The Pioneer Chronograph is Nordgreen’s first chronograph model, and it actually won the prestigious Red Dot Design Award last year (2020). There were only 10 Red Dot Design winners for watches – which also counted Nomos, Sinn, Louis Monet and Laco as winners – so it’s safe to say that Nordgreen is in good company.
So it won an award – but is it any good? Let’s find out!
Nordgreen – the Brand
Nordgreen was founded in 2017 by Pascar Sivam and Vasilij Brandt, who wanted to build “…a brand that is actionable toward sustainable practices while creating an aesthetically pleasing, and functional collection of designer timepieces”. To differentiate their designs from the throngs of fashion watch brands out there, Nordgreen collaborated with Jacob Wagner, who’s known for his work with Bang & Olufsen, Hay, B&B Italia, and Cappellini.
The brand also believes heavily in giving back, and thus every Nordgreen order will provide one month of drinking water to a child in Buruburu, Kenya. There’s plenty more altruistic programmes too – the details are here, for those who are interested.
Nordgreen Pioneer – Video Review
For those interested in seeing some hands-on footage of the watch, do check out my Youtube review of the Nordgreen Pioneer below!
Nordgreen Pioneer – Build Quality
I would say that the Nordgreen Pioneer has satisfactory specifications for its price.
Firstly, the Nordgreen Pioneer uses a double-domed sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to its inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. I should also highlight that a double-domed sapphire is more expensive to make as compared to a flat or single-domed sapphire, so I’m impressed at its inclusion on this affordable fashion watch. In addition, the Pioneer has a water-resistance rating of 50 metres, which renders it robust enough for most everyday activities (including getting caught in the rain) that doesn’t involve prolonged submersion in water.
Nordgreen states that the Pioneer is powered by a Japanese quartz movement. The brand doesn’t specify exactly what movement it uses, but my guess would be the Miyota 6S21 movement. If that is the case, then the accuracy of the movement would be +/- 20 seconds per month. Interestingly, it has a high-beat centre chronograph hand with a smooth sweeping movement that mimics that of a watch with a mechanical movement.
The Pioneer is available on a variety of strap options – leather, metal mesh, nylon, even a three-link bracelet. I picked the Pioneer on the patina grey leather strap, which I thought had an intriguing texture and would add a bit of contrast to the pearly white dial. I also think that grey straps are sorely underrated – they are very versatile and pair great with a myriad of watches. However, the strap itself is only of genuine leather quality, and thus will not patina over time (despite its name).
All in all, the Nordgreen Pioneer has satisfactory specifications for its price. It has a double-domed sapphire crystal, a reliable Miyota quartz movement (with a sweeping chrono hand) and a good-looking strap. As compared to say, similarly-priced fashion chronograph watches from Fossil or MVMT, the build quality is definitely much better here.
Nordgreen Pioneer – Design
That being said, the design of the Nordgreen Pioneer is its unique selling point – it won a design award after all!
Looking at the Pioneer, it’s easy to see why it won the award. There’s a couple of colourways, but the white dial variant is by far my favourite. It best evokes its Scandinavian roots, and is reminiscent of chronographs from brands such as Skagen and Bering. However, I would say that the design here is more subtle and complex, and a level above watches from the aforementioned brands. It looks minimalist, but unlike other “minimalist” watches (cough Daniel Wellington) it’s clear that there’s thought involved.
For one, the dial of the Pioneer actually possesses significant depth. The circular sub-dials have a sculpted nature that’s graceful, but also lends depth to the dial. The same goes for its date window. Instead of being a simple cut-out or framed window (which is the case with most affordable fashion watches), the date window is circular with a similar sculpted look that gives it significant depth. The date font is unique too and different from the norm. I also appreciate how the hour markers are subtly denoted with outlined indices that are both obvious but subtle, in an intriguing oxymoronic manner. Lastly, the centre chronograph hand and the chronograph sub-dial hand is tipped in red, which adds a touch of colour to the otherwise monochrome dial. The red-tipped hand of the left chronograph sub-dial differentiates it from the running seconds sub-dial on the right – a little detail that goes a long way.
