Picture this: Dogs barking, snow falling, sled silently gliding across the landscape. You are traveling to the far edge of the inhabited world, facing blistering colds, harsh winds and grueling landscapes. You’re all alone, just you and a few of man’s best friends working hard to bring you closer to the polar circle.
OK, now ask yourself this: what would be the appropriate watch adorning your wrist at the time? Probably not some fancy gizmo allowing you to find your way or calculate longitude and latitude. Not even a watch capable of sending out a distress-signal if needed. No, when experiencing such picturesque scenery, you need just one thing: a Gustafsson & Sjögren timepiece! It might only tell the time in its bare essence, but maybe that just complements the Scandinavian style perfectly.
True, this watch will not help rescue teams to find you, but it does look absolutely wicked when shimmering in the last rays of the sun, setting on the edge of the horizon. The intricate patterns of the Damascus steel, and the colorful dials set the timepiece worlds apart from others. It embodies traditional techniques and the craftsmanship skills which take ages to master, and it brings those traditions into the modern era. The watches created by Gustafsson & Sjögren all have one thing in common; the omnipresence of Damascus steel.
This complicated metal-forging technique dates back hundreds of years and is believed to have first been developed somewhere in the Far East, but can also be found in ancient Viking-era Scandinavia. During this time, a pattern-welding technique was developed to create superior tools (e.g., knives and swords) compared to other existing methods. Funny thing, no one seems to be sure how and where it was first developed. Even today it is hard to master, and you’d think we would basically know every trick in the book by now.
Damascus, or pattern-welded steel, is applied in a wide variety of products but knife- or blademaking is the most noticeable. Johan Gustafsson, the master bladesmith, forges all the damascene steel used by Gustafsson & Sjögren by hand. Combining different alloys and applying different welding techniques, he is able to create very intricate patterns. All the pattern-welded steel that is exposed, like the case, is created from high-grade stainless steel. In all cases the various surfaces are polished, heat-tempered, or acid-etched in order to bring out the rich hues and prevent corrosion.
The time-consuming, meticulous process takes ages to learn and apply in various ways. The benefit of his extensive experience as a bladesmith is that Johan has adapted all his knowledge of pattern-welding to the process of making watch parts. An interesting adaptation of this technique is mosaic Damascus steel. This type of pattern-welding allows for highly detailed patterns on a dial. Different kinds of steel bits are placed in a predetermined pattern. What Johan does is to mold it into a solid ingot, cut it up, stack it, and remold it into yet another solid ingot. All that remains is to search for the best bits in the ingot, bringing out the best possible pattern and colors. The final result, after treatment by Patrick Sjögren is a kaleidoscope-like dial. Remember those tubes with colorful pearls and beads in the bottom? Turning them revealed magical colors and patterns right before your eyes.
Traditional damascene steel is created by folding and hammering multiple layers of steel, while constantly re-heating them and remolding them. The end result is a very finely layered ingot of steel, usually weighing around 2.5 kilograms. Only about 5 dials are cut from each steel ingot, coming in at about 5 grams each. The rest is used for cases, crowns, or buckles, or is simply scrapped.
During Baselworld, we had the pleasure of meeting both Johan Gustafsson and Patrik Sjögren. Combining ancient techniques of pattern-welding with the centuries-old techniques of watchmaking requires a certain visionary mindset. Gustafsson & Sjögren’s latest project is something extra special and a limited run of 10 pieces will ensure exclusivity (although GoS produces in small production numbers). Dubbed the Vinternätter, or Winter Nights, this watch is once again a testament of Scandinavian heritage.
The extra special about Winter Nights is that houses GoS’s first own caliber, Caliber 1. And moreover, the movement is executed in Damascus steel!! The movement is a joint effort between Patrik Sjögren and Martin Braun (now-a-days the man behind Antoine Martin). The bridges are made of Damascus steel in a wood-grain pattern, further emulating the Nordic theme of the brand.
Caliber 1 is equipped with a silicon escape wheel and anchor (pallet fork), combined with a screwed Glucydur balance wheel. This not only extends the movement’s life, but also enhances durability by reducing drag in the escapement and the silicon is non-magnetic. Its power reserve is displayed via the white or yellow gold hand on the back of the movement.
On the dial side of the watch, hours and minutes are displayed using hands, and seconds with a shuriken emblem. The dial is finished off with a solid chapter ring, all executed in either yellow or white gold.
A prototype of the movement has been with Patrik for quite a while now, traveling the globe to meet collectors. The finishing of all the parts is painstakingly done by Patrik, and all the surfaces and edges are polished, beveled or etched to reveal every possible detail of the 128 layers in the Damascus steel.
Coming in at $ 19,000 it is no bargain, but certainly something unique and worthwhile to strap to one’s wrist. Some would consider it flashy, and the prowess to impress is definitely there. Being the size that it is (45 mm in diameter), this is no small watch, and is not to be mistaken for a dress watch. It is however a great, attention-grabbing sculpture, very likely to evoke a reaction, from watch enthusiasts and uninitiated passersby alike.
If you would like to learn more about the watches by Gustafsson & Sjögren please visit their website (click here) or Facebook-page (click here) or simply stay tuned for the write-ups we will have in store for your enjoyment.