Hello everyone, and welcome to another Singapore watch review! This Sunday, I’m reviewing the Norrsken from Alf Watch Company.
I’ve actually talked in-depth previously about the Norrsken in a previous article here. The Kickstarter project was supposed to go live early May – instead, it has been delayed by a month and will debut late June instead. I’ll update this post when the project go live. In the meantime, Alf Watch Company was kind enough to send me one of their latest prototypes for a hands-on review! As stated in my previous article introducing them, I loved the design of the Norrsken, and was chuffed to bits test-drive this watch. Let’s see how the Norrsken fared!
Alf Watch Company – the Brand
Alf Watch Company was founded in 2015 by Samuel Pettersson. Based out of Sweden, Alf Watch Company’s mission is to “…bring new original designs to the watch industry at an affordable price point.” They further state that they are “not looking to ‘make luxury affordable’ or ‘disrupt the watch industry’. Instead [their] goal is to be a brand known for its unique designs, excellent service and fair pricing.” The Norrsken is Alf Watch Company’s debut model (3 years in the works now). Interestingly, the model name Norrsken is the Swedish word for the Northern Lights, the renowned natural phenomenon most often found occurring in the Scandinavian region, including northern Sweden. Samuel shared that he chose the name because he wanted something with a connection to Sweden. Furthermore, with the lumed indices and hands the watch glows like the Northern Lights in the dark. To find out more about the brand, you can watch their brand video below.
I first chanced across Alf Watch Company in Facebook watch groups. The striking design of the Norrsken captivated me, and I thereafter pestered Samuel for months on end to send me one for review. As compared with the rest of its Kickstarter watch brethren, the Norrsken’s design looked new. Furthermore, while square watches are becoming increasingly common, square dress watches still aren’t. On the luxury end, there’s the Santos – but in the microbrand world, to my knowledge there really isn’t an affordable square dress watch available.
Without further ado, let’s check out the build quality of the Norrsken!
Alf Watch Company Norrsken – Build Quality
For the price ($299 for Kickstarter early bird), the build quality is surprisingly good!
Firstly, the Norrsken comes equipped with sapphire crystal, which is nice to see given its low price point! As aforementioned in most of my previous watch reviews, sapphire crystal on a watch is highly desirable due to its scratch-resistant properties. Furthermore, the underside of the sapphire crystal is AR-coated, preventing the bulk of any possible nasty reflections. The WR rating of the Norrsken is listed as 5ATM, which is enough to withstand rain/running water under the tap, but this is definitely not one you want to bring to the pool!
Secondly, the Miyota 8245 movement is chosen as the beating heart of the Norrsken. I’m not surprised – most affordable watches with a sub-second dial (Reverie Sea-Spirit, MWW Battenkill) use this movement due to its low cost and widespread availability. At this price point there really isn’t a credible alternative to the Miyota 8245 – to my knowledge, a sub-seconds version of the Seiko NH35 movement doesn’t exist. I’m usually not a fan of the Miyota 8 series movement due to its stuttering second hand, but this issue does not seem to affect its sub-second variant. The movement beats at 21600 VPH, with 42 hours of power reserve. However, the movement does not hack.
Thirdly, the Norrsken comes with a stock “genuine leather” strap. This is probably where the low price tag of the Norrsken betrays itself. As mentioned previously in my other watch reviews, genuine leather is the lowest grade of leather there is. As long as the material used for the strap comes from a cow’s hide, it is termed “genuine leather”. What you should be looking for is full-grained leather, ideally vegetable tanned. Admittedly, the strap isn’t the worst that I have handled, but it definitely leaves more to be desired. As seen in the above photo, the sides of the strap are rough and unfinished, with peels of leather scrap already coming off. The strap is embossed as well in a bid to mimic the look of an alligator strap, but it’s a poor imitation. A suggestion to Alf Watch Company – consider having genuine alligator straps as a stretch goal during the Kickstarter campaign! Also, I wished they had signed the buckle.
