The “Rise of the Indies” is an infectiously thrilling romanticization of the rapid growth and skyrocketing success of independent watchmaking. It’s one of the fastest developing segments of the industry, with endless tiers of complexity (and corresponding prices), but one consistency across the board is the flexibility of independent watchmakers to push the envelope, try new things, and experiment in ways that others wouldn’t dare. This fluid space between the most mechanically complex watches and the boundaries of what is possible is exactly where Stepan Sarpaneva’s watches thrive, and the new Sarpaneva Dragonskin Damascus watches have just pushed the boundary a little bit further.

The Finnish watchmaker has an eclectic collection with quirky and intelligently integrated complications, artistic and entertaining applications of lume, and pseudo-futuristic gothic designs that I doubt I will ever tire of. Naturally, Sarpaneva was the right person to reach out to when Justin Mastine-Frost (watch media veteran, watch enthusiast, everyday-carry collector, and Director of Digital Content at SHARP Magazine in Toronto, Ontario) had the wild idea to take one of the most painstaking materials used in high-end knifemaking and put it in a watch. This peculiar material is known as dragonscale Damascus, and its unique formation makes it an incredibly difficult material to work with. Fortunately, high-end Ontario knifemaker Grimsmo Knives was up to the task.

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I won’t get too deep into the weeds surrounding blade steels, Damascus blends, or patterns, but you can be certain the pattern found on this dial is one of the most difficult to make. Award-winning South African knifemaker Bertie Rietveld is the creator of this otherworldly blended steel, and it is only one of his breathtaking handmade creations. Instead of the traditional wavy pattern you might be familiar with, Dragonskin Damascus reveals a repetitious circular, organic, and vibrantly colored pattern after heat treatment and acid etching. This final product, however, is not created with watchmaking in mind and, therefore, needs to be brought down to scale. This is where Mastine-Frost and Ontario-based Grimsmo Knives come into the picture. It can never be as simple as just cutting the material to size, and that is exactly why Angelo Fisher of Grimsmo was the person for the job. It’s also a bonus that the Grimsmo team was already interested in dabbling in the watch world to test its manufacturing capabilities at a new level. So, Mastine-Frost brought these three craftspeople from drastically different regions of the world together for a gnarly “what if” creation.

Due to the complex blend of carbon steels, nickel, and other alloys that make up dragonscale Damascus, it must be heat-treated before any serious manipulation to maintain its structural integrity and flatness, and to introduce color to the carbon steels. Without this thermodynamic hardening process, the materials would slowly blend together at a surface level as it is cut, milled, and machined to size, losing the contrast that gives it the dragonskin name. Grimsmo reports the post-heat-treated hardness to be 59-60 HRC (a measurement using the industry standard Rockwell Hardness Scale). From here, the dials are machined on a five-axis CNC, diamond-lapped at a micron level to ensure even material removal, and then polished and circularly satinized to improve color contrast. This is a slow and repetitious process due to the hardness of the materials. The result is a one-of-a-kind dial from a material debuting for the first time in watchmaking.

While the dial is the star of the show, and the focus of this article, the rest of the watch isn’t anything to scoff at. Based on the Sarpaneva K1, the Finnish Outokumpu stainless steel case has a mix of brushed and finished curves and contours complementing the dial. The case measures 42mm wide, 46mm lug-to-lug, and 10mm thick, has a screw-down signed crown at 4 o’clock, and is water resistant to 10ATM. A correspondingly unique “Moonbridge” bracelet is mounted at the 22mm-wide lugs and tapers to a hidden 18mm butterfly clasp.

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Powering the watch and visible through the sapphire caseback is the modified Chronode P1003 movement. Running at 4Hz, this automatic rhodium-plated movement has 60 hours of power reserve, displays minutes, hours, and seconds, and has a customized Sarpaneva moon face in its skeletonized rotor.

As an everyday-carry enthusiast, glorified watch nerd, almost Canadian (Buffalo, New York is close enough), and previous owner of a Grimsmo Norseman pocket knife, this Sarpaneva Dragonskin Damascus watch checks a lot of boxes when it comes to things, people, and places I like. Watching people from three different continents coming together to make something truly unique just adds to the appeal.

While these watches aren’t for everyone from a design and cost standpoint, they also aren’t readily available. Due to the cost of dragonskin Damascus and its difficulty to work with, they will only be available for custom orders, and even those will be limited. And €21,000 Euros (about $22,500 USD at press time) is no small price tag, but it’snot every day you get three different eras of craftsmanship from around the world blended into one stunning piece of wearable art, let alone one that looks this cool. Learn more and inquire about this watch and others on the Sarpaneva Watches website. Learn more about Grimsmo Knives hereAnd read more about Bertie Rietveld here.


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