The seismically active country of Iceland is barely one and a half times the size of the city of Geneva in terms of population, yet the island on the fringes of the Arctic circle proudly harbours its own watchmaking brand. JS Watch Co. is just one of around 30 different watch brands dotted around Scandinavia, covering a variety of segments from design to tradition and right up to fine mechanical watchmaking.
After the financial crisis in 2009, the Scandinavian countries all returned to growth last year and are forecast to continue growing above the average of the depressed euro zone through 2013 and into 2014. So the prognosis for the region’s economy is good, even if this region does not necessarily represent the main catchment area for the watch brands’ customers.
JS Watch Co., based in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, combines fine Swiss mechanical movements with designs that incorporate elements of national identity (such as volcanic ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption in 2010 that brought chaos to air travel across Europe) and the country’s heritage in the form of Viking engravings on the case of the Frisland “God” model. All JS Watch Co.’s models are assembled and checked at the company’s premises in Reykyavik.
The company produces around 500 watches per year and plans to expand gradually, focussing on the quality of its products and the personalised service that it offers to its customers. Movement supply to the remote island is not a problem, according to Grímkell P. Sigurþórsson, Co-Owner, “We use highest grade ETA movements for all our watches at the moment and we have had a very good relationship with ETA for the past years. We have also established a good relationship with Soprod and in 2013 we will be introducing the Soprod A10-2 in some of our models.”
Michelsen Watchmakers are also based in the Icelandic capital. The family business has been passed down through generations of watchmakers and is currently in the hands of master watchmaker Frank U. Michelsen. To celebrate its centenary in 2009, the company launched its first watch collection for over 70 years, the Reykjavik 1909. The third and latest model in the company’s own collection is the Arctic Explorer, the first watch that the company has designed in-house.
A Viking sword from the 10th century is one of the inspirations behind the Gustafsson & Sjögren (GoS) watch collection. The company, based in Linköping, Sweden—south-west of Stockholm—is a collaboration between bladesmith Johan Gustafsson and watchmaker Patrick Sjögren. The watches with Damascus steel cases have so far been equipped with the Unitas 6498 movement, modified to chronometer standard by Soprod. But Patrick Sjögren will present the new Winter Nights collection in Basel complete with the small company’s own new manufacture calibre developed with Martin Braun, which will have bridges in hand-forged Damascus steel and wheels polished to Geneva Hallmark standards. This strictly limited edition of 10 numbered pieces will be distributed via the PuristsPro web forum and, priced at USD 19,000, will be no more expensive than the previous versions, despite the high-quality new movement.
In the town of Haugesund on Norway’s North Sea coastline, the country’s only watch brand, Bruvik Time is combining its own interpretation of Scandinavian design with Swiss watchmaking know-how. The company produces around 1,000 Swiss Made watches per year, using Ronda quartz movements and ETA or Sellita mechanical movements, which are destined mainly for the Scandinavian market. The brand’s latest collection is infused with tangible elements of Norway, in the form of “pure Norwegian water” from the Langfoss waterfall (possibly a first in a watch that is water-resistant to 200 metres), which is bottled at 612 metres above fjord level, and “Olympic rock”. Company founder and designer Rune Bruvik explains the latter, “Before the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, a new ski arena was built. During the construction, a quite rare rock called sparagmite was extracted from the ground and later used in the Olympic medals. The company that extracted the stone had some left over, which we bought and incorporated into the design of the watch to be presented at BaselWorld this year in our new Elements collection.”
When watches come in from the cold
Source: Europa Star April - May 2013 magazine issue