This is not the first time that the Indy brand, Sarpaneva has featured on the Collector’s Series. We covered our Executive Editor Frank Geelen’s here. Sarpaneva watches are all designed in-house, by Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva himself. He creates bold watches in small numbers. He is generally known for his stunning moonphase (weather the face is happy or sad is up for debate, but that’s beside the point!) and his pinion-shaped case with multi-layer dials. This week, we have Mister The Horophile (the Instagram addicts will know who we’re talking about) that introduces to us his own, brand new Sarpaneva Northern Lights.
This week our guest comes from a family of watch enthusiasts. Given that he lives and works in the home of watchmaking, Switzerland, which should be no surprise. Amr Sindi is the young Saudi Arabian gentleman behind the Horophile page (@thehorophile on Instagram and here on the web). Before we got into the nitty gritty of the interview itself, Amr mentioned to me that he initially got into the magical world of horology when he was 5 years old, after receiving a Flik-Flak from his grandmother, upon her return from a trip to Switzerland. Those of you who use social media will have spotted his work… you know the hare with the golf club and the pocket watch! Some of you may even have come across Amr as a moderator on www.timezone.com, where he was the youngest ever to do so. What started as childhood fascination has turned into a full-time occupation and this week we found out why a guy who spends all day with watches chose to buy a Sarpaneva Northern Lights.
For those who haven’t come across Sarpaneva, could you tell us a bit more about the brand?
First and foremost, Stepan Sarpaneva is not an independent brand, but an independent watchmaker. A subtle but important distinction to make.
Stepan is a watchmaker based in Helsinki with an impressive track record, having worked for some of the most important Swiss brands and movement suppliers like Parmigiani Fleurier, Christophe Claret and Bulgari.
Over a decade ago, he decided to take a road less travelled and he created his own eponymous brand. Instead of the minute repeaters and complex tourbillons he was used to build (and knowing all too well of their operational shortcomings), he decided his brand will use solid, reliable externally made base movements with his own modifications.
What was it that attracted you to Sarpaneva?
It was back in 2006 when I first started seriously getting into watches, I discovered one of Stepan’s watches while browsing through timezone.com. It must’ve been the Loiste II, long before any of his iconic “moon” watches came about. Yet you can easily identify many of the design traits in his watches today like the kick-start pinion-shaped case and multi-layer (usually metallic) dials.
There was something about his unorthodox aesthetic that I found really appealing. It was like nothing else at the time and even today, his designs are distinctive. You can immediately tell that this guy is making something truly inspired by his own world and surroundings, and couldn’t care less if you like it or not.
Out of the Sarpaneva range, why the Northern Lights?
It was an easy choice. I’ve always wanted a Sarpaneva, but could never put my finger on one particular model that spoke to me this much.
It had all the elements I’d always wanted in a Sarpaneva, like the multi-layer dial, moon phase, and the pinion case. The lume of course was the major selling point, and for me particularly the purple was just out of this world. The fact it was done in collaboration with my friend Black Badger definitely made it a much easier choice.
From left to right: Stepan Sarpaneva – Amr Sindi / The Horophile – James Thompson / Black Badger
Can you tell us more about Black Badger?
James “Black Badger” is a modern day alchemist of sorts, except instead of looking for the philosopher’s stone he’s constantly outdoing himself in incorporating cutting-edge (and just plain cool) materials into pieces of wearable art.
I’ve been a fan of his work since I first discovered him on Instagram back in 2012, and have been wearing one of his rings ever since. As a watch lover, I think the appeal for what he does is fairly obvious.
He’s pretty much created a niche market, though his imagination and ever-increasing number of products, designs and collaboration means he’s always a few steps ahead of the imitators.
When did you come to own it?
About a month Mid-October, I went to Helsinki to pick it up from both Stepan and James, along with a special matching Black Badger ring.
When do you find yourself strapping it on?
Since I’ve picked my Sarpaneva Northern Lights, at least every day and practically every night. What I love about this watch and particularly this custom version of mine is that it’s got a bit of a split-personality: during the day it’s quite understated and monochromatic, but night arrives, it truly comes alive. I even bought a UV manicure lamp just to fire this baby up! My wife worries about me…
Can you tell us a bit more about what’s inside that amazing case!
Nothing too fancy, in the sense that Stepan uses a reliable Soprod automatic movement, to which he adds his signature “moon” rotor, as well as his own moon phase mechanism with a quick-set feature; something you rarely come across with this complication.
Again, you don’t buy a Sarpaneva for the movement, but at least you know it won’t be going back and forth for repairs and services!
There seems to be something funny going on in the watch world at the moment. What would you attribute the rise of the independent watchmaker to?
I think there are a few reasons: first of all, today’s watch buyer is far more educated and aware of just how vast this hobby is and all the different avenues one can explore in terms of style, function, and of course price. Especially with the prevalence of digital and social media, I feel independent brands have gained incredible traction, in many cases trumping that of larger, corporate group brands.
And on a product level, you could say that independents are the real risk-takers in the industry, willing to put it all on the line and come out with truly game-changing designs.
At the end of the day, there’s a certain kind of satisfaction you get when buying something from an independent watchmaker that bigger brands just can’t replicate. It’s a much more human experience, far more than just a transaction.
Do you value how a watch looks over the brand heritage?
Heritage is a good thing when it’s actually there. But in many cases heritage is nothing more than an element of storytelling, because someone thought it would be easier to sell the watches under the guise of a long-gone watchmaker’s name than start something from scratch.
There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from history or reinterpreting certain designs, but it’s not what usually speaks to me.
What do people make of it when they see it on the wrist? (it’s certainly not your average looking watch right!)
Well people in Switzerland aren’t usually that outgoing to just walk up to someone and comment on what they’re wearing, but among fellow horophiles, it always ends with a grin on someone’s face. There’s just something about a glow-in-the-dark dial that appeals on some level to the geeky child inside every watch lover.
What three words sum up your Sarpaneva?
North. Supernatural. Metal (in a heavily distorted, “drop D” sort of way)
Do you have any rules for collecting watches?
Not really. I’m all about eclecticism, so I try to avoid having more than two pieces from the same brand.
In your mind, can a collector ever be fully satisfied with his lot?
Satisfied perhaps, perfectly happy? I don’t think so. There’s always one more… Its human nature I guess: we want something; get it, and then move on to the next want.
What advice would you give to anyone looking at making their first purchase?
Buy what you like, as long as it’s mechanical!