Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, “My First Grail Watch.” In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we are speaking with Mikael Sandström, the engineer who is now at the helm of Halda, the company that created his first grail watch – well before he owned the company.aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Mikael Sandström : I am an engineer, and I have had the pleasure to be in the industry for over 25 years, developing watches. Today, I am the owner and CEO of Halda Watch Co. that started back in 1887.
ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?
Mikael Sandström : I have always been fascinated in fine mechanics. This fascination is especially focused on watches, which I find to be the ultimate – and most impressive – example of a small mechanical machine. My passion for watches, in combination with my education as an engineer, set off a desire to create something. I recall having this goal set early, around the time I was 25 years of age.
ABTW: That seems to be how many start, especially among the new brands we see today. What was your first grail watch?
Mikael Sandström : My first grail watch was actually a 18k Halda pocket watch, No. 116. This was was from one of the first series to have left the factory over 128 years ago. This watch ended up having an important impact on my choice of profession.
ABTW: What drew you to this particular watch?
Mikael Sandström : There was more to it than just the watch. I have always been fascinated in the impressive story behind Halda. In the mid-1980’s, when I was a young engineer (and watch enthusiast), I visited the old Halda factory. Interestingly enough, it was the first watch factory in the northern Europe. Of course, when I visited the factory at that time, it had been rebuilt into a museum. Even so, you could almost feel the presence of the employees and production going on.
During this visit, I got to see a very beautiful timepiece – the very first one to ever leave the factory. It was at this moment that I became determined – not only did I want to get my hands on one of these early timepieces, I also wanted to try to revive the Halda brand. Finally, about twenty years after that factory visit (and several attempts), I succeeded in acquiring the worldwide rights for the Halda brand.
ABTW: Quite obviously, both parts of your goal were realized, as you mentioned the specific serial number you obtained. Have you moved on in your “grail quest” to any other watches?
Mikael Sandström: Since then, I have moved on and have two new favorite grail watches that reflect my passion for watches. The two manage to combine fine mechanics with convenient digital functions – the best of two worlds. When I settled on that combination, I did not see a watch on the market that could deliver on this – so I undertook creating my own personal grails.
The result was the Halda Concept (my second grail watch), which is based on functional superiority, befitting a life with the highest demands. Built on the history of fine mechanics but with functions that will be for assistance in your daily life. The first manifestation of the concept was the Space Discovery – a watch developed together with, and used by NASA/ESA astronauts. My third grail is the recently released Race Pilot – the most advanced watch for racing, developed with Formula 1 drivers. As to my fourth grail? Well, that is something that is coming up, but I’ll have to tell you about it another time.