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In the watch industry, you’ll always find two types of people. The “enthusiasts”, those who enjoy wearing beautiful watches casually while sharing their passion with others…
…and the “snobs”: those who are so fiercely passionate about watchmaking that they almost see it as a sacrosanct religion. To them, watches are not mere objects that make us look good in front of our coworkers during coffee breaks; they are sacred pieces of art that demand the utmost form of respect.
And if you know a “watch snob” yourself, you probably know how annoying they can be… They’ll tell you that quartz movements are “not true horlogery”, that only Swiss-made watches can display master craftsmanship… and that anything costing below $1,000 is not even worth having a look at! In short, they’ll try to impose their taste on others.
But although these snobs may often come off as pretentious or even arrogant, there is one thing we must admit about them: they know how to pick watches of exceptional quality. Most importantly, they are often very skilled at identifying “hidden gems” before they become iconic watches that everyone wants to buy.
For instance, the now-iconic Rolex Submariner used to be a $150, unassuming watch mainly used by remote divers when it was first released… Today, the demand for the Submariner is so incredibly high that people are willing to wait up to 4 years on a waiting list, to eventually have the honor of wearing this legendary piece of craftsmanship. The most exclusive models are now selling in the tens of thousands of dollars…
What happened? It was simply propelled in the media by elite circles of watch snobs and fine connoisseurs, who saw the potential of this timepiece before everyone else…
In the same manner, many watch snobs are talking about a new, intriguing watch model coming from Denmark, which is currently taking the world of horlogery by storm.
But here’s where it gets interesting: unlike many watches cherished by “snobs” and collectors, this watch is not Swiss-made (it’s Danish), it does not use a mechanical movement, and it costs far less than $1,000…
Then why on Earth every watch snob in the West is talking about it? What could be so special about this Danish timepiece that even hardcore watch purists are willing to break their vows to the “Swiss Holy Trinity”?
In this article, we interview several watch collectors to try to understand why this Nordic watch is becoming so popular among watchmaking elite circles. These specialists, who chose to remain anonymous for professional reasons, all have watch collections ranging from 11 to 37 models. They have also expressed their interest in this new watch from Denmark.
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What It’s Called And Why Is It So Popular?
The watch in question is called the “Philosopher” by Danish watchmaker Nordgreen. This sleek, minimalist timepiece has captured a lot of attention recently among watch specialists, for several reasons.
First, the watch has been designed by Jakob Wagner – a critically acclaimed Danish designer who has a fixed art collection at MoMa in New York City. Wagner gained a world-class reputation by designing collections for Bang & Olufsen, Hay, and Capellini. He is also a five-time recipient of the IF Product Design Award and Designer of the Year.
And in the world of watches, collaborations with designers and artists often create significant interest among watch collectors. As explained by a 42-year-old German watch collector we interviewed:
“Watches that result from collaborations with artists are usually highly sought after by collectors, not only because of their unique aesthetic appeal, but also because the name of the artist himself can add a lot of value to the watch”, he explains.
“For example, Hublot recently partnered with one of the world’s hottest contemporary French artists, Richard Orlinski, to redesign its signature Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph collection. First issued in 2018, this limited series has already become a classic among collectors.”
“In case you’re a superhero fan, you may also have heard of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak ‘Black Panther’ watch. This is an extremely limited edition made by AP in collaboration with Marvel. The level of interest for this timepiece was truly unprecedented, with one unique model sold at $5.2m at the launch event of this edition!”, he says with a smile.
“In the same logic, I think the reason why so many watch collectors are interested in adding the Philosopher by Nordgreen to their collection, is because it benefits from the artistic aura of its reputed designer, Jakob Wagner. People don’t just want to get a watch, they want to own a piece of art made by great artists.”
It would therefore seem that the success of the Philosopher might partly be explained by the “brand name” of its designer. But what about the quality of the watch itself?
Why Experts Are Surprised By The Philosopher's Quality Of Craftsmanship
The second major reason why the Philosopher by Nordgreen attracted so many watch collectors – including watch “snobs” – is its remarkable quality of craftsmanship, which is allegedly “unparalleled” for a watch under the $1,000 price tag.
