March 3, 2009
by Ariel Adams
This is my first Skagen watch. I felt as though this was necessary to say, because for me, this brand is ubiquitous, but I’ve never owned one. While this sentiment should come as a delight to Skagen’s marketing department, it means that as a watch lover, I consider Skagen to be one of the most well known brands out there. The first day I wore this super thin watch on my hand, I began to see lots of other Skagen watches on people’s wrists. There has got to be a good reason for that. In fact, even the people I talk with who I don’t consider to be watch lovers, still know the Skagen name. “That Danish watch brand right?”
As such, you can categorize Skagen as a mainstream watch brand. It is the more fashionable metaphoric cousin of Timex (no relation to Timex). This review comes from a very non mainstream watch lover. As a bit of an expert on the topic, I am going to discuss this watch in comparison to the universe of watches that I know, categorizing my Skagen for what it is; namely, an excellent value, nicely built watch, and more importantly, the most honest example of a wearable fashion statement that I know of.
Lets start with placing this Skagen watch model within the current company line up. This is one of the more basic models, and I chose it for that purpose. Skagen’s core consumers are people interested in nice looking watches to compliment their lifestyle. They use their mobile phone to check the time, as much as they check their wrist. So I wanted to choose basic model to evaluate – given what a lot of people interested in the brand might choose. This model 355XLSSB watch is in Skagen’s Steel Collection. Other major collections are the Titanium and Swiss Movement collection. This makes it almost entry level for the brand.
In a nutshell, the watch has a very thin profile steel 40mm wide case (without the diminutive crown), with a handsome looking mesh steel bracelet. With it’s thin bezel, the watch face looks very large, even though the size of the watch is only in the upper medium range. I think the size is perfect actually. The dial has a lot of grazing space for your eyes, but also has a nice circular arrangement of Arabic numerals. This makes it one of the more legible Skagen watches in my opinion. The dial is slate (gray) colored with some vertical texturing when you look closely (actually brushed metal), and the applied hour makers and hands are chromed, and raised just a bit.
The date window is a very well designed feature of the face. Placed above 6 o’clock, the square window is actually framed by a concave circle with a fancy internal polish. It keeps the dial symmetrical, but more important, the circular shape around the date window keeps the face balanced. In accordance with the minimalist look of the watch, needle shaped hands are minimal, but mostly effective. Personally, I would have liked to see more of a difference between the hour and second hand. At a quick glance, it is hard to tell between the two hands. A second later, when you see the seconds hand ticking, you know what time it is. There are a few potential ways that Skagen could have remedied this, keeping in line with the style of the watch. They could have added color to the seconds hand, and/or made it a bit longer. Not a big deal though.
I’d like to focus on the case of the watch, as it is a strong point. Looking at it from the side, you realize that the wide bowl looking case is even smaller than you think. The internal Japanese quartz movement does not take up a lot of space, so the case tapers out to 40mm from a smaller size (20mm or so) where the movement is housed. Including the caseback, the case is made up of three parts, put together in a quality manner. The steel is nicely crafted, and the lightly brushed finish of the case works well with the shinier face and bracelet. The lug design is interesting, and I like the use of exposed screws underneath the watch to secure the bracelet, as this gives it a more quality look in my opinion. One area that I think might be improved is the very sides of the lugs where the strap is exposed inside the lug structure. I would have liked the bracelet to be housed inside the lug connectors totally without being exposed on the sides, but then again, it does allow for a flush integration with the lugs when looked at from above. So not really a problem at all, just an observation for future design ideas.Then you have the signed (with Skagen’s logo) crown, which while little, is easy to use.
The hardened mineral crystal on the case is impressively domed (just a bit), which is a nice touch. It just wouldn’t have felt right being flat. There is no AR coating on the mineral crystal, but this is usually reserved for more expensive sapphire crystals that would have increased the price of this watch by at least 50%. On to the bracelet which is a great part of the watch. I was excited to have my first mesh steel strap ever, and it is really cool. The construction uses a thin weave of metal that results in more than enough flexibility. It is also really thin at just over a millimeter. The fit is very comfortable on your wrist, and attractive. It does not go with every piece of clothing I have, but overall a good and modern look (even though mesh bracelets have been around at least 60 years). For us men, the mesh bracelet sometimes catches arm hair. Not a big deal, but something you should know about if you are particularly sensitive to this.
There is a reason I am going back and forth between the term bracelet and strap for this watch model to discuss the mesh steel. It is honestly a hybrid of both. Like a strap, it disconnects all the way without a deployment, but has something more interesting than a mere buckle. The unique patented attachment system on the strap works really well. The first step is sizing it. You place the watch on as you’d like it to fit, and the move the adjustable clasp over notches built into the mesh to a suitable location. This requires using a rigid tool (to release the lock on the clasp). Now that you have a suitable size for your wrist, each time you put the watch on, it fits the same, with the excess strap easily fitting around your wrist. Putting the watch on is simple to do, even with one hand. There is a little hook on one side of the strap that sits over a bar on the other side. Once you connect this (really easy), you push down one locking clasp to make it secure, and then another locking clasp (similar to clasps on diving watches) to make it doubly secure. For this reason, this watch features what I would consider to be a ‘double locking clasp strap.’ When closed, it looks clean and feels secure on your wrist with the Skagen signature staring back at you.
Living with my Skagen for a while has told me a lot about a brand that I was missing in my collection. It isn’t a watch like the other ones that I have; so obsessed with function, materials, and construction. It is a simple and elegant timepiece, about as simple as you’d want while working to perform its task well. The Danish minimalist design and attitude carry throughout the watch and make it easy to live with. It doesn’t seek to replace my more rugged looking or functional watches. It is instead like a breath of fresh air on less serious days, when what you wear isn’t nearly as important as having an attractive clean looking watch that no one can argue with. And then there is the price, which at at $115 retail (a bit less online in most places), makes this watch a bona fide bargain for what you get. I think the only way Skagen can keep the price low is because they enjoy a high volume of watches being made and sold each year – thus keeping costs per a unit down. It means a good value for you, and a testament to their worldwide high marketability. You won’t find too many similar watches with a good value like this. And for that reason I am going to consider a good deal and a recipient of my aBlogtoRead.com Good Value award. skagen.comSee Skagen watches on Amazon here.