The Norrsken (blue variant) features a sandwich dial with cut out indices filled with Super-Luminova BG-W9 lume. As seen from the photo above, I’m pleased to report that the lume is quite strong! It sure lives out to its namesake (the Northern Lights). However, do note that the white variant of the Norrsken comes without lumed indices, with lume restricted only to the hands.
Overall, the Norrsken is a well-built watch in general. My only knock on the watch is the strap, which though lackluster, is personally still acceptable given the low price point. It’s not the best I’ve seen at this price, but far from the worst either.
Alf Watch Company Norrsken – Design
Whilst the build quality of the Norrsken is more than acceptable, the design of it is where it truly shines.
I love the dial design. I find it utterly original, and unlike any other watch face that I’ve seen, be it in the luxury sphere or the microbrand world. Out of all 3 colourways of the Norrsken, I find the blue variant most attractive. Couple the navy blue dial with one of my favourite complications – the sub-seconds – and I’m in love. Furthermore, the dial is simple, yet intricate at the same time – true to its Scandinavian design ethos! All elements of the dial blends in cohesively here, with nary a bit out of place. I especially love the railway pad markers for the sub-second dial. The bold lines of the railway pad markers complements the bold lines used for the watch indices terrifically, making for a thoughtfully designed dial.
Let’s get into the details. The texture of the Norrsken’s dial is one full of depth and contrast – design features I appreciate. Firstly, I love the multi-layered dial of the watch. As seen from the photo above, there’s a base layer (where the logo and sub-second dial are located), an upper layer featuring sandwiched indices, as well as an elevated minute pad ring surrounding the dial. This gives the dial of the Norrsken a sort of 3D effect. Furthermore, the center section of the dial is striped, a contrast in texture as compared to the matte navy upper layer. I like it – the stripes remind me of the Côtes de Genève (otherwise known as Geneva stripes) decoration one finds on decently finished movements. The stripes also seems most visually obvious on the navy variant, as compared to the other colourways. Overall, the dial of the Norrsken is clean but not boring – a nuance that most watch brands who boasts “Scandinavian design” watches fail to navigate.
The stripes on the dial are present on the case-sides as well! I love how the use of bold lines extends throughout the watch, and are not limited to just the dial. By having striped cut-outs on the case-sides, it gives the watch a simultaneously raw but also an art deco feel – this combination may sound odd, but it actually rather visually (and to the touch) enjoyable. Good to see that they didn’t just put that beautiful dial in a stock factory case. Furthermore, I need to highlight the crown. The crown is very nicely sized and grooved, making the watch a pleasure to wind (a stark contrast to the watch I reviewed last week…). The embossed crown is very nicely signed as well, with a mixture of depth, texture and shapes. Visually, it’s one of the most striking and unique crowns I’ve seen. The Alf logo looks strikingly Nordic as well – it evokes the horns of a deer to me! This is not something that I comment on often (or at all actually), but I think that their logo is very interestingly stylized. I have to commend Alf Watch Company for paying attention to the case-sides and the crown – few watch company pay attention to these, especially at this price point!
Unfortunately, the caseback of the Norrsken is rather bland. You get a big (if nicely) stylized logo, and the name of the company and the watch model, some useful information, and that’s it. Given the amount of details in the other areas of the watch, the lack of details on the caseback comes across as puzzling to me. Perhaps they were trying to keep it clean and simple, but it’s just boring to me – not something I’ll give a second look to. I wish that they used an exhibition caseback showing a decorated movement (ideally with Geneva stripes decoration) inside – that would have kept the theme of stripes and bold lines going. My guess is, at this price point the movement inside is an unadorned one, therefore the solid caseback to cover it up.
One thing that I should point out: I foresee that finding straps for the Norrsken might be a challenge. Due to the way the centre of the strap is cut out, I don’t think one would be able to find many off-the-rack options for these, at least not if you want the watch to look the way it is originally meant to look! Given that finding alternative straps would most probably be a challenge, I do hope Alf Watch Company improves the quality of the stock straps in eventual production models.
