Christopher Ward The Twelve In-Depth Review: The Science of (Relatively) Affordable Perfection
by Raman Kalra
Raman Kalra is the founder of The Watch Muse blog and has kindly agreed to share some of his articles with us here on Quill & Pad.
Christopher Ward has gained a lot of attention in recent years by pushing the boundaries of our expectations with watches such as the Bel Canto. In 2023, the brand did it once again with the launch of its own interpretation of an integrated bracelet sports watch – The Twelve.
By combining the Christopher Ward philosophy of offering high-quality watches at relatively affordable prices with the integrated aesthetic that is in high demand, it is no surprise The Twelve became an instant hit.
On paper, Christopher Ward went to great lengths to make this watch perfect, whether you are looking at the bracelet, dial options, or case proportions.
Since its launch a few months ago, we have seen the collection expand from the initial six references with the introduction of a smaller 36mm option and the new, unusual Halo.
Christopher Ward has not been alone in trying to capture the demand for this style of watch. Others, such as Tissot with the PRX and Frederique Constant with the Highlife, are in the conversation at the more attainable price bracket.
Yet, given the brand values of Christopher Ward, The Twelve should be the option to go for if you are looking for the best mix of quality and price in theory. The bar was already set high and the media attention has been extremely positive.
With that, does The Twelve live up to the hype? Is it the right choice compared to the cheaper Tissot PRX and the more expensive alternatives?
Are there any flaws in this seemingly perfect watch? I have spent the last few weeks with the titanium, 40mm reference on a strap, so I can give you the full breakdown.
For these full reviews, I like to begin with the unboxing experience. This is not the first Christopher Ward watch I have spent time with and written about. Earlier in the year, I had a C63 Sealander GMT and wrote the full review that you can find here.
The unboxing experience of The Twelve is exactly the same, which is a positive. Christopher Ward has clearly landed on this form of packaging, and I am pleased they have.
Buying a luxury watch is just that, a luxury and therefore, the whole experience should reflect that. While everyone’s definition of luxury may differ, Christopher Ward must uphold a certain standard if it claims to offer luxury.
Although I don’t expect much from watch boxes that cost less than £1,000 (and they usually end up in a cupboard after the first day) they do add to first impressions, especially when buying a watch online.
I am happy to say that the unboxing experience was and is excellent. The outer sleeve is black with the Christopher Ward logo embossed. Slide the main box out and you find yourself with a solid wood construction (I believe bamboo) which is exposed for a portion.
The remaining two-thirds are covered in faux leather, again embossed, and removing this portion reveals the watch under perfectly sized paperwork. All Christopher Ward watches are delivered this way, so whether you are looking at the entry models or a Bel Canto, you will have this experience.
The weight of the packaging adds to that quality feel, and I can comfortably say, that the packaging exceeds watches from much bigger brands that are far more expensive.
If you are wondering (especially now the big question is Tissot PRX or the Twelve), the Christopher Ward experience goes far beyond Tissot.
To be honest, I found it more pleasurable than unboxing my Tudor Black Bay 36. So, if this aspect is important to you, you won’t be let down.
Case and Movement
We have to start with the case when discussing The Twelve. Although the integrated design is the main attraction, the case is a significant part of that.
It is no secret that Christopher Ward has looked towards hugely popular watches such as the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus for inspiration.
Where other brands launch their own integrated bracelet models and talk about design elements they have incorporated as their own in marketing materials, Christopher Ward is taking a different approach.
They are celebrating their famous and much more expensive, counterparts by paying direct homage to Gerald Genta, the man behind the original concept. I must say, this is a draw to me, namely because the brand is living up to its aim of being transparent and acknowledging it.
They could have taken the route of ignoring the inspiration and everyone still would have known, but Christopher Ward’s decision to call it out shows honesty and authenticity, which is what I appreciate most.
There are two different materials available in the larger 40mm case diameter size – stainless steel and titanium. These watches are structurally similar, with the only differences being thickness and polishing.
The titanium version is 8.95mm thick, while the stainless steel version is 9.95mm thick due to the movement and polishing, which is easier to achieve on stainless steel.
Despite being 40mm in diameter, the watch wears extremely well with a compact 44.5mm lug-to-lug. Christopher Ward has taken extra design considerations to make the watch feel smaller than it is. This is mainly due to the flat surfaces on the case that feed into the lugs, which have been kept minimal compared to the Tissot PRX.
As a result, the watch feels more round than integrated, especially when it is on the strap.
This is not a bad thing, as it improves the wearing experience while feeling more considered and premium as a result.
These flat surfaces also provide light play. Grade 2 titanium is not easy to polish, but the flat surfaces and integrated end-link reflect light at different angles, which is welcome. I have an extensive comparison between stainless steel and titanium here, which you can refer to for more information.
One extra addition you find on The Twelve is crown guards. They are well-designed and fit the case design well by being long, curved and thin.
The crown guards may split opinion as it breaks up the symmetry of the watch and adds some heft. I think it depends on how you want to wear it. In my opinion, they add a sense of sportiness and with the case so thin, I find it a positive.
