STRICTLY UNDER EMBARGO: WEDNESDAY 2ND JULY 17:00HRS BST
London 2 July 2014. British luxury watch brand Christopher Ward (London) has stunned the global $23 billion Swiss watch industry by announcing the creation of its own in-house movement – the engine of the watch – Calibre SH21. Chris Ward, eponymous co-founder of the brand, describes this as “probably the most significant watch industry development by a British brand in the past 50 years”’.
Now in its tenth year, Christopher Ward has pioneered a radical new business model as the world’s first pure online luxury watch brand, offering a unique blend of quality, value and service establishing a powerful global reputation among watch fans. Around 40% of the brand’s sales are overseas, the US being the single largest market, selling more mechanical watches than any other UK-based brand. Now, despite still being a relatively young and independent brand, the company has advanced to a whole new level with the launch of its own in-house movement – Calibre SH21.
Mike France, one of the three co-founders of the Christopher Ward brand, explains the significance of the launch of Calibre SH21: “Last year, the CEO of a major Swiss luxury watch brand heard rumours about SH21 and his – frankly, affronted – comment was “What gives you the license to do that?”
“For me, that comment epitomises two hugely contrasting spirits at opposite ends of this industry; the entrenched conservatism of the established brands and the dynamism of Christopher Ward and other independents.
“We give ourselves license to do this. Ten years ago we launched the world’s first pure online business model for luxury watches; we created a new paradigm in blending supreme quality with unprecedented value that challenged the industry norm. Today, we are advancing to a new level of independence that strengthens the foundations of the business for future growth.”
“Calibre SH21 provides us with our own unique movement and helps us enhance the security of our supply line. Even more importantly it opens up a fantastic range of future options for us to develop our own family of movements as well as new avenues to fully leverage the Christopher Ward brand. The first opportunity to do this is the beautiful C9 Harrison 5 Day Automatic, housing the SH21, which we also launched today.
“Our merger with Synergies Horlogères embeds the highly developed industry know-how of Jorg Bader and the extraordinary horological design skills of young watchmaker Johannes Jahnke into our new merged business – Christopher Ward London Holdings. Together, we are set to deliver further surprises to the luxury watch industry and take our brand to a new level.”
Production of the new movement has been facilitated through the merger.
A number of brands in the luxury watch industry face intense pressure from the severely restricted supply line strategy adopted by the industry’s largest manufacturer of movements, Swatch Group. Calibre SH21 provides Christopher Ward with a greater degree of independence and security to set its own path.
Christopher Ward forecast that, with turnover of around £7.5m (£5.6m 2013), the business will grow by over 30% this year – the fourth year in succession that this level of growth has been achieved – and Calibre SH21 opens opportunities for further growth of the brand.
Chris Ward, sums-up: “This is perhaps the most important development for a British watch brand in the past fifty years. Over the last decade, as an innovative British brand, we have challenged many of the norms of the cabal of huge Swiss brands that dominate the watch industry and we’ve put the customer at the centre of absolutely everything we do. Calibre SH21 gives us the platform to take our revolution further and strengthens a great British presence in luxury watchmaking. License or no License, our revolution goes on!”
The first model to house the Calibre SH21 movement – the C9 Harrison 5-Day Automatic –was also launched today.