Danish design may soon have a moment in the watch industry. And it’s not just that Copenhagen architect Bjarke Ingels designed the new Audemars Piguet museum, which is slated to open in June.
Watch companies in Denmark typically focus on buyers who appreciate sleek but low-cost design, an approach that is likely to appeal as the global economy struggles to recover from the crisis. coronavirus crisis.
“If someone is really interested in this clean Scandinavian look, they might be drawn to it,” said Reginald Brack, watch and luxury industry analyst and executive director of the NPD Group. He also noted that many Danish watches were considered what the industry calls fashion watches, with prices below $ 500 as they run on quartz batteries rather than the more expensive mechanical movements used by Swiss brands. well known.
But in Denmark, with a population now valued at over 5.8 million people have never been particularly interested in luxury watch brands. In 2018, a resident average income before taxes was 326,048 Danish Kroner ($ 47,749), which makes it difficult to spend on a Rolex or Cartier Tank.
Likewise, many countries around 25 watch companies are small companies whose founders were watch fans, but without training. Jeppe Larsen and Magnus Eriksen, co-founders of watch brand Larsen & Eriksen, shared a great passion for design and watches, but “we had no idea how to design or produce a watch,” said Mr. Eriksen. (Before the coronavirus lockdowns, their watches were sold in 20 countries, including fashion chain Beams in Japan and the Tate Modern museum in London.)
Here are three companies that have incorporated Danish design into their own identity.
In 2011, Jacob Juul used the savings of an export business he previously owned to start his unisex watch company, Bulbul. He named it for a noisy songbird with a distinctive unicorn horn-shaped tuft because, Mr Juul said on a recent phone call from his office in a 19th-century building in central Copenhagen, he wanted “something unusual but easy to pronounce and easy to pronounce.” to spell.”
Mr Juul, 44, had no design training, so from a list of 10 favorites he decided to collaborate with Danish design group KiBiSi to create Bulbul’s first watch. It was named Pebble because its silhouette (something of a square but, at 40 millimeters by 37 millimeters, wider at the top than at the bottom) was inspired by pebbles found on Scandinavian beaches.
And it took two years to run it because the asymmetrical shape required bespoke components – “the suppliers want to push you in the direction of making a round watch,” Mr Juul said.
The crown of the watch is between 1 and 2 o’clock – for balance and winding comfort, said Lars Larsen, a KiBiSi partner who still works with Mr Juul. And the leather straps have a bright blue synthetic silicone buckle, featuring the brand logo, which secures the free end of the strap.
This blue buckle became the hallmark of the company’s first four collections, all featuring Swiss Ronda quartz movements, and was on the strap the latest model, Topo, introduced in April 2019. It is the only offering with a Miyota quartz movement, made in Japan.
The watches, mostly sold on the company’s website, range from $ 179 to $ 499 ($ 195 to $ 542). Orders are taken during containment and delivered by FedEx.
Mr. Juul’s plans for the future: to move all assembly, now done in China and Germany, to Denmark, “making it easier for us to know what’s going on in the supply chain,” he said. he declared.
Larsen & Eriksen
It took Mr. Larsen and Mr. Eriksen two years to develop their eponymous watch brand, from learning how to design a watch to selecting three production plants in China in order, as Eriksen said, “to control the risks in the event of a fire.”
The plan when vintage watch collectors started the company in 2015 was to “make something different” and “more reasonably priced” than the average $ 300 fashion watch, said Eriksen, 32. , in a telephone interview from a studio in the Frederiksberg District of Copenhagen, where he and Mr. Larsen, 33, work with four employees.
An example of a different one could be the Numbers collection, three models created in 2019 with Danish-born graphic designer Mads Jakob Poulsen of Poulsen Projects in New York. Its model number 1, for example, explained the number of each hour marker on the 37-millimeter watch face. (The limited editions, each with 123 pieces, sold out in three months on the company’s website, Mr Eriksen wrote in a subsequent email. Each watch cost 1,350 crowns.)
Inspiration from the Danish capital permeates the company’s four unisex collections, all powered by Ronda Quartz movements made in Switzerland.
The first collection, introduced in 2016, was called Absalon after the 12th-century archbishop who is considered the city’s founding father, Eriksen said. The linear design of the dial, which resembles a sliced pie, echoes the repetitive geometry of the city’s architecture, he said, and the back of the case has a silhouette of its skyline.
While the men used their savings and the support of family and friends to start the business, their sales now fund the business, Eriksen said. And plans for this fall, which have not been curtailed by the Covid-19 closures, are to add new models to the Numbers collection, he said.
The Green Hunters
The focus on sustainability is what enables the founders of the watch brand Nordgreen “To set us apart,” said Vasilij Brandt, who together with Pascar Sivam founded the company in 2017.
The men, both now 29, have created a business name combining their presence in Northern Europe (North) with a reference to their eco-aspirations (green), also reflected in the stylized leaf logo that appears. on the dials, crowns and case backs. that they source from China.
The brand uses Miyota quartz movements from Japan in all of its collections and offers vegan and nylon bracelets. Sales are handled through the company’s website (which states that neither orders nor shipping are affected by Covid-19) as well as retailers.
The company opened with funding from a private investor and Blazar Capital, a venture capital firm based in Sunnyvale, California, and Copenhagen, where Mr. Sivam and Mr. Brandt are still partners. Most recently, he has raised funds on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. And his current ownership includes Jakob Wagner, the brand’s design collaborator, best known for his work with Bang & Olufsen and Alessi.
The four men’s and three women’s collections designed by Mr. Wagner include the minimalist $ 199 Infinity model, in 40 millimeters or 32 millimeters, with a white dial, a choice of three case metals and interchangeable straps. “I didn’t want to do the obvious things,” he said.
Mr Wagner said working on watches was more difficult than he expected because “a watch is a confined space so you are limited in what you can do and so much is already given like movement inside”.
The company has ambitions for the future, Sivam said. He referred to his work with the mechanical engineering department at the Technical University of Denmark to create a watch by fall or early 2021 that he said will be “as durable as possible. “.