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British brand challenges Swiss luxury watch industry

22nd July 2014 Print
Calibre SH21

British luxury watch brand Christopher Ward 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".

Established in 2004, Christopher Ward pioneered a radical new business model as the world's first pure online luxury watch brand. Around 40% sales are overseas, the US being the single largest market, selling more mechanical watches than any other UK-based brand. Now, despite being a young and independent brand, the company has advanced to a new level with the launch of its own in-house movement - Calibre SH21.

Mike France, one of the three co-founders of Christopher Ward, explains the significance of the launch: "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?"

"We give ourselves license to do this. Ten years ago we launched the world's first pure online business model for luxury watches; 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 future growth of the business and enables us to develop a family of movements, the first of which is the beautiful C9 Harrison 5 Day Automatic, housing the Calibre SH21, which we also launched today."

"Our merger with Synergies Horlogères embeds the experienced 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 will 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. Many 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.

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Calibre SH21