This week on “Vintage Eye,” we’ll be taking a look at UK-based Christopher Ward and the brand’s C65 Dartmouth Series 1 watch, first released in 2019. The relatively new model is the latest addition to Christopher Ward’s growing Military collection, a series that take its inspiration from famous designs in British military history. WatchTime had an opportunity to sit down with one of the founders of Christopher Ward, Mike France, at the start of this year to hear a little bit more about his take on his brand’s British heritage, which you can read about here.
The new C65 Dartmouth takes inspiration from the Omega Seamaster 300 “Big Triangle,” in particular the mil-spec (military specification) variation of the model issued to Her Majesty’s Royal Navy from 1967 to 1971 (pictured below, courtesy of Phillips). Often considered one of the finest military diving watches put into service, the model is easily recognizable by its twisted lugs, bakelite diving bezel, large printed hour markers, sword hands, and — on many models — a small, encircled “T” designating the watch’s use of tritium for its luminous elements. These vintage models today are incredibly rare, in-demand, and consequently expensive, with non-military issue pieces retailing at a minimum around $8,000, and mil-spec editions being known to auction for well over $60,000.
The C65 Dartmouth takes this design inspiration in stride, borrowing some elements of the vintage style while ultimately working to create a new and interesting watch. The model uses a 41-mm brushed steel case, relatively simple with slightly sharpened lugs and a proportionally large push/pull crown signed with the brand’s alternative “twin flag” logo. Surrounding the dial is a slim, unidirectional aluminum diving bezel, punctuated with Arabic numerals at most 10-minute marks, and topped with a small printed triangle. Beneath the “glass box” sapphire crystal— inspired by the acrylic crystals used on vintage Seamaster 300s — is a dial with applied trapezoidal hour markers for each position with the exception of the oversized triangle marker at 12 o’clock, all separated by the printed white markers of the minute ring.
Passing over the dial, and the modern-print Christopher Ward logo at its top, are the unusual pair of a triangle hour hand and baton minute hand, while an arrow-tipped pointer is used to determine the seconds. Inside the watch is the Sellita SW200 COSC automatic movement, a chronometer-certified caliber finished by the brand with its “Colimacone” design and protected via a solid screw-down case back designed with an engraved naval crown, which is the standard emblem for the British Royal Navy.
The new watch is available in either a black and faux-patina colorway, or a more modern-focused blue and white version, each sold on both an Oyster-style bracelet and on a range of straps, including leather, canvas, and a cordura-and-rubber hybrid. The C65 Dartmouth Series 1 is currently being sold directly through the brand’s website for $1,020 on the steel bracelet, and for $910 on all other strap options.
Comparing the modern model and the vintage Omega Seamaster 300 “Big Triangle” that Christopher Ward cites as its design inspiration, we do see a few key similarities. Most noticeable is the modern watch’s oversized triangle 12 o’clock hour marker, but more subtly we also see homage design elements in the other trapezoidal hour markers and white minute marks, as well as the matte dial and the relatively large crown, which conspicuously eschews the use of crown guards. The faux-patina version of the watch goes further to add historical charm: most available vintage mil-spec Omegas are heavily patinated today.
Christopher Ward has been explicit that while the watch takes recalls the historical Omega, the modern C65 Dartmouth is its own series, and we see this ethos in some other design elements. For example, the model uses the brand’s typical C65 case shape rather than one with twisted lugs. The slim aluminum bezel is a bit more minimalist in comparison to those seen on vintage Seamaster 300s. Also notable is the modern watch’s use of applied hour markers (the vintage Omegas used printed markers), as well as the C65 Dartmouth’s hand configuration, which hearkens to the sword style used historically in mil-spec models, but stylistically also very typical of Christopher Ward.
Possibly the most important difference seen in the modern C65 Dartmouth in comparison to the vintage Omega is its depth rating, which is only 150 meters and hardly close to the professional grade that would be required by a military specification (like the 300-meter rating of the historical Seamaster 300). This rating likely could have been boosted by a screw-down crown, like that used on vintage Omegas, rather than the push/pull seen on this edition, but it nonetheless speaks to the intended purpose and consumer audience for this C65 Dartmouth. The watch is intended as an homage to a specific type of vintage design — more for the casual watch enthusiast rather than the die-hard fan of British military history or military watches. This is further supported by the “homage” caseback of the watch, which differs from the utilitarian casebacks seen on almost all military-grade watches.
Despite the relatively low depth rating, the C65 Dartmouth Series 1 still offers watch buyers a very appealing design at a solid price point — just above or below $1,000, depending on the strap choice, which is uncommon for a chronometer-certified watch built with this much attention to detail. Further, that Christopher Ward dubs the watch the “Series 1” speaks to the likelihood of a Series 2 model at some point, perhaps one with a boosted depth rating and even more period design elements. Whether this likelihood comes to fruition remains to be seen, but for now, Christopher Ward has unveiled another attention-grabbing model, expanding its extensive dive watch collections and strengthening its bond to British history.
For the most recent article in the “Vintage Eye” series, in which we discuss the Hamilton PSR and the historic Pulsar models that inspired it, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first discovering horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.