All in all, I find the design of the Norrsken strikingly refreshing. It’s clean, it’s simple – but it’s not boring. It embodies the spirit of Scandinavian design, rather than making a mockery out of it. I’ve not felt this excited about a Kickstarter project since Arcturus and Humism – like the above-mentioned, the Norrsken brings something different to the table.
Shootout: Alf Watch Company Norrsken vs Larsson & Jennings Norse Solaris
Larsson & Jennings is a Anglo-Swedish watch company who prides themselves in offering watches with minimalist design. Their Scandinavian-inspired square dress watch, the Norse Solaris, is priced at the exact same price point as the Alf Watch Company Norrsken, and therefore I felt it would be fitting to pair both watches up against each other!
In terms of build quality, the Norrsken has the win in my books due to one simple fact – it is automatic, while the Norse Solaris uses a Swiss Ronda movement. This fact alone would be a winner for most. Furthermore, the Norrsken comes befitted with lume (a pretty strong one at that), giving it a further leg up against its competition. Both watches utilizes sapphire crystal for the watch glass. However, due to the inclusion of an automatic movement and lume on the Norrsken – at the same price point – I have to say the Norrsken has the better specs.
From a design standpoint, the Norrsken wins by a landslide. Remember when I said that some watch brands abuse the term “Scandinavian design” as an excuse for boring design? Unfortunately, I think that Larsson & Jennings is culpable of this here. I personally feel that the design of the Norse Solaris is bland and unattractive. They can call it “minimalist” – I call it boring. Other than a slight sunburst dial, there’s nothing much of note about the Norse Solaris. In contrast, the Norrsken is chock-full of depth and contrast, and it is evident that much more thought has been put into the design of the watch. Visually, the Norrsken is definitely much more striking and unique, whereas the Norse Solaris looks rather plain and generic in my opinion. As such, I believe that the Norrsken triumphs over its competition in the design component as well.
Given that both watch are priced nearly identically, I definitely believe that the Norrsken offers you much more value for your money than the Norse Solaris. As such, the Alf Watch Company Norrsken is the winner of this shootout for me!
Conclusion – so the Alf Watch Company Norrsken “shiok” or not?
Hell yes. I enjoyed wearing this piece out a lot. The design of the watch is strikingly unique, unlike anything else I’ve seen at both the microbrand and luxury level. It is different, but in a classic, minimalist manner – not in garnish colorways or overcomplicated designs which seem to be the direction most Kickstarter watch projects are gearing towards nowadays. I personally love the depth, contrast, and sub-second dial of the watch. I also appreciate the coherence and congruence of the design, especially in the usage of bold lines. I’m usually a wearer of round watches, but the Norrsken (and the Cartier Santos earlier) has made me a convert.
At $299 USD (Kickstarter early bird pricing), I think the value of this watch is incredibly hard to beat. I’m really hard pressed to think of a watch with a more refreshing design than the Norrsken at the sub-$300 USD price point. You are getting a watch with a quintessentially Scandinavian design, but with strong specifications to back up the style as well. The only other watch brand that pops into my mind is Humism, but both are distinctively different watches. If you’re (like me) enthralled with the looks of this watch, do keep a look out for Alf Watch Company when they launch on Kickstarter, 25th June! Furthermore, Alf Watch Company has informed me that they will be holding a giveaway in the upcoming week, so do follow their social media page here to be notified when the contest opens. I believe that the Norrsken sets a strong foundation for Samuel and Alf Watch Company to develop further thoughtful designs – I can’t wait to see what else this young brand has in store for us!
Case: 40 x 40 mm 316L Surgical Steel Case
Dial: Sandwich Dial
Movement: Automatic Miyota Cal.8245
Crystal: AR Coated Sapphire Crystal
Lume: Superluminova BGW9
Crown: Logo Engraved Crown
Strap: Tapered Genuine Leather Strap
Box: Leather Box
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