making the watch a little loose. Some strategic reinforcing of the strap or a deployment clasp might have helped with the issue. Sure, it would might taken the cost up a bit, but not much. Speaking of the strap, the watch has a pair of quick release pins, which should make changing the strap a simple affair, as long as you get pins with the new strap as well. The back is etched with the silhouette of a jet and the Latin phrase “Pervenio pro Astrum,” which after a spin through the interwebs translates to “I will always reach for the stars.” It is also the motto of the 2515 Ringwood and Fordinbridge Air Force Cadet Squadron, to my eyes a cross between the Boy Scouts and Air Force ROTC.
The list price on the watch is $755 (PVD – the brushed stainless is $685), but I picked it up when the company was running web special so I saved a little over the list, making it a splurge, but not a bank account buster. There are black, brown and vintage (tan) options for the strap, and they sell replacements/alternatives for $55 in leather, so maybe I will just get one with a deployment clasp (they are the same cost, so it would have been nice to have been offered the option to get one shipped on the watch). There are also options for engraving and/or gift wrapping, though the watch itself is engraved with a serial number.
Matt Himmelstein – Contributing Writer
Engineer, weekend warrior and mechanical watch enthusiast. He prefers value oriented brands because, well, those are the ones he can afford while still paying for all his weekend warrior hobbies. New watch makers are also an interest because you can get often get a unique look, and the watch now comes with a story. His favorites in his small collection are a Christopher Ward altimeter style and an Anstead dive watch from a Kickstarter campaign.