Christopher Ward – The Cheapest, Most Expensive Watches in the World?

Christopher Ward is a designer, manufacturer and retailer of Swiss watches based in London. The company was formed on a boat on the River Thames in 2004 by the founding friends; Christopher Ward (watch maker and designer), Peter Ellis and Mike France (both former owners of the Early Learning Centre chain of educational toy shops).

The story goes that the three friends had learned from insiders of the Swiss watch making industry that a large portion of the cost of a luxury Swiss watch is merely an exercise in clever marketing.  High price points are used to create high perceived value in the eyes of the consumer. With this realisation in mind, the three friends set on a path to turn this traditional model on it’s head and “create a revolution in watchmaking”.

The company’s vision and mantra was born,

“the cheapest most expensive watches in the world”.

Since that day in 2004 it appears that Christopher Ward have gone from strength to strength with their first two watch designs (met with critical acclaim) launched in June 2005 via the company’s website, their only retail outlet to date.

From the Christopher Ward website,

“Watch forums across the world were inundated with disbelieving watch aficionados’ claiming watches at this price couldn’t possibly be of the quality claimed. At one point in December 2005 our fledgling brand was being discussed more frequently on the world’s largest watch forum, Timezone, than Rolex!”

In order to keep costs down Christopher Ward have remained to date an Internet only retail operation with a catalogue designed to push people to the website and order directly.

Chris Ward, speaking in the Telegraph on starting a new business but wanting to remain in retail,

“We were being advertised next to £9.99 polyester trousers, which didn’t do the brand any favours.”

By using the web as the primary channel for advertising the company keep full control of how the brand is perceived,

“If we’d gone through standard retail and been in the window of, say, Ernest Jones, we’d have had a few watches in the window competing for space with all the others. On our own website we can focus on however many watches we want to put there, without any competition.”

With their background in retail, savvy minded Mike France and Peter Ellis have opted to stay away from the traditional supplier-retailer route, avoiding potential issues such as price-war discounting – the bottoming out of prices between retailers in order to stay the cheapest in hope of securing the sale. In a world of price sensitive, price comparison shoppers this is an all too common tactic which ultimately can only cheapen a brand.

Whilst the company tagline is “the cheapest most expensive watches in the world”, Christopher Ward’s selection of Swiss watches are far from “cheap”.

Not a word you could associate with any prestigiously positioned product, a more reassuring strapline would perhaps be better suited…

Christopher Ward, “The most affordable, expensive watches in the world.”