May 20, 2019
by Rob Nudds
When it comes to independent watchmakers, you’ve got two types of brands. On the one hand, there’s a group of “me too” brands that have studied the industry extensively and believe they can do the same thing, but better. And by better, I mean better in any aspect, from design and mechanics to a simple value proposition. Then, you’ve got the people who have dismissed the beaten track as boring and left it behind in favor of a cliff face. Gustafsson & Sjögren, or GoS as the brand is often styled, is one such brand. One artisan, one horologist, and one big idea are responsible for this beguiling feat of alchemy that has resulted in a range of stylistically distinct watches that are unlikely to sit on anyone’s fence. Released in 2016 and named after a national park in the brand’s native Sweden, the Sarek model is a popular mainstay in the GoS collection. This latest edition, for women, sees something pretty damn cool pop up on the dial. The Gustafsson & Sjögren Sarek Glacier and Sarek Sunset watches both feature luminous mother-of-pearl dials. Yeah, really.
The imagery these frankly bizarre dials are attempting to recall is clear. The Northern Lights are world famous and one of the Nordic lands’ most famed attractions, but just as nuanced and beautiful are the autumn sunsets. Here, GoS pays homage to both. If you’ve recovered from the understandable shock of luminous mother-of-pearl, allow me to explain how this effect has been achieved. Quite simply, the slither of mother-of-pearl is thin enough to allow light to pass through it and be picked up by a layer of solid luminant set behind the dial. While this makes perfect sense, the resulting light show does seem remarkably vivid. Of course, the attraction in these dials is the natural variations of the MoP material, but the skill in getting this concept must come down to its correct sourcing. I can barely imagine how many dials fail to make the grade.
Gustafsson & Sjögren watches normally come on an elk-leather strap, but the brand is now offering alternatives. While the exact nature of the alternatives isn’t specified, it sounds as if GoS is happy to work with the customer to find a strap that matches the watch and the customer’s taste. As observed by the brand itself, these Sarek watches look a little more at home on a tapered, dressier, and even glossier strap than the normal GoS output would. The strap is fastened by a Swiss-made deployant.
The presentation “box” is a wor of art in itself. A Swedish crystal dome manufactured by Vas Vitreum, a family-owned company run by the fourth and fifth generations of glassworkers. It is designed to provide both protection and display, but it looks far better suited to the latter. In fact, something about these watches would encourage me to display them on the shelf more often than the wrist. The chapter ring styling is, for example, inspired by the design of a traditional viking brooch, but ancient design cues pop up all over the piece, giving it the appearance of a precious, and somehow anachronistic, artifact.
While caseback shots are limited, it’s clear to see that the rotor, which features a German silver counterweight, is a treat. What’s particularly nice about pairing the Soprod A10 movement (which is effectively an ETA 2892 clone based on the Seiko 4L, but a pretty good quality one) with this case is how well the movement fills the available interior space.
The Gustafsson & Sjögren Sarek Glacier and Sarek Sunset watches measure just 31.5mm across (40mm lug-to-lug), and just 9mm-thick. The Soprod A10 is 25.6mm-wide, leaving less than 3mm for the case walls. The resulting 50 meters of water resistence is, therefore, pretty decent, but since these are clearly not watches to be used during activity, the emphasis on visuals should be applauded.
I’ve never found Gustafsson & Sjögren’s products something I would wear myself, as they are incredibly colorful and eye-catching for an aestheitc ostentation that jarrs with my grittier, utilitarian tastes, but I have never had anything but respect for the brand’s attempts to do something different. And my honest feeling is that women’s watches of this kind might be their fast lane.
Yes, the movements used aren’t going to win any awards for the brand, but the customization is thoughtful and well executed, while the overall styling remains feminine but in a different way from that of most other brands. Without a diamond in sight, these new Sarek watches present a geunine alternative in women’s timepieces. The bezel is crafted from stainless damascus steel from the masters at Damasteel in Söderfors Sweden before being shaped and finished in the GoS workshop. The result is an individuality and strength to this design that knows its own character and, love it or loathe it, no one can accuse it of piggybacking on the competition’s success. These watches will retail for $8,500 (plus applicable taxes). Although not limited per se, every watch will be engraved with 1/1 thanks to the unique nature of the Mother of Pearl dial and damascus steel bezel. goswatchs.com