Bravur watches is hardly the first independent watch brand to emerge offering stylish design in an affordable package, but since its inception in 2011, the Swedish watch company has grown from plucky upstart into credible microbrand, with plenty of quality timepieces to offer genuine watch enthusiasts.
Industrial designers Magnus Äppelryd and Johan Sahlin started out making watches powered by cheaper quartz movements, but since last year changed direction, introducing Swiss-made mechanical movements to their watches.
This year, they launched the Geography series, a GMT watch with two time zones at London’s Salon QP event. After the event, The Week Portfolio caught up with Magnus Äppelryd to find out more about how Bravur got started, and where it is heading next.
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You were trained as an industrial designer - how did you move into watch making?
None of us have a background in the watch industry, and we weren’t particularly into watches either. Previously I worked mainly with sports and outdoor products, and Johan worked within med tech.
We have been friends for many years and had talked about creating our brand for a long time, but watches was not one of the first products we thought about. We discussed doing leather goods (weekend bags, etc), sneakers, and even cycling related products, due to our background as racing cyclists.
The idea with watches began when I was about to buy a watch to myself. That’s when we started exploring the watch market and discuss what we could contribute with. Both of us have a big interest in fashion and we felt that watches were a perfect combination of fashion and product design.
Seven years after starting your brand, what have you learned? Is there anything you would do differently if you started again?
To have patience and have a long term goal. It’s easy to look at those few brands that grow really fast, but that’s not the case for most companies. Everything also tend to take much more time than you think when it comes to product development.
Building a new brand (within the affordable luxury category) takes time, and I think a lot of watch customers are quite conservative and might not embrace a new brand directly.
One thing I might would like to do differently is to move in to the mechanical segment earlier, but at the same time quartz watches have been a great starting point for us.
Do you see Bravur as a distinctively Scandinavian watch company? What about your watches do you consider to be quintessentially Swedish?
Yes, we are very proud of our Swedish origin, and we try to use as much Swedish materials and parts as possible. Starting our own assembly in Sweden was a major step for us.
We really feel that being a Swedish brand is an advantage abroad, since most people can relate to Swedish design as something attractive. I also think people
Design-wise we have a Scandinavian look, but we don’t aim to create the most minimalist design. For us it’s important to find a balance between a minimalistic design and unique and interesting details. I think this is maybe one of the most significant aspects of Swedish design, and what makes it so successful.
You favour Swiss watch movements. Is that a preference based on the quality of Swiss calibres or is it a business decision because Swiss sells better?
This is a quality decision. Our brand motto is ”Swedish soul – Swiss heart” summarising the brand quite well. Our ambition is to create watches of the highest quality and with the best materials, so going for Swiss movements is a very conscious decision. They simply produce the best movements.
The Swiss-made label is of course a very strong concept within watches, but still we decided to do all assembly and testing in Sweden, thus not being allowed to label them Swiss made. This doesn’t make anything cheaper, but we have much more control of the production, we are more flexible and can keep the stock down, and we also want to do as much as possible locally in Sweden. I believe Sweden also has a very good reputation in the world when it comes to quality and production.
You started out with quartz movements before going mechanical in your more recent models, including the Geography. What prompted the switch?
As mentioned we didn’t have a background within watches, and we started out as a design-focused brand. Although the watches were Swiss made with Swiss quartz movements and of good quality, the focus was not on the technical aspects, but rather a good looking watch. As our knowledge and interest in watches grew, we were more and more drawn to mechanical watches, and the delicate machines they are. A lot of people also liked our watches and asked us if we would ever do one with a mechanical movement. So I guess it was a mix of both a demand from our customers and a growing interest from ourselves.
We still have a design focus, but it’s really important for us to create watches made of the finest materials and high quality movements. I would definitively say that the general interest for mechanical watches have grown during the last years.
Which other brands do you admire, both big and small?
If I would have to choose one brand it would be Nomos. They are doing a great job and have built a very strong and consistent design DNA. That’s a type of brand we are drawn to personally, both when it comes to the watches and the brand.
A brand that we are very inspired by otherwise, that are not making watches, is the British cycling clothing brand Rapha.
Do you have a grail watch? If so, what do you like/desire about it?
I really like the Slim d’Hermès. I think it has the potential of becoming a classic, with a contemporary, yet timeless, look. The font they created for this watch is amazing. This is a watch I wish we had designed.
Is there room for mechanical watches in an increasingly digital world? Are you interested in smart watches?
I definitively think so. Personally I’m getting more and more sceptical to new digital devices (might have something to do with age…), and I think there will come a counter reaction to this. I think we can already see that, were a lot of people are more and more drawn to lasting craftmanship, rather than yet another plastic electronic device. This is also driven by the fact that we need to change the way we consume and start investing in qualitative products that we can use for a long time, rather than just buying new stuff all the time.
Even though there might be a functional aspect of the smart watch, I think there is a beauty in having a watch that can last for a lifetime if treated correctly. A smart watch will be outdated in a few years.
Where would you like Bravur to be in twenty years' time?
I would like to still keep it a small niche brand, still offering timepieces that are made of the finest material and with an impecable finish, but at an accessible price point. By then I hope we can have more production in Sweden, and maybe even our own in-house movement. I also hope we have our own physical stores in selected cities around the world.
For more information visit bravurwatches.com
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