The case of the Pioneer is in a gunmetal colour, with a satin-brushed finish. The crown of the watch is similarly coloured, and signed with the Nordgreen logo – a detail not always seen with fashion watches at this price point. The chronograph pushers feel solid too, providing a tactile response when activated.
The case back is a snapped-on one, which has been polished and stamped with a simple Nordgreen artwork.
The Pioneer has a contemporary 42 mm case size, which wears perfectly on my 7-inch wrist. In fact, I would say that it wears slightly smaller than what it dimensions would suggest due to its short wire lugs. Furthermore, the Pioneer is rather svelte at 11.9 mm thick – significantly slimmer than most automatic chronographs. I had no issues pairing the Pioneer with formal wear, and found it to fit under my shirt cuffs with ease.
Overall, I’m a fan of the Pioneer’s aesthetic. I can see why it won the Red Dot Design award – it’s full of little details that when together, become more than the sum of its parts. I especially like the graceful, sculpted lines of the Pioneer’s sub-dials and date window – it’s minimalist for sure, but definitely not boring.
Shootout – Nordgreen Pioneer vs Vescari Chestor
If you’re looking for a minimalist, bi-compax chronograph, then another watch you can consider is the Vescari Chestor which I reviewed a few months back.
In terms of specifications, the Nordgreen Pioneer edges out the Vescari Chestor. While both watches share a Miyota quartz chronograph movement and 50 meters of water resistance, the Pioneer features a double-domed sapphire crystal as opposed to mineral glass on the Chestor.
And from an aesthetic standpoint, I have to say that the Pioneer comes across as more visually intriguing than the Chestor. Although both watches have minimalist dials, the Pioneer has a better-designed dial that is full of thoughtful details. I mean, there’s a reason why it won the Red Dot Design Award! That’s not to say that the Vescari Chestor is bad-looking – not by any means – but it’s unfortunately the more aesthetically generic one out of the two.
What the Chestor has going for it is its price. It’s about US$100 cheaper than the Pioneer, or about 30% more affordable. If you’re a tighter budget, the Chestor is a good alternative. But if you have that extra cash to spend, I’ll suggest going for the Pioneer instead.
Conclusion – so the Nordgreen Pioneer “shiok” or not?
The Nordgreen Pioneer is ultimately still a fashion watch – if you’re a watch enthusiast, it will probably do nothing for you. However, it’s a well-designed fashion watch that is better executed as compared to similarly priced chronographs from other fashion watch brands such as MVMT, Vincero, Fossil, etc. It also has a distinctly Scandinavian aesthetic to it that looks better than chronographs from Scandinavian fashion watch labels like Skagen, Bering, etc. I can see this appealing to the mass market. If you’re considering getting a chronograph from one of the aforementioned brands, I suggest strongly considering putting the Nordgreen Pioneer at the top of your wish list instead.
For those interested in the watch, you can use the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” to enjoy 15% off all watches from Nordgreen online. After the discount, the Nordgreen Pioneer would cost US$245/~S$330, which I think is a fair price for its specifications and design impetus. I think it can be a good one-watch collection for someone who just wants a nice looking watch that’s suitable for all occasions – it’s stylistically versatile enough to pair with both casual and formal outfits.
Case Thickness: 11.9mm
Case Width: 42mm
Case Material: 316L Stainless Steel
Case Color: Silver / Rose Gold / Gun Metal
Dial Color: White
Glass: Domed Sapphire Crystal
Movement: Japanese Quartz
Strap Width: 20mm
Interchangeable Straps: Yes
Water Resistant: Up to 5 ATM (Rain resistant)
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!
P.S.S.S Shiok is a common word Singaporeans use to express admiration or approval. As of 2016, you can find the definition of the word in the Oxford English Dictionary.