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With the launch of a new C3 Grand Tourer resplendent in British Racing Green, we delve into the history of this iconic automotive shade.

Sport can evoke emotions like little else. But when it comes to the high-octane world of motorsport, these shift up into a wholly different gear. There’s the sheer adrenalin of it all: man and machine, hurtling around corners, defying death and physics in one relentlessly exciting cocktail of speed and bravery. Yet even in the earliest days of motor racing – a time before official circuits had been built, and where cars could hit speeds approaching 80 miles per hour – there was a practical consideration: cars needed to be discernible from one another at speed.

The first use of international racing colours can be traced back to 1900 in France, when the first Gordon Bennett Cup was held between Paris and Lyons. A competition established by James Gordon Bennett Jnr, the millionaire owner of the New York Herald newspaper, multiple countries were invited to take part – each of whom required their own distinctive colour. Some found inspiration in historically linked hues – France chose blue, for example – but in the case of United Kingdom, the circumstances that led to the adoption of the now-iconic British Racing Green are slightly more fortuitous.

When Great Britain won the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup courtesy of one Selwyn Edge, its reward was the responsibility of hosting the next year’s event. Yet there was a small problem: motor racing was banned in Great Britain, thanks to a nationwide speed limit of just 12 miles per hour. Fortunately, Ireland, a country with no such restrictions, was still part of the wider United Kingdom at the time, and so the 1903 race was announced to take place on the roads of County Kildare instead. With the three colours of the Union Jack – red, white and blue – already reserved by the likes of America, Germany and France, the GB team decided to mark their thanks to their Irish hosts by selecting shamrock green, synonymous with the Emerald Isle, as their livery. Yes, you did read that correctly – a colour now indelibly linked to British motorsport stemmed from a courteous tribute to its neighbour across the Irish Sea!

1907_Napier_60HP

A 1907 Napier 60hp T21 car in a lighter green hue

Thus far, a colour had been chosen to represent Great Britain; but the particular hue had not. Fast-forward to the 1920s and ‘30s, and shamrock green was joined by a darker shade (also known as Brunswick, moss or forest green); this adorned the Bentley Blowers taking part in Le Mans, along with vehicles taking part in other early Grand Prix events. Another two decades later, and this rich shade had found its way onto some truly iconic models in automotive history: think the Jaguar D-Type and Aston Martin DBR1 (one of which would become the most expensive British car in history at auction in 2017). For anybody still harbouring doubts about the enduring cool of British Racing Green, just know that Steve McQueen had his white Jaguar XKSS repainted green, while 007’s on-screen Bentley Blower in ‘From Russia With Love’ shares the very same hue (although Q branch’s idea of in-built telephone would never catch on!).

A 1928 Bentley 4.1.2 litre Le Mans Tourer Birkin’s Blower 3 in British Racing Green

In the modern era, the legacy of British Racing Green remains as powerful as ever. It was reintroduced as the colour of the Jaguar F1 team early in the millennium, while 2001 would see the return of a Bentley bearing those famous colours to Le Mans. Due to its popularity, many car manufacturers now offer BRG as a paint choice (our partners at Morgan Motor Company included), its luxurious shade alluding to over a century’s worth of automotive history. This sense of prestige also made it the perfect addition to the C3 Grand Tourer range.

Watches and cars share a lot in common of course: both are pieces of engineering reliant upon performance and accuracy. The inclusion of British Racing Green in the C3 Grand Tourer family is a natural combination, the latter drawing influence from the dashboards of cars being driven when Racing Green was enjoying its original 20th century heyday. It permeates down to details such as its 30-minute subdial, where a highlighted red section mimics a speedometer, while the pushers on its side are shaped like engine pistons. Powered by a Swiss-made quartz chronograph movement, the C3 Grand Tourer isn’t just a blend of dress watch and sporty stylings; with the inclusion of British Racing Green colours, it’s a proud tribute to Britain’s enduring heritage on the automotive stage.

C3 Grand Tourer in British Racing Green

The C3 Grand Tourer is available to buy today.

The C60 Apex Limited Edition, created to show off the best of Christopher Ward – with a little bit of help from our friends at Armin Strom

The fifth birthday of Calibre SH21, Christopher Ward’s well-regarded in-house movement, is an important milestone – so the ambitious, high end Apex series was created to celebrate it. These limited edition iterations of key models are each designed to push Christopher Ward watchmaking in new directions – and this is certainly true of the latest, the new C60 Apex Limited Edition.