And when we look closely at this watch, we can quickly understand why… First, it is designed in a truly unique way, by using an asymmetric second-hand that is shaped like a blade, slicing through the minutes and hours of the day. According to the Chief Designer Jakob Wagner, this unique shape serves as a metaphor to illustrate how we are constantly “slicing through time”.
Second, the attention to detail displayed by the Philosopher is “vastly superior to any watch in this price range”, explains a London-based investment banker, who counts no less than 28 watches in his collection.
“I’m ordinarily not a huge fan of Nordic watches, but this one captured my attention immediately. Every single detail in this watch has a unique signature. For example, its case is cone-shaped, which means that the bottom is wider than the top. This atypical shape gives a visually pleasing feeling of depth and relief, reminiscent of some of the best Omega models.”
“The crown of this watch also clearly stands out: tapered with bevels at the end for an easier grip, and engraved in the centre with the watchmaker’s logo – a high-end feature usually only seen on more expensive, luxury watches,” he explains.
“Finally, I was also very impressed by the back of the case, revealing a laser-printed hourglass design. If we look at the hourglass, we can see that the top is filled with a sand-like texture, as if the watch was subtly reminding us that our whole life is still ahead of us…It’s this kind of obsessive detail that makes the difference between ordinary watches, and watches that deserve a place in any respectable collection.”
The “Greenest” Watch On The Market?
Finally, the Philosopher appears to be a piece of choice for collectors interested in acquiring so-called “sustainable watches”: watches that are more respectful of the environment than traditional models.
“Many people I know who are serious about watches are trying to add at least one quality ‘sustainable watch’ to their collection. And it’s not just a question of trends or fashion. I think that more and more people, especially among younger generations, genuinely want to make a positive impact on our planet, while at the same time improving their sense of style”, told this 53-year-old Austrian watch enthusiast to Supreme Five.
Indeed, according to the latest Deloitte Swiss Watch Industry Study, 60% of customers now consider sustainability aspects when buying a watch, and 71% of millennials are looking for sustainable watch features.
“The problem is: for experienced collectors, it’s really hard to find well-crafted sustainable watches. Many ‘green brands’ are putting all their eggs into sustainable materials and ESG marketing, at the detriment of craftsmanship. At the end of the day, no true watch specialist will care if your watch is made in ethically-sourced white bamboo from Bangladesh, if you can’t deliver on quality…”, he explains.
“On the other hand, Nordgreen did a great job with the Philosopher. It is as sustainable as it can get, and the precision of craftsmanship far exceeds what you can see on other ‘sustainable’ watches. It’s probably one of the best-made sustainable watches out there, and that’s why it’s so popular among collectors like us, in my view.”
To investigate further, we had a look at Nordgreen website to see how sustainable their watches really are. And based on our independent review, they indeed score strongly on sustainability.
First, Nordgreen only uses FSC-certified cardboard for packaging, reuses at least 99% of manufacturing solvents to minimize waste, and completely offsets its office carbon footprint.
Second, it only uses recyclable materials. The case is entirely made of premium, 100% recyclable 316L stainless steel. And it comes with a high-quality, Greenguard-certified vegan leather strap that contains no organic pollutants and no toxic by-products.
Finally, the company is extremely transparent about its sustainability commitments, with the launch of its Giving Back Program: a charity that has established several partnerships with three leading NGOs in the health, education, and environmental sectors.
For every Nordgreen watch purchased, customers can either give two months of clean water to one person in the Central African Republic, one month of education to a child in India, or preserve 200 sq ft of rain forest in Latin America.
Therefore, people who buy a Nordgreen watch not only get a fine piece of craftsmanship: they also make a positive and measurable impact on the world. It is currently one of the rare watch brands that offers such kind of sustainable initiatives.
Overall, many wearers of The Philosopher can vouch for its superior quality, elegant look, and exceptional value for money. The company Nordgreen has a score of 4.8 out of 5 on Trustpilot based on 3,000+ reviews.