TEST DRIVE: WatchPro heads to Morgan Motor Company to make sense of its collaboration with Christopher Ward

The beautiful Morgan Classic that WatchPro took for a spin.The beautiful Morgan Classic that WatchPro took for a spin.

News of a collaboration between Christopher Ward and Morgan Motor Company broke at Salon QP last year. It was a partnership that fate appeared unable to resist. Morgan is a quintessentially British carmaker, Christopher Ward, a British company (although it makes its watches in Switzerland). The very first watches ever made by the company were called the C5 Malvern Automatic and C3 Malvern Chronograph, named after the rolling Worcestershire hills where Morgan Motor Company is based.

The five year partnership promised to produce watches that draw on the DNA of both companies, their design philosophies, and their shared passion for British heritage.

The first watches from the collaboration were launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year. The choice of a car exhibition rather than a watch event was significant, because the two companies agreed that the watches they create together will be sold only to people who can prove they own a Morgan car.

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Three models, designed by Christopher Ward’s senior designer Adrian Buchmann in collaboration with Morgan’s chief designer Jonathan Well,s went on sale in May. Each watch is inspired by a classic Morgan car, and all contain a customised version of the watchmaker’s Calibre SH21 inhouse movement. The watches are hand-assembled at Christopher Ward’s facility in Biel, Switzerland.

The first time WatchPro set eyes on the watches was on a visit to Morgan’s carmaking factory in Worcestershire where we taken on a tour of the plant before going for a spin in two stunning Morgan cars.

We have all seen clips of car plants in the UK, usually business news footage of robots assembling the latest Vauxhalls or Minis on highly automated and computerised production lines. Morgan does things differently. There is a production line, but cars are created by people; very skilled people who have been working on the line for decades. Cars are created from the wheels and chassis upwards by hand. Rather than shunting along a production line on mechanical hoists or conveyors, they roll from one part of the process to the next down a slope. The whole facility is on a hill, with finished cars emerging gleaming from the bottom.

 

 

Not much has changed at Morgan for decades. The three families of cars it makes today meet all the same technical tests (emissions, safety, etc.) as modern rivals, but they look and behave like vintage cars on the road. We went for a spin around the Malvern Hills in a Morgan Classic and a Morgan Aero (the Morgan 3 wheeler looked a bit too much of a handful for me). I won’t pretend I can review the experience like a seasoned motoring journalist, but I can tell you it felt like a step back in time to a simpler era when you had to properly drive a car, not just set the satnav and the cruise control before dozing behind the wheel.

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The beautiful Morgan Classic that WatchPro took for a spin.

The beautiful Morgan Classic that WatchPro took for a spin.

 

This no nonsense approach feeds through to the three Christopher Ward watches, which pick up design cues from one of the three Morgan car families. The C1 Morgan 3 Wheeler Chronometer is housed in a black carbon-coated C1 Grand Malvern case. Its matte black dial is reminiscent of the car’s aviation-inspired design and the bespoke bridge design of the movement reflects the V-Twin design of the 3 Wheeler’s engine.

 

Christopher Ward C1-Morgan-3Wheeler.

Christopher Ward C1-Morgan-3Wheeler.

 

The C1 Morgan Classic Chronometer aims to pick up the car’s flowing lines most obviously seen in the hand-curved wheel arches but equally beautiful on its timeless dashboard. The watch is made with either the classic or modern day Morgan Motor Company  logo at 12 o’clock. It has a concentric circle motoring design on the SH21 movement’s twin barrels visible beneath a skeletonised bridge with polished chamfers that reflects the distinctive steering wheel design of the Morgan Classic.

 

Christopher Ward C1-Morgan-Classic.

Christopher Ward C1-Morgan-Classic.

 

The C1 Morgan Aero 8 Chronometer has a curved matte black and opalin azureé dial, finished with raised and printed indexes and layered subdials that echo the dials of the cars cockpit and celebrate the aeronautical feel of the car that harks back to the early years of commercial aviation.

 

Christopher Warad C1-Morgan-Aero8.

Christopher Warad C1-Morgan-Aero8.

 

Each watch is unique and customised to mark the marriage between a Morgan car and its owner by engraving the owner’s past or present Morgan car chassis number on the back plate.

There are thought to be 50,000 people who can prove they currently or previously owned a Morgan, so the collaboration has considerable commercial potential for Christopher Ward.

Mike France, co-founder of Christopher Ward, said at the launch: “We are thrilled to launch this collection to kick off the partnership between Christopher Ward and Morgan. Morgan Motors is an exceptional and characteristically British brand, and we have many shared brand values of craftsmanship and engineering, meaning we are perfectly matched.

“We created this collection to mark the beginning of our partnership and therefore we have designed three watches to mark each of the ranges that make up the Morgan family of cars. These three will be available exclusively to the 50,000 plus Morgan car owners past and present, but we have lots of plans for the wider Morgan fan base. Stay tuned.”

Steve Morris, Morgan Motor Company managing director, added: “The synergies between Morgan and Christopher Ward are clearly evident and we are delighted to be collaborating with them. The collection Christopher Ward has designed truly captures the key elements of our iconic cars and has celebrated our brand values throughout. We are excited to be launching this collection at the Geneva Motor Show so soon after announcing our partnership and look forward to hearing what our customers think of the wonderful collection.”

 

Christopher Ward and Morgan Motor Company come together for the launch.

Christopher Ward and Morgan Motor Company come together for the launch.

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