When you think of Swedish watches, minimalism might be the first trait that comes to mind. From Triwa’s sleek shapes and subtle details to TID Watches’ simple faces and pared-back interchangeable straps, many of the leading brands have made their names by turning to the most recognisable of Scandinavian styles: minimalist elegance. But take another look and a wealth of watchmakers will prove that there’s more to Swedish style than this one aesthetic.
Sjöö Sandström is the brand for anyone looking for luxury with a touch of the classic. The team is inspired by Swedish design, while the advanced mechanisms and traditional-with-an-edge aesthetic are reminiscent of high-end Swiss creations. The Sjöö Sandström range encompasses everything you would expect from a reliable and traditional watch company, but with a Swedish edge. Look out for the Landsort 459m, which is built to sustain the pressure experienced at 459 metres, the depth of the deepest ravine in the Baltic Sea.
The exemplary quality and technological advancement of these timepieces is hardly surprising given the rich, though often overlooked, ‘heritage of skilled Swedish watchmaking,’ according to Sjöö Sandström’s CEO, Felix Formark. The industry is thriving, and Sjöö Sandström makes the most of Swedish craftspeople who hand-make each timepiece in its headquarters in the Södermalm area of Stockholm. Sjöö Sandström’s watches, with their excellent quality, are created for an educated client. ‘If you choose a Sjöö Sandström watch, you are making a very conscious choice and your knowledge about watches is high at a high level,’ explains Formark.
Founded in 1986, Sjöö Sandström is a relatively young brand – another of the nation’s most luxurious horologists, Halda, was set up nearly a century earlier. The company was founded in 1887 but it ceased trading for a few years during which time its factory was transformed into a watch museum. Inspired by a visit in the 1980s Mikael Sandström decided to pursue a career in the industry. ‘I was determined to get my hands on one of these beautiful early timepieces, and to try and revive the Halda brand,’ he remembers.
Sandström went on to run a number of watch companies, including Sjöö Sandström; 20 years later in 2006 he was able to take over Halda and has spent the last decade rebuilding the brand. A quote from the company’s founder gave him the impetus to go forward: ‘If you are determined to become the best, you can never compromise. Ever.’
Staying true to this ethos, Sandström has developed Halda, which is 100% Swedish owned, with a core philosophy of ‘innovative luxury’. Only 300 Halda watches are produced each year, not only to protect exclusivity but also because they are complex creations; each watch is designed and assembled just outside of Stockholm, with many parts sourced and produced locally. Key models feature removable faces or ‘modules’, so that the watch can be worn for a variety of occasions. Halda’s watches are technologically advanced: its Space Discovery watch has been tested by astronauts and its Race Pilot is the ‘first real watch ever made for racing.’
A partnership between bladesmith and steelmaker Johan Gustafsson and watchmaker Patrik Sjögren led to another innovative company, GoS. The men met in 2007 and were united by the desire to use artistic practices in watchmaking. Patterned Damascus steel is used, resulting in intricately detailed watches with striking faces, characterised by swirling engravings in rich blues or deep ochres.
Gustafsson and Sjögren are inspired by the country’s rich natural landscapes, traditional handicrafts and its Viking heritage. Sjögren describes GoS as an ‘exclusive niche brand’, and its luxurious creations will certainly appeal to anyone looking for a different take on traditional watchmaking. The men are committed to excellence and each timepiece is almost entirely handmade and hand-finished by the founders.
The technology is also exemplary at GoS. The Winter Nights range, inspired by an ancient festival of the same name, features a top-of-the-range movement, the result of a collaboration with German master watchmaker Martin Braun. Exclusivity too is paramount, explains Sjögren. ‘Every detail in the Damascus steel has its own unique pattern, like a fingerprint. It is not possible to create two identical GoS watches, so every watch is unique. In addition to that, our models are limited to a few pieces.’
These are three very different brands, and yet each is intrinsically Swedish. ‘All the successful Swedish brands are innovative and of high quality, and top design is in harmony with supreme functionality,’ says Sandström. The processes and the end products may vary, but at the heart of these three brands is the same goal: to make beautiful, luxurious timepieces with a distinctly Swedish appeal.