Spotted: Piece Unique Sarpaneva Northern Lights

It should not be a secret that I like quirky watches. Independent and colorful timepieces always are a sight for sore eyes after seeing the gazillionth Nautilus or Submariner on the ‘gram. How about a guy who has a ton of independens (and piece uniques), IN PURPLE?

Our guest, The Horophile, has one of the most diverse collections I have ever seen. In a way, this guy has had a major influence in blowing color in a very conservative (read: boring) watch industry.

What’s the story behind this Sarpaneva?

I’ve been a fan of the Finnish watchmaker’s work ever since I discovered him in my early days of my hobby, around 2006 or so. I knew that one day, I’d had to have one of his pieces. That day came in 2015 when Stepan Sarpaneva and James “Black Badger” collaborated on the Northern Lights series. This collaboration ticked all the boxes for me: atypical design, Stepan’s signature moon phase and a lot of purple lume. It was my first experience with an independent watchmaker, and we ended up making a unique piece. I flew to Helsinki to spend some time with Stepan and James and to pick up the watch. It really solidified my convictions about independent watchmaking.

The Piece Unique Sarpaneva Northern Lights with Sarpaneva’s signature moonphase

Another watch that has a special place in my heart, but for a different reason, is my Audemars Piguet ultra-thin perpetual calendar. My grandfather had originally bought it and gifted to my father before I was born. When I got engaged to my wife, my father handed it down to me. We’re not very big on heirlooms and such traditions in my family, but this is certainly a tradition I’d like to develop and keep going.

How did you get into watches?

Again, this comes back to my grandfather. He wasn’t a collector per se, in that he didn’t own a lot of watches or things in general. But the ones he did own were a bit quirky and fascinated me as a child, like the Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium or Patek Philippe 3940 perpetual calendar. He was more into the “gadget” side of things rather than prestige. Everything he bought, he bought solely for his own pleasure. I try to follow that.

Looking at your feed, you seem to have a lot of purple watches, and even some purple unique pieces. Why purple? 

Why not? As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved the color purple. As a child, it made my mom’s shopping for me a nightmare, because there wasn’t a lot of choice in boy’s clothing in purple. When I grew up, I noticed that it was the same with watches. I honestly don’t know what it is about purple that people and brands find “risky” about it. It’s certainly a very moody color, and perhaps more difficult to wear than blue or even red.

The Dietrich X @TheHorophile limited edition

I really, really wanted a purple watch, but of course the watch industry being as conservative as it is, the few purple watches out there were made exclusively for women. So in 2015 I teamed up with Dietrich to produce a special purple series of watches. We only made 10 pieces, but they sold faster than either of us anticipated. In 2016 I asked (read begged) H. Moser & Cie. to do a purple series with me, also for 10 pieces. Now I’m not trying to take credit or anything, but since then I’ve noticed more and more brands doing purple watches for men. I’m happy knowing that somehow I must’ve played a small part in making purple an accepted color for men’s watches.

H. Moser & Cie Venturer XL

Where my love for purple comes from? I honestly have no idea. It could be Cadbury chocolate wrappers, the color of the Decepticons emblem, or something like that. 🙂

What was your first ‘real’ watch?

After graduation from college, around 2006, I was able to buy my own luxury watch. And that watch was… a Hublot Big Bang. A lot of watch elitists would scoff at the idea, but I think it’s important to realize how a brand like Hublot actually speaks to a younger audience. I’ve learnt a lot since then, and clearly my more recent watch purchases have leaned more to the obscure side of the industry. But Hublot has a special place in my heart.

Hublot Sang Bleu

What’s your holy grail?

That’s a tough one, because it’s constantly changing. I think a grail isn’t just about price or availability, but about the watch to end it all. For me it would definitely be something from an independent watchmaker with an emphasis on handmade, like Roger W. Smith. In the meantime however I have a shortlist of attainable “grails” that includes pieces from DeBethune, Grönefeld, MB&F, and Urwerk. I just have to discipline myself better 🙂

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