The Name’s Not Bond: Christopher Ward Watches

I’ve been having some trouble with a couple of Eastern Europeans. You know the types; a beautiful woman who, it turns out, is actually a spy, and a ruthless maniac who wants to take over the world.

Being a secret agent myself (something I normally only mention when checking into hotels or introducing myself to villains) it’s beholden on me to step in if I get wind that there’s a move afoot to take over the world: it usually only takes a couple of hours to sort it out.

Of course, there are various tools of the trade that help me in my endeavours. I’ve equipped my car with a few natty gadgets: a satellite navigation unit that doesn’t just tell me where I am and how to get where I’m going, it also falls off its mount as I drive along and, at night, if I leave the mount attached to the window it falls off, triggering the car alarm.

I also have the capacity to add DVD screens to the headrests so that, if I do have to take the children with me on dangerous missions, they don’t get bored on the journey.

Latterly, with the freezing temperatures here, I’ve been thinking about adding a window scraper; but for now I’m using anything I can find made of plastic – currently a golf bag score counter thingamajig.

Given my lifestyle you won’t be at all surprised to hear that, when it came to needing a new watch, I was drawn towards Omega. As you’re almost certainly aware James Bond, one of my colleagues, wears one: that tells me so much more about the watch brand than any advertising claim could ever do.

Clearly, if you’re not a lady-charming, daredevil, licensed killer like me, it would be silly for you to want one; I naturally found myself pulled towards them like a moth to a flame.

Then I ran into a bit of a problem.

I don’t mind paying quite a lot for a watch – after all, it is the only kind of man-jewellery I can condone.

I would get the thrill of buying it, the fun of trying it on and the excitement of owning something new. Added to which the price tells my brain that it’s actually a very good watch – studies of brain activity have shown people actually do believe a higher priced version of the same product is better.

The problem is that you have to get automatic watches serviced every few years and that’s £100 spent where all you get back is your watch working like it’s supposed to do – that doesn’t feel great to me.

Omega does make quartz watches. But then you get to spend £900 on a quartz watch.

That does seem excessive when I know that other brands can make a quartz watch for £10 that keeps perfectly good time. Yes, I know the solid metal feel of the case, the sapphire crystal and the solid steel bracelet are not cheap to make, but I also know other brands offer all of these for a lot less.

All of which got me to the point of feeling that I was going to be paying a £700 premium because of James Bond. Given that he’s never helped me personally on any of my missions I felt this was too high a price to pay.

Then I heard about Christopher Ward (London) watches.

A friend showed me his watch and explained about the company, which sells premium, Swiss made watches on-line, at sensible prices.

Buying a watch on-line is risky. Clever photography can flatter to deceive (I found that out when I bought my wife a “diamond” watch that sparkled in the photographs in way that diamond dust rarely does in real life). Also it’s hard to know how a watch will look on your own wrist and how it will feel to wear.

The Christopher Ward website is easy to explore and offers a fairly wide range of models (12 men’s watches at the last count, although some of these are minor variations on a theme). It’s let down, in my view, by two things:

The photography is good but not alluring – if anything it’s too realistic. I can’t quite work out why but, to me, watches look ten times better with a black background than a white one. (Perhaps that’s just me).

The site could evoke associations to make the watches more attractive, but again goes for a more direct visual approach. OK, spending millions on a James Bond endorsement isn’t practical (and is against the ethos of the brand) but putting associated imagery around the products would help enormously.

Curiously, the website has a forum (more of that in a moment) on which they preview up-and-coming models. This includes design boards that have just those associated images of cars and stylish designs that get the purchase juices flowing.

There’s a growing body of research showing that triggering associations can make a significant quantitative difference to how customers respond (all down to the involvement of the unconscious in our behaviour). At present the main association Christopher Ward leverage is Switzerland – good, but hardly unique in the watch world.

So why buy would I risk buying from Christopher Ward, you may well ask.

A number of reasons:

  1. Personal recommendations are hugely influential in many purchases: my friend told me about the brand and so now they are inextricably associated with him in my mind (this is a good thing, because I like my friend).
  2. The forum that I mentioned is, for the most part, populated by people who love their Christopher Ward watches (after all, the odd gripe aside, why else would they be there).There is nothing quite like interacting with a group of people who are enthusiastic about something to influence you.  The general consensus is that environment is the most important factor in influencing behaviour and a fans forum is a potent consumer environment.

    Add to that the well-documented power that groups have to influence individuals and you have more fuel for the desire to buy.

  3. The company offers a sixty day no quibble return policy and includes a five year guarantee, so the worst I will have to contend with is the inconvenience of taking it to the post office to send it back.
  4. The price saving, if the company lived up to its reputation, would be considerable over what I was prepared to pay elsewhere. Subsequent battery changes and cleaning will also not demand authorised dealers prices.
[I ordered the C2 Lido if you’re interested and I can fully vouch for the quality of the watch: to my untrained eye it is made every bit as well as the Omega I considered. ]

I also have it on good authority that the inner workings of the watch are on a par with those in models costing many times the price.

OK, I may not be enhancing my secret agent role with this watch but I was thinking about cutting back on that spy stuff anyway.

Retailer website*: Christopher Ward (London)


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