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Christopher Ward C8 Pilot MK2 wrist watch

Navigation is of crucial importance when you’re out in the wilds, but what do you do if your GPS packs in or runs out of batteries? Once option is to use a good old fashioned compass – but I prefer to use an analoge wrist watch. There’s just something oh so steampunk about navigating with a wristwatch plus you’ll be able to shave off another 30-40 grammes off your total carrying weight if you don’t have to take a compass with you. I know this sounds extreme but as I’ve constantly re-discovered for myself, shaving a few grammes here and there has led me to reduce my packweight down to below 7kg. Most people do a long distance hike with two or even three times that amount, so my miserly attitude to weight is paying off.

I’m currently using a Christopher Ward C8 Pilot MK2. This beautiful watch is designed for pilots and I often use it for balloon and glider flights too, but it also excells at al fresco navigation. I’ll explain how you do this below, but first I’ll review the watch.

Christopher Ward has almost single-handedly resurrected the British watch-making industry by producing great clockwork watches at a fraction of the price of their Swiss equivalents. You can buy a Breitling for £2,500 or a Christopher Ward equivalent for a tenth of the price. It will use exactly the same components, look just as good, and keep brilliant time. The only difference is that big brand Swiss watch companies spend a fortune on marketing (which you pay for) and also have eye-watering margins. Prices are also kept low because you can only buy Chris Ward watches over the internet – this single-handedly cuts the price by two thirds.

Whilst a bargain is nice, what are the watches actually like? Well, I love them. The C8 Pilot is an automatic, which means it’s self-winding. It also keep surprisingly good time. It loses about 10 seconds a month – which is astonishingly accurate for an analogue watch. The power-reserve is about 38 hours which means if you don’t wear it for a day of so, it will still keep ticking.

The watch face (or dial) is large – at 44mm (?) – which makes navigation easier (see below). One of the most charming features of the dial is the way that the hands glide effortlessly around – ticking is a thing of the past. It may be a small feature but it adds a certain class to the watch – and something that you can normally only find on very expensive watches. The face is topped with anti-reflective scratch-resistance sapphire crystal. So far it’s lived up to it’s name (but I’d hate to put it to the test). The hands themselves are luminous and delightfully shaped.

Another nice touch is the viewing window on the back of the watch, which allows you take a peek at the internal gubbins of the watch. You can see all of the little wheels and cogs flying around. They’re quite mesmerising to watch.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to watches. Some people, probably most, buy a cheapish one because they want to know the time. A few buy them because they’re beautiful works of art – jewellery, as it were. I fall into the latter category. There is something indefinable, organic, alive, about clockwork. You either think this is complete twaddle, or you don’t.

The only real advantage to a clock work, analogue, watch is the ability to navigate without a compass or GPS. And here’s how it’s done:


Navigating with a wristwatch

Here’s how it’s done:

  • To use this method in the Northern Hemisphere, hold your watch horizontal, so that the hour hand is facing directly at the sun.
  • Find the line directly between the hour hand and the twelve: this is south. If daylight saving time is in use, then you need to take an hour off at the start of the exercise.


If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, hold your watch horizontal and point the 12 at the sun. The line directly between the 12 and the hour hand can be used to provide a North – South line.

Ultralight backpacking along the south west Coast Path (reviews of the best and lightest equipment available)

Gadget Guru

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