The name of the watch comes from its bezel, which is a dodecagon, meaning it is a twelve-sided figure. This is another aspect that immediately appealed to me as it is an uncommon option. By having so many sides, the bezel has a sense of fluidity about it and reminds me of the Girard-Perregaux Laureato.
What I was not prepared for was the subtly of it. While the shape is clearly visible, at certain angles, the bezel appears round. Obviously, in this case, it does not substitute for the harsher lines on a Royal Oak, but I think The Twelve is better off for it. It adds an extra layer of visual interest where the watch changes depending on how, where and when you look at it.
I also believe that this results in it being slightly more resistant to any changes in fashion where overly angular watches may not be the ‘it’ item.
Turning the watch over, you find an exhibition caseback that gives you a view of the Sellita SW300-1, which is a COSC-rated automatic. The rotor has Christopher Ward branding but otherwise, it has minimal finishing which is expected at this price point.
The accuracy though is very strong at -4/+6 seconds per day and the power reserve stands at 56 hours. This is an improvement over the stainless steel references and drives some of the price differential between the models.
The stainless steel versions have a Sellita SW200-1, which comes with 38 hour power reserve and +/-20 seconds per day. There is no denying the SW300-1 is a better movement, but both will serve you well on a daily basis.
Apart from being able to see the movement, the caseback features six screws, paying homage to Genta. A small, subtle touch.
The watch comes in two case sizes and offers various color options on the dial. As for the titanium models, only two colors are currently available: Astral Blue and Nebula Purple.
These colors feature fumé dials that gradually fade into black around the outer edge. Before receiving The Twelve, I had already dismissed liking this reference as something for my collection because of the color.
I usually prefer simple, understated watches that go with everything, and purple didn’t seem to fit that equation. You can probably see where this is going. After I received The Twelve and saw it in person, my opinion completely changed.
The purple is less intense than it appears in the marketing images, especially in indirect light, and the fumé design looks amazing. I have been converted, and while it may not be my first choice for dial color, it has definitely moved up on my list.
Overall, The Twelve undeniably shares some resemblance with other great watches out there. I can find elements of the Omega Aqua Terra, GP Laureato, Zenith Defy and, of course, Genta-designed pieces.
However, you may notice that above all, it resembles the Czapek Antarctique closest. You are not wrong. Adrian Buchmann, the head of product design at Christopher Ward, was credited as one of the main designers behind the Antarctique.
There are different ways you can view this and form an opinion. Perhaps you find The Twelve to now fall into a homage category to the Antarctique, or you could appreciate it as the younger brother to the far more unattainable Czapek. I fall into the latter category.
To me, the poetic angle is similar to what Genta did by taking his designs from one brand to another with minor adjustments. It is not in the same league by any means, but you can appreciate the idea.
Christopher Ward has followed the typical formula for this style of watch by including a textured dial. Zoom in close enough and you will notice the dial design motif is the twin-flags Christopher Ward logo repeating.
On a daily basis, the texture adds to the dynamism of the watch and gives it a premium feel. This, however, is the first area where I think there is room for improvement.
The texture is very harsh and for two reasons I would like to see this change going forward. Firstly, in my opinion, it feels over-styled. There is a lot to catch your attention and The Twelve already has many sharp edges and strong design features.
Secondly, when the texture catches the light, it makes the watch less legible.
While I don’t mind it, I don’t love it and would like to see a flat dial variant added or the texture toned down in future models.
What you do notice with The Twelve is that somehow, despite all the inspiration from others, it looks like a Christopher Ward. It is a testament to the fact that the brand is finding some consistent design language and I believe it starts with the hands.
The hands are great. I noted this when reviewing the C63 Sealander and here again, it holds true. They are well-proportioned with a solid sense of weight.
The indices are equally impressive and reminiscent of the Omega Aqua Terra, which I have always been a fan of. They fit well with the rest of the dial, with a brushed and beveled finish that looks attractive and a good amount of Super-LumiNova.
The combination of the hands and indices gives The Twelve a modern and striking appeal that exceeded my expectations when I saw it in person.
There are two more features worth mentioning: the color-matched date window at 6 o’clock is uncommon, even in more expensive watches, and the applied logo. The latter is a divisive feature and a matter of personal taste. This was one criticism I had when reviewing the C63 Sealander given it was printed.
Whether you like the logo is down to personal taste. I am not convinced that it was the best they could achieve.
The Twelve comes with the option of a bracelet or a strap. In this review, I will focus on the strap option, but it’s worth mentioning that the bracelet is attractive.
I have no doubts, after experiencing the build quality of the case, that the bracelet is every bit as good. When it comes to the strap, there is not too much to say.
The strap is comfortable to wear and has a good amount of flexibility. It fits seamlessly into the case, and if you want to switch it out for a different color or bracelet, there is a quick-release mechanism.
The downside is that the strap is relatively long. I don’t have a small wrist, yet even on me, it is visible when looking at the watch. This is minor to most, but it does take some of the elegance away and is something that doesn’t appeal to me.
