Johan Gustafsson and Patrik Sjörgen, founders of GoS Watches, create watches that encapsulate their passion for Scandinavia’s Viking past and the natural beauty of Sweden’s landscape. As unique as they are unusual, GoS watches are a far cry from the minimalist aesthetic we tend to associate with Scandinavian design. Ahead of Baselworld 2019, GoS introduces a ‘his and hers’ version of its Sarek watch with a mother-of-pearl dial that glows in the dark. Fitted with customised Soprod automatic movements, the watch comes in two case sizes (43mm and 31.5mm) and is limited to 10 pieces in either size.
Johan Gustafsson and Patrik Sjörgen created GoS Watches back in 2007, a micro-indie brand that settled upon an unusual visual identity to stand out from the crowd. Our contributor Robin Nooy has been following GoS for years and you can get a really good feel for the inspiration and artisanal vocation of this brand in any of his hands-on articles here. A two-man show with a limited production of about 40 watches a year, both men professed a passion for ancient Scandinavian crafts and folklore and decided to give the brand a distinctive Viking touch. Master bladesmith Gustafsson brought his particular forged Damascus steel to the mix, while master watchmaker Patrik Sjögren worked on the mechanical aspect, assembly and hand finishes of the watches.
“We grew up admiring the handicrafts of our culture so you could say we have it in our backbone,” explains Sjörgen. However, unlike the Viking metallurgists that inspired Gustafsson’s forged steel cases and dials, there is nothing unrefined about the final product which demonstrates high levels of finishing and attention to detail. The Sarek collection was introduced in 2016 and its colourful Damascus steel dials replicated the ever-changing landscape and skies of the Sarek National Park in Sweden at different times of the day and year.
Sarek Sunset and Sarek Glacier
Moving away from the swirling Damascene dials – described by the brand as an “explosion pattern” – of former Sarek models, Gustafsson and Sjörgen wanted to find a material that could capture the orange tinges of the sky at sunset and the icy blue hues of a glacier. The ideal material to allow light and colour to shine through its surface is mother-of-pearl and the dials of both watches feature a sliver of white mother-of-pearl that glows with a baby blue or dusky pink colour in daylight. The colour of the dials comes from the application of top quality Swiss Super-LumiNova.
Sjögren explained that the coloured luminescent material is painted on the reverse side of the mother-of-pearl and believes that GoS is one of the first brands to use this particular technique and has filed for a patent. The real effect of the Super-LumiNova can best be appreciated in tenuous light conditions and the Sunset dial glows fiery orange while the Glacier emits an intense, almost supernatural blue glow. No indices are featured on the dial and the hour markers are indicated by semi-circular perforations on the chapter ring that reveals the underlying colour emanating from the mother-of-pearl dial. The more technical design of the index ring was inspired by an ancient Viking brooch and, as you would expect from a brand that exalts its warrior roots, the hands are shaped like the heads of Viking spears, the most commonly used weapon in that period.
Johan Gustafsson strikes the anvil in his forge just outside Norsholm, Sweden, in a gesture that has been passed down from his Viking ancestors. Famous for their swords, Vikings used a pattern-welding technique to create an early composite material that allowed for longer, sharper and more resilient swords. Developed by different ancient civilisations around the world, pattern-welded steel or Damascus steel involved folding layer upon layer of metals resulting in a unique swirling pattern on its surface. Gustafsson’s hand-forged Damascus steel earned him worldwide fame and the distinction of master bladesmith and knifemaker. However, Gustafsson wanted to expand the use of Damascus steel beyond knives and approached Sjörgen, master watchmaker and engineer in 2007, to forge GoS Watches. Although the dial of the new Sarek models does not feature Gustafsson’s trademark swirling patterned Damascene steel, the bezel comes straight from his forge.
With satin-finished elliptical grooves carved into the caseband, Gustafsson’s unique hand-forged Damascus steel on the bezel, polished and bevelled lugs (in the case of the men’s models) and a crown modelled after the hilt of a Viking sword, nobody could argue that the case is simple. I have to admit that the 31.5mm diameter of the women’s Sarek models runs on the small side of watches for some women, but as Sjögren pointed out, the 40mm distance between lug tips, coupled with the fact that the strap screws are fixed to a bar which is attached to the case, actually extends the size of the watch and makes it look larger than it is.
Conversely, and in case men might be concerned about the 43.3mm diameter of the Sarek men’s models wearing larger on the wrist, the distance between the tips of the lugs is reduced to 22mm visually reducing the dimensions. Each watch is engraved with its corresponding limited edition number x/10.
Both the men and women’s Sarek Sunset and Glacier models are fitted with an automatic Soprod A10 movement which has been customised by GoS. The rotor is decorated with a triskelion or triskele pattern (fans of the series Vikings will recognise it as the three interlocked drinking horns used to represent the god Odin) and an additional counterweight in hand-finished German silver. Sjögren is responsible for all the finishes and admits that a set of hands can take him one workday to complete and a full week to finish a Damascus steel bridge.
Strap and Crystal Case
Previous Sarek models have come with straps made from Scandinavian elk (moose) leather, but the new models, which would like to be considered ‘dressier’ members of the Sarek family, come with tapered leather straps in a wide variety of colours with deployant Swiss buckles. Another novelty of the new Sarek watches is the presentation box, which instead of being a handmade walnut box, now comes in a Swedish crystal recipient made by glassmaker Vas Vitreum. In keeping with its Nordic spirit, the little pillow used to mount the watch is made from reindeer suede!
The combination of natural mother-of-pearl and hand-forged Damascus steel ensures that each piece has its unique, distinctive personality. Both the men’s and women’s models come with a five-year guarantee. All the Sarek Sunset and Glacier models retail for USD 8,500 (excl. taxes). Deliveries will begin in May 2019. For more information, please visit www.goswatches.com.