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Christopher Ward Malvern 595 Review: An Ultra-Thin Watch at an Ultra-Low Price

Christopher Ward is a name that, amongst watch enthusiasts, might garner either disregarding sneers by those apprehensive to boutique brands or respectful nods of approval from those who perceive it as an exceptionally good value. Taste in watches is, ultimately, a very subjective thing, but it’s hard to argue that the brand doesn’t offer a lot of watch for not a ton of money. In fact, the brand was something of a pioneer of the value-driven online watch movement back in 2004 when it became one of the first brands to sell its timepieces directly to consumers on an online platform.

In recent years, the brand’s prices have crept up, but the products have become more ambitious. For example, in 2014, Christopher Ward debuted an in-house developed movement with a five-day power reserve and chronometer certification, which you can pick up for under $2,000. The brand’s latest timepiece — the C5 Malvern 595 — is not as mechanically ambitious, but in many ways, it still is an impressive feat of watchmaking. Coming in at just 5.95mm (hence the name) and rocking a hand-winding movement, it is one of the thinnest (if not the thinnest) mechanical watches you can buy under $1,000. Given that watchmakers have something of a fixation on making super-thin watches at the moment, it makes it certainly worthy of consideration, no matter how you feel about the brand.

The Good: If you have been bitten by the ultra-thin bug but can’t swing the expense that usually comes with one, the Malvern 595 is a sound compromise. The case feels impossibly sleek and sits so flat it might as well disappear into your wrist. The watch also has a minimal and vaguely industrial design that works with the sleek case design; it feels crafted in the same vein as neo-Bauhaus watches from other microbrands like Union Wares which makes the ultra-thin appeal feel a lot less fuddy-duddy than the old-guard Swiss watchmakers make it seem.

Who It’s For: Anyone looking at accessibly-priced mechanical dress watches should consider looking in the 595’s direction, especially if thinness is a prioritized attribute. It’s an astoundingly sleek timepiece with proportions that are only matched by far more expensive watches.

Watch Out For: It can feel trite to complain about modern watches being too large, but this is really the Malvern 595’s biggest issue. At 39mm in diameter it doesn’t sound like it’s particularly big, but this is a dress watch with a very narrow bezel we’re talking about; this makes the dial feel gigantic. Which would be less of a problem if the dial weren’t so austere. Minimalist dials can be deceptively tricky to master, but by keeping them physically small, you avoid leaving in too much negative space. A drop in diameter would certainly make it feel less sterile.

Alternatives: You’d be hard-pressed to find a watch as thin as the Malvern 595 in its price range, but a couple watches come close. The Junghans Meister Handaufzug — which uses the same ETA 7001 base movement — is 7.3mm thick, but at $1,290 it costs nearly twice as much as the Christopher Ward. If you favor an automatic, Hamilton’s newly revised Jazzmaster Thinline comes in at 8.45mm thick, fairly scant for an auto using a stock ETA movement, and at $995 is closer to the Malvern in price.

Review: If you’ve been paying attention to what brands have been releasing at Baselworld and SIHH, you’d know that for the past couple years many high-end brands have been fixated on slinming watches, trying to one-up their competitors by fractions of a millimeter. Look at Bulgari’s Octo Finnisimo Tourbillon Automatic, a 3.95mm automatic tourbillon, or Piaget’s 2mm-thick watch concept. But these are far out of the grasp of the everyday watch buyer.

But Christopher Ward’s Malvern 595 exists well outside this mainstream realm of high-end one-upmanship, quietly debuting online in February of this year. Even casting the matter of price aside, its 5.95mm profile is still astoundingly thin, but significantly more wearable than Piaget’s razor-thin concept or Bulgari’s six-figure tourbillon. Its more straightforward design also has more mass appeal and wearability than a super-thin watch showcasing a dial crammed with gears.

The 595’s modern, minimalist aesthetic suits the svelte case incredibly well. The bezel is slim and simple, with a small bevel on the outer-edge the only flourish. The dial is also free of any unnecessary complications
— there’s no date, no minute markers, no lume. The dial finish itself is interesting: it’s sandblasted, and its look varies depending on the light. Indoors, in low light situations it has a matte, almost paper-like look; in direct sunlight, it shimmers in a way that almost looks like television static. The thin, long hour markers and needle-like hands further fit with the slim motif and minimalist look, and while the dial is just a bit too expansive, the overall design of the Christopher Ward is both handsome and original.

Powering the watch is an ETA/Peseux 7001, a hand-winding movement just over 2mm thick that’s popped up in a number of dress watches (in various guises) since it debuted in the early 1970s. Its an incredibly simple movement, which you can clearly see through the Malvern’s case back, making it a reliable watch and an easy one to service, given its ubiquity, making it a relatively easy watch to own and service in the long-term.

Verdict: Like many of Christopher Ward’s other watches, the Malvern 595 feels like an incredible value for money, especially when you look towards similar watches that run the same movement but can’t match them it regarding price or thickness. But there’s a lot more than its scant proportions to make it stand out; those who’ve grown tired of the vintage-inspired movement in watches will probably appreciate the watch’s modern aesthetic. And while the 39mm diameter might be a sticking point for some, there will be plenty of buyers out there who will appreciate the larger size.

Key Specs

Movement: ETA/Peseux 7001
Winding: Manual
Case diameter: 39mm
Case height: 5.95mm
Water resistance: 30m

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Is Audioengine’s A5+ Wireless the Best Bookshelf Speaker Under $500?