When deciding between the bracelet or the strap, I would suggest buying the bracelet option as it is generally cheaper to purchase extra rubber straps. This is the case here, and I would imagine most of their sales are on the bracelet.
However, I have found that I have enjoyed wearing the strap more than I initially expected. It adds a sporty feel to The Twelve, and considering my current collection, I appreciate the change. If this is what you are after, you won’t be disappointed, and you will also save some money at the same time!
What are the negatives and how does it compare to the competition?
Everything you have read to this point indicates how compelling The Twelve is. And that is the case in most reviews. I am happy that I can confirm to you, and myself, that there is substance behind all of the positive noise around The Twelve. However, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
I say this because why would there be anything wrong with it when Christopher Ward has followed such a distinct formula to make a successful watch? They have recognized the growing trend of integrated sports watches and the rise in demand, so they made one.
Better yet, they have even referenced Gerald Genta, who created it back in the 1970s and refers to coveted watches such as the Royal Oak as inspiration. They understand that most consumers can be captured by offering a 36mm and 40mm case size.
The case is thin giving The Twelve a compact and high-quality feel on the wrist. The dial has been designed to be striking in both bold and subtle colors with texture reminiscent of watches at higher price points.
Why stop there? Add in the influence of the designer of the Czapek Antarctique for good measure. As a brand, they understand the appeal of well-positioned beveled edges coining terms such as “Light-Catcher” cases for their other collections.
All of this indicates that Christopher Ward is in tune with the latest trends in the watch market. Consumers want a watch that looks great on the wrist, as well as in photos for social media, while having build quality that goes above and beyond at a relatively accessible price.
It is not hard to see that it would be popular. They have stumbled into the science of perfection when it comes to The Twelve. It is not hard to make a watch people would find near perfection but usually compromises have to be made. That is not the case here.
After wearing The Twelve watch extensively, I have come to the conclusion that it may have one real negative, and it has taken me some time to get here. I think The Twelve may be a little too perfect.
By clearly following a set formula, it feels more like a science (or recipe) has led to The Twelve and with that, an element of emotion is missing. Don’t get me wrong, when I look at my wrist, I do take a second to appreciate how attractive and comfortable it is. I have taken so many photos of it and this is a testament to The Twelve.
While a watch that is flawless in every aspect may seem ideal, in some cases, having a few rough edges can give something character. To explain this better, let’s take a simple analogy of comparing an Italian car to a German one (and forgive me for stereotyping).
The German car may be more reliable and still look attractive, but there is something about the emotion behind the Italian car where you forgive it for having a few faults.
This is how I feel when comparing The Twelve and the Tissot PRX. Unquestionably, The Twelve is the better watch and worth the price jump. If this is your first watch purchase, I believe The Twelve is the one to go for.
However, the Tissot PRX has this extra layer of emotion to it. Perhaps it is because this model existed back in the 1970s, or maybe it is the more restrained dial that gives it a cool and subtle vibe.
There is no right decision here. To be upfront, I want The Twelve in my collection at some point and I have been trying to figure out how to budget for it!
However, I have the Tissot PRX already and my integrated sports watch itch has been scratched. I don’t feel the need to rush out and add The Twelve just yet, even if I want to in the future.
For those deciding between the two, it will come down to your taste, sizing and budget but both watches will satisfy you. We are lucky to have two options that are so strong for their relatively affordable price tags.
Christopher Ward continues to take strides in the right direction, and The Twelve is the latest example and iteration. Their philosophy of offering excellent value for money with one of the most sought-after designs in recent years has been a winner.
Christopher Ward paid close attention to the design elements, giving us consumers everything we could ask for from case proportions to dial texture to a high-quality bracelet with a nice taper. It is no surprise that it has been an instant success and through reviewing it over the last month, I can confirm that the hype is real.
For those looking at adding an integrated sports watch to their collection in this price bracket, The Twelve is hard to beat. Offering higher quality finishing over the Tissot PRX in nearly every aspect, and even bettering some options that cost more, it is hard not to recommend the Christopher Ward.
The one ‘negative’ I found is that it is almost too good.
By being this spot on, it can feel clinical, and this is where the Tissot PRX is able to gain some ground. Regardless, it is a fantastic watch and if you are on the fence, you won’t be disappointed with The Twelve.
For more information, please visit www.christopherward.com/the-twelve-watches/the-twelve-%28ti%29/C12-40ADC1-T00P0-B0.html
Quick facts: Christopher Ward The Twelve
Indications: hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case: titanium or stainless steel, screw down crown
Dimensions: 40mm diameter, 8.95mm high (titanium)/9.95mm high in stainless steel
Water resistance: 100 meters
Movement: Sellita SW300-1 COSC Automatic winding
Power reserve: 56 hours
Bracelet/strap: titanium or stainless steel with matching folding clasp, a rubber strap is also an option
Price: €2,075 in titanium, €1,350 in steel
You can read more articles by Raman Kalra at www.thewatchmuse.com.
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