The Melancholic Watch of the North: Sarpaneva

6 March 2024
The Melancholic Watch of the North: Sarpaneva

Scandinavian watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva produces approximately 100 watches in a year with his three-person team in his eponymous brand.

For watch enthusiasts, Stepan Sarpaneva, who is obsessed with the Moon, is in a very privileged position among Scandinavian watchmakers. Sarpaneva’s love for the Moon is so deep that almost every watch has a Moon phase complication and more than one Moon figure. Even the stainless-steel bracelet is called Moonbridge, which means Moon Bridge, and features stylized Moon figures that repeat rhythmically.

Since half the year is spent in darkness in Finland, the land of lakes and saunas, Sarpaneva’s interest in the Moon is not a surprise, but no one has a melancholy view like him. The Moon figure in every Sarpaneva watch seems to have frowning eyebrows, but he is not angry, on the contrary, he is the protector of the planet and the friend of Sarpaneva and the poets.

Sarpaneva, born in 1970, actually wanted to be a jewelry designer like her father (Pentti Sarpaneva; his uncle Timo Sarpaneva is also an artist known for his glass sculptures.) But he studied at his second choice, the Finnish watchmaking school Kelloseppäkoulu. His aim was to study watchmaking rather than spend a year idle and then take the exam for jewelry design again, but when watchmaking attracted him more, he continued school. After graduating in 1992, he went to Switzerland to improve himself and studied at WOSTEP (Swiss Watchmaking Education and Training Programme).

The Melancholic Watch Of The North: Sarpaneva

Sarpaneva, who worked first at Piaget and then at Parmigiani, met another Finnish gentleman, Kari Voutilainen, and took lessons from him. Has working with Christophe Claret in the early 2000s, he returned to Finland in 2003.

As soon as Sarpaneva returned, he first sold her Harley-Davidson motorcycle in order to establish his own brand. Today he has a team of three people and produces no more than 100 watches a year. Sarpaneva’s case designs are also unique and form the basis of the brand’s identity.

The model with the same name, which was announced last year and tells the story of a wild creature named Näkki living in the swamp, encountering the full moon, or its newest watch, Midnight Sun, are talked about a lot, but the watch that impressed me the most among Sarpaneva’s watches is Nocturne, and I think this watch is a part of storytelling. Not similar. (Even if there is, Sarpaneva produced it.)

Ruler of the Night: Sarpaneva Nocturne

The Nocturne model, with a steel case and multi-layer handmade steel dial, has hour, minute and moon phase displays, a Sarpaneva classic.

The dial design of the watch was inspired by traveling theater stages. The most striking figure is an owl. The moon moves in its usual glory, giving way to a comet when it is not on the dial, but the owl is always there, not going anywhere and standing unblinking. In this case, Sadık Hidayet’s famous novel The Blind Owl comes to my mind. So much so that, Sarpaneva’s owl sees everything. When the phoenix left the throne in the assembly of birds, the owl was elected as the ruler of the birds. Owl has an important role in Greek mythology and seen as an auspicious creature. It is smart, clever, wise and ingenious, like Zeus’ daughter Athena. In Sufism, the owl is the symbol of Sufis who prefer to retreat into a corner, stay away from people and live alone (uzlet). Natives of South and North America also see the owl as a noble bird and believe it to be auspicious.

The Melancholic Watch Of The North: Sarpaneva

On the other hand, the owl is a creature associated with mourning and death in Mesopotamian civilizations, Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, the Middle East and China. However there are also many people who do not see it that way: According to the rumor, an owl, came to King Solomon, greeted him and chatted with him for a while. After this coincidence, King Solomon said: “Among the birds, there is no one that gives such advice to human and is more compassionate than this. How strange it is that ignorant people hate him and consider him unlucky!”

The owl is also auspicious among the ancient Turks, it is the protector of humanity, it is awake when everyone is asleep, its eyesight is good, it fights in the dark, it is brave, it is the spokesman of truth, it is generous and shares, it does not forget and it has strong intuition. Each of the Oghuz tribes is associated with a bird. The symbol of the Bayat tribe, to which Dede Korkut belonged, is the owl.

The Melancholic Watch Of The North: Sarpaneva

As it is known, it is very difficult to be original in the watch world. For this reason, there are very few brands that have their own style and whose watches are recognized from afar. In this sense, Sarpaneva produces the most unique watches in the world. The brand’s slogan is very meaningful in this respect: #notforeveryone.