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Northern Lights And Noble Vikings: Gustafsson & Sjögren’s Seafaring Wrist Warriors

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You would have to have been living under a considerable pile of foraged horseradish and rye bread to have missed the Nordic invasion of all things stylish and sophisticated. We all still want to dine at René Redzepi’s Noma, bedeck our mid-century homes with minimalist walnut cabinetry, be thrilled by girls with dragon tattoos…

And all along, it transpires, the world of watchmaking was way ahead of us.

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Proving it isn’t just the Swiss wielding tweezers and an eyeglass, there are Finnish indie superstars Kari Voutilainen and his protégé Stepan Sarpaneva, the Grönefeld brothers down in The Netherlands, and Denmark’s Linde Werdelin. For good reason, too. Like Britain, the coastal nations of Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland were once oceangoing economies with strong navies. And, to run a global navy – military, merchant or otherwise – you need a decent ship’s chronometer to ascertain your longitude at sea. Which is why, for example, Copenhagen’s Urban Jürgensen & Sønner sprang up in 1773, providing salty seadogs with their marine chronometers.

But we’re forgetting another breed of oceangoing Scandinavian, who has inspired the latest Nordic watchmaker: the noble Viking.

Raiding and trading from their Northern European heartland from the late 8th to late 11th centuries, the Vikings are famously formidable in battle – terrifying, even – wielding spears and shields from the sterns of their longships. They did have swords, but these tended to be ceremonial, not to mention surprisingly refined, their blades forged and folded and tempered into highly specialised and beguilingly patterned “Damascus” steel.

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Sweden’s master bladesmith Johan Gustafsson has long been fascinated by this craft. Indeed, living by the water in historic Norsholm, he can even see the site where remnants from an ancient weapon forge were found. And it’s this proximity that drives his daily toil in his own dark, roasting hot forge. Luckily for us, it has also inspired his partnership with fellow Swede and master watchmaker, Patrik Sjögren. Together, as “GoS” or Gustafsson & Sjögren, they create formidable timepieces that speak vividly of the Viking Age.

Driven by solid Swiss mechanics ticking away beneath, each GoS timepiece proudly bears a Damascus steel dial, which Patrik painstakingly cuts from Johan’s laboriously worked metal. Every piece is mesmerising to behold and one-of-a-kind: a pool of iridescent ripples across its dial, meandering concentrically beneath hand-crafted dagger hands.

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The visceral Swedishness doesn’t stop there either. Not only are the straps made from the leather of Swedish elk, but the strangely beautiful wilderness informs much of GoS’s design language. The untamed topography and tempestuous weather of Sarek national park has inspired the undulating patterns adorning the collection of the same name; the shimmering Northern Lights that fleck the Swedish winter sky are writ evocatively upon GoS’s other main collection, Winter Nights.

Long may the Scandi reign. And if you’re looking to compliment your shirt and tie, or jeans and tee, with a touch of refined masculinity, a GoS timepiece is a worthy contender.

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Image 1 @limitedandrare