It’s well documented that two of the things that have influenced Christopher Ward most in our history are Worcestershire’s Malvern Hills and the early years of motorsport.

So, when we and retro sports car manufacturer Morgan announced our partnership at SalonQP in November, it felt like a natural fit.

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Not only does Morgan make some of the most beautiful sports cars on the planet, but it’s also based in the town of Malvern.

Last week we took another fine example of British engineering, Olympic gold medal rower (and CW Challenger), Will Satch, to Malvern for a tour of Morgan HQ, courtesy of Morgan tour guide and ex-engineer Martyn Webb.

Morgan opened its first work hall – called Row 1 – in December 1913 (the company was founded in 1909). Since then the works have expanded, but the factory remains an unassuming sight: its cars, however, are anything but.

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From its beginnings, Morgan has produced a series of stunning sports vehicles, but is best known for the 3 Wheeler, a beautifully shaped car that more than lives up to its iconic status.

As we’re led along the red line that guides visitors through the factory, there’s a huge range of car-making trades on show. Unlike modern car manufacturers, Morgan is a traditional coachbuilder, producing vehicles the old way with individuals working on specific parts of the production line.

“I love the history of the place,” says Will. “It’s like childhood dream. I signed a thing for one guy who’s been there 40 years. He learned the trade off his dad. I love that.”

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Every Morgan begins life as a metal chassis. A wooden frame is then built around the chassis: ash wood – sourced from in the UK – is used because it offers more flexibility than steel. In another nod to tradition, the company has been using the same ‘jigs’ to clamp the timber together since the 1930s.

The factory is a hive of activity. Cars are moved around on ‘slave wheels’ (old tyres) and pushed round to each stage of production: new tyres are so expensive they’re not fitted until the car is ready.

The highlight of the trip, certainly for Will, is a quick spin in a Morgan Plus 4. Though the roof stays down to accommodate his impressive height.

“There’s a real point-and-shoot feel to driving it,” he says. “The power’s in the rear wheels. It feels raw but you’re in control –  it’s old-school motoring. And the sound’s incredible, too. Now I just need them to lend me one for a while!”

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The Morgan factory doesn’t set the world alight with flashy roadside displays and a fancy showroom. But its modest exterior hides a workforce dedicated to producing sports cars of unbeatable quality. We’re proud of our association with it.

Find out more about our partnership with the Morgan Motor Company.

Corporal James Smith is an airframes and engines technician in the Royal Air Force, who travels all around Britain and beyond “assessing and repairing damage to all UK fixed wing assets” (that’s ‘planes’ to the rest of us).

He’s also the proud owner of a C7 Joint Force Harrier, a watch especially commissioned by James for those who’d worked on, and flown, the Harrier II jump jet.

Here we talk to James about his bespoke Christopher Ward watch, why he can’t stop wearing it and how it’s brought a lot of comrades back together again.

Hi James! What do you do on an average day? (We’re aware there might not be an average day)
Currently we’re based out of RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire but it’s rare we’re actually there. All of the work involves travelling to where damaged aircraft are (mostly in the UK but sometimes overseas). Our aim is to return the airframe to airworthiness and to original design specifications under tight deadlines. I was previously with the Red Arrows and the UK Harrier Force as a part of 1(F) Squadron.

You’re not a pilot – but is a watch still useful?
Yes, having flown as an engineer, an accurate and robust timepiece is essential. Not just for navigating but to carry out inflight checks and timings of equipment and procedures.

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Why did you decide to get a bespoke watch made?
Every March, a large contingent of ex-Harrier ground- and air crew meet in Stamford near the home of the Harrier, RAF Wittering. During the fifth anniversary of the plane’s disbandment, a few of us discussed getting a watch made to commemorate this amazing aircraft and the time we served on it: something that could be worn every day, and worn with pride.

How did the process begin?
I initially contacted Richard Dalziel at Christopher Ward as I knew there’d been a watch made to commemorate the Harriers previously. When we spoke about how many people were interested he said we should get a new design made. After sharing the idea on the Harrier Facebook group I found over 50 people wanted one. From there we were good to go.

What model did you choose?
I’ve always liked Christopher Ward watches. I love the story behind the company and the designs are exceptional. I’ve got a C4 Battle of Britain Memorial Flight from my time working with the squadron, but from the start of this project I wanted to go with the C11 as it’s almost identical to an aircraft gauge in the Harrier’s cockpit. Sadly, they’d just gone out of production.

So what did you do?
The cost had to be reasonable, so we went with the C7 Mk II, but moved the subdial from 9 o’clock to 12. That gave us space for the dial design. We looked at individual squadron crests and RAF markings, but in the end decided the less cluttered the better. I was also aware that having designs for different squadrons would be problematic so decided on a simple line drawing of a Harrier GR7/9 in plan view.

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The dial’s grey rather than the usual black…
It is, and I’m really pleased with it. For a long time it was going to be all-black – same as the standard C7s – but then we decided to make it ‘Harrier grey’, keeping the subdials black. When the designs came back I was over the moon: it was classy and subdued.

What was the reaction like?
The feedback I got when I posted the final design on the Facebook page was great. A few people must have been on the fence initially as it wasn’t until the pictures were posted that interest really went up. It was great to not just hear back how much people liked the watch but to make contact with those I hadn’t heard from in years. My friends have now started to receive the watches and been posting pictures up. We initially planned a limited run of 100 but due to the orders coming in now we’ve decided to up it to 150. I don’t want people to miss out!

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How does the watch feel to wear?
I did plan to keep mine in a drawer locked away – sacrilege, I know! However when I saw it in the metal, I couldn’t do it and now wear it every day. I have a few watches but this is my favourite: it’s practical for work but classy enough to wear out in the evening – and it always draws attention wherever I go. I’m amazed by the build quality and robustness of the watch: there’s not a single mark on the glass or case. It seems to be bulletproof – touchwood!

If you’d like to find out more about getting a bespoke Christopher Ward watch, get in touch with richard.dalziel@christopherward.co.uk, or call him direct on +44 (0)7771 838720. You can read more about the bespoke process here