08 Dec What’s In a Name? The Branding Woes of Christopher Ward
Most of us in the watch community have come across Christopher Ward during our time in the hobby. The young British brand aims to offer all the quality benefits of a heritage Swiss name, but without the hefty price tag, thanks to their direct online sales strategy. And it’s a strategy that seems to be working well for them in recent years, with new models coming out all the time and an ever increasing amount of marketing (if you’ve been on the London Underground recently you’ll know what I mean!).
Indeed, they seem to have done so well for themselves that in the summer of 2016 they invested a load of cash in a complete re-brand. The idea was to give Christopher Ward a unique look that captured what the company stood for and set them apart from the older Swiss brands.
At the time, it proved to be one of the most controversial marketing choices in the industry, and the new logo was almost universally panned across the internet. Why? Well, mostly because the word-mark moved from the traditional 12 o’clock position, to 9 o’clock. This means that on a standard 3 hand timepiece the dial symmetry is off-balance and there’s a lot of blank open space on dial. It’s also a very plain minimal logo, which some say makes the watches look like a cheap fashion brand.
Whilst Christopher Ward introduced their twin flags motif as part of the re-brand, it was initially left off the dials. However, such was the outcry from fans that it was soon introduced at 12, alongside the word-mark at 9, in order to placate those critics. Ironically this only fuelled the fire, as the hitherto understated motif confused some, who thought yet another logo had been rolled out, and which lead to jokes along the lines of Christopher Ward having “logos of the week” etc.
So why, if this happened over two years ago, am I just now writing an article on it? Well, besides the fact that I didn’t have this blog back then, because it still proves to be quite the talking point online. You’d have thought that by now this horse would be deader than the dodo, but it seems that nearly every time I click on one of Christopher Ward’s Instagram posts, a video review on YouTube, or a forum discussion, someone has commented on the damn logo.
Whilst opinions on the logo are purely subjective, I can’t help but feel that they muddy Christopher Ward’s reputation somewhat. Not that Christopher Ward deserve to have their reputation tarnished (far from it), but when people are still leaving negative comments on YouTube, Instagram, Forums etc., it doesn’t help entice new customers.
For the most part, it seems that Christopher Ward took the criticism on the chin, and stuck to their brand identity, for which I applaud them. The world of watches is about as crowded as the dial of a radio-controlled Citizen chronograph, and a brand needs to stand above all the competition if it’s to grow at a significant rate. Whether or not you agree with Christopher Ward on this however is beside the point, because after 2 years and a whole hunk of cash spent on marketing, the logo(s) are definitely here to stay.
It’s at this point you’re probably asking yourself what point am I trying to make? To be honest, I’m not too sure myself. I guess all this just shows that despite Christopher Ward’s best efforts, there’s still a disparity between their brand image and what a significant portion of their customer base prefer.
Clearly some people still feel strongly about the change, but should Christopher Ward care? The answer is “probably not”. If sales are still going strong, and it would seem they are, then the reality is that they’ve no real reason to consider yet another re-brand so soon. No design will please everyone, and the previous logo had its share of haters too. Another change now would just doom their image and be completely unnecessary. Basically, if you really don’t like the logo that much that you don’t want a Christopher Ward on your wrist, then move on and look elsewhere, because they ain’t changing buddy.
So what do I think of the current branding?
In all honesty, whilst I get the reasoning behind the current wordmark, I wasn’t too enamoured when it was released. I felt that it was a case of spending too much time looking at the message behind the logo, rather than its actual appearance. However, two years on I have warmed to the new image, though I admit I would prefer a more traditional placement. Christopher Ward have updated most of their models since the re-brand and I think that the new logo’s suit these new designs. Personally, I like a lot of Christopher Ward’s new designs, and I genuinely find them to be a great value proposition for an entry-level Swiss watch. The new C65 Trident Vintage range look great, and the dress models exude a great sense of playful elegance.
I think that ultimately, the current aesthetic does exactly what Christopher Ward want it to. It sets them apart. No longer are they simply trying to be a cheaper version of the standard Swiss fare, with conservative branding and traditional designs. Instead they’ve broken out of that mould, and now stand definitely apart from the likes of Longines, Oris, Tissot Etc. Their designs now have a distinct aesthetic, and the new logo has gotten people talking. You know what they say about publicity- it’s all good!
Whether this is something that appeals to you or not is of course entirely your choice, and I don’t begrudge anybody their opinion either way. However, I think it’s undeniable that Christopher Ward have now established a clear identity that defines who they are and what they stand for, and more power to them for it.