April 5, 2010
by Ariel Adams
Former professional racer Stefan Johansson started making watches for himself and his racer friends. For a while he would work with watch brands until he finally decided that he wanted to make his own. Race fans would probably be impressed with the roster of individuals who are owners of Stefan Johansson Vaxjo watches. The growing brand now has an array of models each designed by Stefan and his team. The pieces are all racing inspired, without being the type of watches to look like car parts. Instead, they celebrate the sport and the participants thereof. The watch I have here for you is the Stefan Johansson Vajxo Mark VIII D 033 watch. Limited to 250 pieces, the watch is inspired by a collection that Stefan likes, the Corum Admiral’s Cup. You can see the similarity in the flags around the dial. Instead of yacht racing pennants, they F1 in origin.
The watch is large but really comfortable. These watches are meant to make a statement. At 47mm wide, I am surprised the piece fits so well on my wrist, but it does. Case is in steel and black PVD coated. Stefan opted for a thin bezel so that you could get maximum dial size. This design is actually quite uncommon on pieces this big. Though at the same time future Stefan Johansson Vaxjo watches are going to have a case and bezel redesign. The smooth looking black case is not the highlight of the piece, and the design makes that clear. The case is good looking and comfy, but like I said, your eyes are pulled toward the dial. The Mark VIII line has quite a lot of dial treatments to choose from. Stefan likes playing with the look. Each has a common personality though, and I think you will appreciate how he plays with the core concept that is the watch. The watches each contain a decorated Swiss ETA automatic Valjoux 7750 chronograph movement. The subsidiary seconds dial at 9 o’clock is removed for a more symmetrical dial. If you need to count the seconds, you can simply use the chronograph.
You will really like the custom black “Stefan Johansson Vaxjo” engraved automatic rotor, that you can see through the sapphire caseback window. The sapphire crystal over the watch dial is nicely domed. Still, the view into the dial is clear, and mostly free from too much glare. It took me a while to appreciate the dial, but I finally am seeing the merits in the design. There is a good mix between legibility and decoration – as well as a good level of contrast in the hands and dial. It seems to have a good mix between clutter and “breathing room” for the eyes on the dial. The hour indicators and hands are applied with SuperLumiNova. Even though the hands are somewhat skeletonized, reading them isn’t a chore.
One thing that Stefan Johansson really wants to focus on is customization. He wants to make you a watch that is totally for you. Right now you get some strap options (various leather straps with colored stitching in addition to the rubber), and some other choices. Right now most of these choices are more options than customization. You can however get your name placed on the caseback crystal, and the brand is actually open to special customization jobs. It just happens to be one of those services you need to specially as for.
The rubber strap is very high quality with the cool Stefan Johansson Vaxjo logo placed on it, and the brand signature engraved on the Panerai style strap buckle. When you get the watch, Stefan Johansson Vaxjo wisely placed it is a watch winder. Something that is much harder to find that you would think among luxury brands. There is a lot of character to the Mark VIII 033 watch once live with it for a while. While the case appears on the most simple side, these are timepiece extensions of what Stefan Johansson makes for himself and his friends. Also, I bet if you wanted to order one directly from him, he would be glad to personally take your order and customize your watch.
Tough for some people is going to be the price of the Mark VIII D 033 watch at$9,500. Yes, the piece is a limited edition of just 250 pieces, with the edition number engraved on the case side, but there are a lot of options in this range. Fans of Mr. Johansson’s career and designs won’t see too much stopping them. Plus, the brand is only getting better and I expect to see more polished watches and designs coming soon. From pro racer to pro watch designer, this is watch industry name… to watch. Oh, and imagine the watch on a cool (and available) python strap.
Learn more or get a Stefan Johansson Vaxjo watch here.
Thanks to Stefan Johansson Vaxjo for the review unit. Opinions are 100% independent.