It all started with three friends discussing going into business together during a gentle trip down the Thames in May 2004, the origin story of British watch business Christopher Ward describes on its website.
Mike France and Peter Ellis, both recently minted following the sale of Early Learning Centre, an education toy brand they built then sold, were wondering what to do next. Christopher Ward was growing tired of the clothing import business in which he worked, and was looking for a new challenge.
With a shared passion for watches and a few beers inside them on that boat trip, they hatched the idea of creating a watch brand that last year produced more than 22,000 watches in 2018 and was generating around £10.5 million in sales.
There was a significant shake-up of the management and control structures last year when Christopher Ward secured investment of £6.25 million from the Business Growth Fund, an organisation established in the wake of the global financial meltdown in 2008/9 with £2.5 billion made available from British banks that had been bailed out by the British taxpayer. It operates a similar model to private equity finance firms but takes a long-term approach to working with the companies it supports.
James Austin, an investor at BGF, joined the board of Christopher Ward as part of the deal.
Today, Bgf Gp Limited is the only “person with significant control” listed on Companies House for Christopher Ward (London) Holdings Limited, the parent company of Christopher Ward Limited, and Mike France runs the business as managing director.
Commenting on Christopher Ward leaving the company, Mr France tells WatchPro: “2020 is a very exciting year for Christopher Ward although we will sadly be one man down. Chris is now focusing on other ventures – it just felt right for him to move onto the next stage of his life as his involvement in the business gradually became smaller. This year we will be launching a catalogue of impressive watches including a world first. Chris was part of the original trio and will always be a supporter, as well as a customer!”