Based on the company’s most popular model, it takes the semi-skeletonised architecture introduced with the first of the Apex series, the C7, in a bold new direction. Most notably, it’s the first Christopher Ward dive watch to ever be offered with an exhibition case back. The C60 Trident Apex is a serious and highly capable dive watch, yes, but it’s also a piece of art designed for the wrist, with a highly-detailed iteration of SH21 visible both front and back.

Naturally, creating it was a highly challenging project – but the Christopher Ward team didn’t have to tackle it alone.

As luck would have it, one of the world’s leading modern proponents of the skeletonised watch happens to be a near neighbour of the CW Atelier, based just around the corner in Biel, Switzerland. Mr Armin Strom began an illustrious watch-making career in his native town of Burgdorf in 1967, and over the years became well-known for his hand-skeletonised pieces, often created for much larger brands. For a little over a decade, however, his eponymous company has been in the safe hands of family friend and watch collector Serge Michel, working alongside his own childhood friend, watchmaker Claude Greisler. Claude, too, had known Mr Armin Strom since childhood.

Serge Michel and Claude Greisler from Armin Strom

Christopher Ward’s head of atelier in Biel, Jorg Bader Sr, is another who’s known Mr Armin Strom for many years. “It’s been over 25 probably,” he says, “and once Serge and Claude had joined him to energise the company, and with their new factory only a few hundred metres from ours, it was kind of obvious to keep in touch and follow the wonderful evolution they’ve enjoyed.”

Jorg Bader

In its modern incarnation, Armin Strom remains small, independent, ambitious – and dedicated to the appeal of the skeletonised watch. In fact, it doesn’t make anything else. When Serge and Claude took control in 2008, they quickly moved into new premises in Biel, and had soon installed their own machines, developed their first in-house caliber – the ARM 09 – and launched their first complete collection. Today this remarkable boutique manufacture creates highly ambitious pieces in four different collections – Single Barrel, Double Barrel, Resonance and Masterpiece – at price points far beyond any Christopher Ward. (Most models are ten times the price of the most expensive CW, and some are well into six figures.) The occasional model even has its case made of sapphire crystal, which is both incredibly difficult to achieve and gives an almost disconcerting ‘see everything’ effect, reminiscent of the shock factor you get at first glimpsing some transparent frog or deep-sea fish.

Along the way, Armin Strom has become a true manufacture, capable of making 97% of the components it needs for each watch in-house, and so the perfect partner for CW in creating the Apex line.

“I’ve always felt that the movement is the most important part of any watch,” says Claude Greisler, “and following the Armin Strom tradition allows us to present it as the strongest element on the wrist. But there’s a big difference between old and new skeleton watches. The old-style skeleton watches were based on existing, conventional movements, which were then open worked by a master watchmaker. Modern skeleton watches, however, are developed from the start specifically to be skeletonised. The open worked design is an intrinsic part of what they are.”

Armin Strom’s own watches don’t actually have dials in the conventional sense at all, only small sub-registers and dial rings – an approach that gives the wearer an unobstructed view right through the middle of the watch – but with the Apex watches Christopher Ward walks a different path. The new C60 Apex is a case in point: there is a dial, but we’re encouraged to peep right through it at various points, particularly on the left hand side around the power reserve register at 9 o’clock, where orange anodised Armin Strom bridgework is revealed. This open-worked dial gives a real feeling of depth, accentuated by the bold yet detailed design work – from the beautifully worked hands to the prominent polished screws – that together speak of an exceptionally high quality product.

Christopher Ward C60 Apex caseback

A contrasting orange-and-blue colour scheme has recently become a Trident trademark and it’s used particularly powerfully here, as well as through the display back, where the skeletonised rotor – made of tungsten and aluminium – also has a bold orange finish. “On the Apex models we’ve been producing various movement and dial parts,” Claude says. “Christopher Ward watches are of a very high standard for their price range, and we know that it’s a huge challenge to become a leader in the industry at any price point. We only work with independent watch brands like this, which exhibit a clear vision.”

The Christopher Ward team has certainly been thrilled by Claude and his team’s contribution. “The orange Armin Strom pieces give the watch a special feeling, and make it immediately obvious that the back of the watch really belongs to the front, and vice versa,” says Christopher Ward’s head of product design Adrian Buchmann. “Everything seems to almost blend together.”

“It also brings to Christopher Ward a flavour of the high horology that Armin Strom specialises in,” says co-founder Mike France, “but at a much more accessible Christopher Ward price point.”

To discover more about the C60 Apex Limited Edition, click here.