Thor Svaboe (here on Instagram) comes from the cold north, all the way from Norway. But his taste for watches is certainly not as cold as where he comes from. Thor has a day job as a sales manager, but his heart (and soul) are with his position as the ‘Independent Editor’ for Time+Tide Watches. From his home, close to Oslo, he takes on a discovery tour uncovering his passion for the independent Dutch brand Holthinrichs Watches from the city of Delft (remember the video we filmed in Delft with Michiel?). Thor’s bespoke Ornament model is one of his big loves. And today we talk about why this watch is so special to him – and it goes far beyond the fact that it was his (spoiler alert) 50th-anniversary watch and that it includes some highly personal engravings on the movement side.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME: How did you discover Holthinrichs Watches?
Thor Svaboe: I will tell the truth here, yes, the first time I laid eyes on the art deco craftsmanship of the Holthinrichs Watches Ornament series was in an article in MONOCHROME Watches. But what sealed the deal was the personal relationship with Michiel Holthinrichs through Instagram and a horological evening at his Atelier in Delft. Once again I’m coming full circle in the world of horology, as this community is proving itself to be a small world…
What exactly caught your eye?
For me, there is a clear twofold appeal to Holthinrichs and other small independent brands, and one of the reasons why I enjoy my job as the Independents Editor at Time+Tide is the heartfelt and personal connection and approach to Horology. Sure, the balanced and sharp architectural lines of the Holthinrichs Ornament sparks the flame, but it’s the immense and simple joy or communication that seals the deal. It’s the approachable nature of smaller brands, where you can send them a message on Instagram, an email or a call, and actually start a conversation. Don’t get me wrong, I have deep relationships with a couple of Authorized Dealers, but to be able to talk to the Maker is priceless.
And why did it have to be this particular watch?
Going through the process with Michiel Holthinrichs I decided that this would be a special, and personal way to mark my (don’t tell anyone) 50th birthday with a watch that has that intrinsic, emotional value straight out of the box, and that was in the spring of 2020. And the reason I chose this one, was the watch itself of course, but the entire process of viewing it as a bespoke project – and the dialogue with Michiel, that is the conglomerate of reasons. If you are looking for a watch from this brand, just contact Michiel Holthinrichs through his website or Instagram, and be far too easily drawn into a fascinating world of architecture and craftsmanship, and most importantly, a very personal experience.
Can you describe the watch in detail?
This is a particular model to start with, but the main reason is also the exact opposite. My Holthinrichs Ornament is a bespoke model, based on the polished, beautifully hand-finished 3D-printed case of the Ornament 1, but created as a Piece Unique with Michiel. The gorgeous gold grain dial is originally from the Ornament RAW, and so is the gold plated, frosted movement, embellished with hand-finished anglage and those small but beautiful touches only made possible by the small production of the Holthinrichs atelier. The strap in a light beige alligator leather was agreed on with Michiel, based on a tone-on-tone design from Laurent Ferrier that caught my eye. The Piece de Resistance? Final assembly took some time, as the ratchet wheel was specially engraved with the names of my wife and two children, by the only engraver in Holland with the skills…
Does the watch get a lot of wrist time?
If this didn’t hold such a big place in my heart and I didn’t have such an obsessive OCD when it comes to scratches and wear, it would be on my wrist every day, as the lightness and pure delight of the Ornament brings me in a state of Zen.
It is probably the best in my box of about 20, so mostly for good occasions, and boy does that slim elegant casework wonders with a suit and a sharp Italian shirt, both of which are seldom put on in the home office. But it does cheer me up massively, and will probably come on tonight. Friday night, with a good book and perhaps a gin tonic to see in the weekend with the family.
Do you get many reactions when you wear the watch?
Absolutely, one of the biggest joys of owning one of a very limited run of watches is the unexpected reactions, much more so than with a big brand watch strapped on, no matter how eye-catching it may be.
Any ideas on the current market value?
The Holthinrichs Ornament Raw starts between 5,000 and 6,000 euros (check their site), but the value of a bespoke watch far supersedes Swiss watches at more than double that starting price.
Can you describe what this watch has brought you?
Well, the Holthinrichs Ornament has an even deeper meaning in my life today, as I had started the conversation with Michiel before the start of my foray into watch journalism, and it now holds a very important place in my heart, more so than my day job (don’t tell anyone). I got invited to an evening at the atelier in Delft in December 2019 with Michiel and a few guests, including Robert Jan Broer, Jorg Weppelink and Gerard Nijenbrinks from Fratello Watches, and my understanding of the Dutch language improved drastically with a few glasses of Glühwein and a cigar… Based on this, I took a step away from my budding Youtube channel Wristwatchism and began writing, one of my first pieces being a Holthinrichs article for a Scandinavian website, and the rest is history…
Are there any more watches you would like to buy?
Well, like your own Brice Goulard, I bought a Hanhart 417ES that arrived this week after being smitten by my own review, a danger in this game, and me trying to emulate Steve McQueen. At the moment, I am saving up for a pre-loved 38mm Girard Perregaux Laureato, a much-anticipated entry into the tempting world of Gerald Genta.
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Any tips for other collectors?
This is easy for me after being down this rabbit hole for some years now. Never buy for investment value alone, and try the watch or a similar one on for size (before the third glass of Glühwein…), and most importantly: BUY WHAT YOU LOVE, don’t obsess over in-house movements or hypes, and just follow your heart. My very personal tip is also to look into the trend of reduced diameters, you will not look any less butch with a 38mm watch on, but, like wow, how much it will utterly transform your sense of comfort. For me, 37-40mm is the perfect Goldilocks size!