For years, Audioengine’s A5+ powered speakers have been regarded as some of the best desktop and bookshelf speakers you can buy. Audioengine designs and manufactures everything in the speaker from the ground up — it’s a bonafide audiophile-grade speaker. Recently, in 2018, Audioengine released the A5+ Wireless speakers, which are essentially identical to the Audioengine A5+ speakers, just with built-in Bluetooth so you can stream music. No need to wire the speakers up to a computer, CD player or turntable to play music, although you still can.

The Good: The A5+ Wireless speakers produce the same excellent sound quality of the A5+, but with built-in Bluetooth receiver and 24-bit DAC, it’s extremely easy to stream Spotify or Tidal from your smartphone. The speakers support high-res streaming: Bluetooth aptX, SBC and AAC. The speakers have numerous inputs and connectivity options, so if you don’t want to stream music you can connect the stereo pair to a turntable, stereo receiver or desktop. Audioengine offers a 30-day “audition period,” allowing you to get a free refund if you don’t like them (but you will).

Who They’re For: Anybody looking for versatile high-quality bookshelf speakers that aren’t super expensive. If streaming is your thing, it’s as simple as flicking a switch on the speakers and connecting via your smartphone’s or computer’s Bluetooth settings — it’s that simple. It’s easy enough to connect them to other stereo components, too. Also, they can be paired with a subwoofer.

Watch Out For: Sometimes the volume of the speakers and your smartphone speakers gets a bit mixed up; if the volume of the smartphone is really low, can be basically impossible to turn the volume up straight from the speaker. Also, the “knob feel” of the volume knob on the right speaker isn’t the best we’ve felt. It’s not a multiroom speaker and there’s built-in virtual assistant.

Alternatives: If you don’t plan on streaming music, you can pick up Audioengine’s several-year-old A5+ powered speakers and get the same audio quality for $100 less on Amazon.

Review: The A5+ Wireless speakers are nearly indistinguishable from the A5+ powered speakers you fell in love with years ago. Aesthetically, the only real change, aside from the Bluetooth antennae, is that the tweeter of each speaker is now centralized, instead of skewed to one side like on the A5+. But they produce fantastic stereo sound and more versatile than ever. However you choose to listen to them, frankly, they’re going to sound fantastic.

I spent the majority of my time with the A5+ Wireless streaming music (Spotify) to them, as that’s really what’s new and neat about these speakers. As good as they are, there are some things to consider before buying the A5+ Wireless speakers. They’re near-field speakers, so for optimal listening, you want to position the speakers so that they are both slightly angled towards you, not straight on.

The A5+ Wireless speakers handle midrange and highs very well, which is especially noticeable on tracks like Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” and even the bass stands up on tracks like Kendrick Lamar’s “All The Stars.” Although, if you want to add a subwoofer to the stereo pair, that’s easy enough. In truth, these speakers handle the gamut of songs really well, especially in a near-field setup, and they do sound really good at high volumes. So crank it.

Verdict: At the $500 range, the A5+ Wireless are really the cream of the crop when it comes to wireless bookshelf speakers. It’s easy to stream hi-res audio from your smartphone, tablet or computer, or you can connect them to any of your existing hi-fi components. They’re versatile, sound good with or without a subwoofer, and would look good in any living room or office.

What Others Are Saying:

• “While the Bluetooth connectivity is a great feature, it doesn’t sound as good as the wired connection. This is no surprise, as we’ve never heard a wireless connection that sounds better than wired. Overall, though, it sounds very good for Bluetooth and in many cases, such as parties, the convenience factor is really what you’re looking for. When you’re ready to sit down with some friends for a critical listening session, the A5+ Wireless excels there too.” — Staff, Audio Advice

• “The Audioengine A5+ Wireless bring vibrant and lifelike sound to small and medium-sized rooms, adding the convenience of a wireless connection while maintaining the same outstanding audio performance we’ve loved for over a decade.” — Parker Hall, Digital Trends

• “Audioengine’s A5+ Wireless system delivers a high-quality Bluetooth stream in a bookshelf-style form factor that offers stereo separation and avoids dynamics-crushing DSP. Some listeners might want to beef up the audio with a subwoofer, but the system sounds great without it.” — Tim Gideon, PCMAG

Key Specs

Type: 2.0 powered (active) bookshelf-style speaker system
Output: 150-watt peak power total
Input: 3.5mm stereo mini-jack, RCA
Drivers: five-inch Kevlar woofers, 3/4-inch silk dome tweeters
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0; supports aptX, AAC and SBC

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First Impressions: We Drive the All-New Mercedes-Benz G 550 and AMG G 63

We drove the new Mercedes G550 and AMG G 63 in southern France this week. It’s the first new version since the rugged machine launched in 1979. It’s had updates, of course, but this is the first time they really started over with it. Our full review will post next week, but here’s a quick taste to whet your appetite. – Eric Adams

Who It’s For: Depends on which model we’re talking about. If it’s the G 550, you’re into sunrises, long runs on the beach, and hard-core off-roading. If it’s the AMG G 63, you’ve never actually seen a sunrise, you go to the beach mostly to burn off a hangover, and you enjoy blasting past lesser machines on the highway at triple-digit speeds while towering three feet above everyone else.

Updates: Well it’s been 40 years so pretty much everything is updated. But the highlights are a new front axle design that improves stability both on-road and off, all the safety and driver-assist features the G-Class never had, and the barest hint of aerodynamic tuning to minimize the ever-present wind noise as much as possible without compromising the car’s signature look.

Verdict: Two thumbs up if you’re in the G550; two middle-fingers up if you’re rocking the AMG.

Key Specs
Engine: 4.0-liter twin-turbochanged V8
Transmission: nine-speed automatic; front, center and rear locking differentials
Horsepower: 416; 577 horsepower
Torque: 450; 627 lb-ft
Price: TBA
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