Bravur is a small independent brand based in Stockholm, Sweden, started by two friends, Magnus Äppelryd and Johan Sahlin. Both men have backgrounds in industrial design and bring an interesting perspective on watches, as neither was involved in the industry before starting Bravur. (Of course, they’re both deep into watches now.) Still, they don’t look to other watches for their designs and rather, as Äppelryd says, “inspiration really comes from everywhere.”
Here, Äppelryd shares how he started the company, how the current public health crisis has affected the business, and how Swedish materials and concepts influence Bravur watches.
Editor’s Note: this interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Q: How would you describe Bravur to someone who had never seen your watches before?
A: We create watches with a strong identity/character, made in small quantities and assembled by hand in Sweden. Created for those who seek unique and personal brands that isn’t worn by everyone else. Design is a cornerstone of the brand, and our watches have unique and unitary design elements.
Q: How did you decide to create a watch brand?
A: Johan and I have been friends for many years, and we discussed creating our own brand and products during a long period. It was not obvious that it would be watches though. We discussed everything from cycling-related products, which we both have a big interest in, to shoes. We got the idea to create a watch brand when I was about to buy a watch for myself. That’s when we started exploring the watch market and Bravur started to take shape. This was back in 2011.
Q: Do you recall the first watch that left an impression on you? What other watches have made an impact on you since?
A: I have a few memories, and the first nicer watch I got was a Tissot chronograph. I think I got it when I finished high school. I still have this one but I never wear it though. My other watch memory is a Certina, that was the actual watch that got us start thinking of starting our own watch brand. I bought this when I graduated from university. I still have this one as well, but never wear this one either…
Bravur founders Johan Sahlin and Magnus Äppelryd
I really like both Cartier Tank and Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, which are masterpieces I think. These are watches with a unique character and a classic design that never goes out of fashion. Definitely watches I wish I had designed! I also like how these watches can either be dressed up or down, and work just as good with different types of outfits.
Q: Does your design inspiration come from the world of watches, or is it more influenced by other products, objects, or concepts?
A: We very rarely look at other watches when we design a new model, but sometimes we get inspired by specific details of other watches. On our first model, BW001, we were inspired by vintage cameras. This resulted in the coin edge texture on the side of the case that has since been one of our brand design elements.
We are constantly searching for inspiration, and collect materials, colors, textures, etc all the time. We gather images of products where we might like a specific color or shape, and then we try to transform these colors, shapes, textures, etc. to watches. We recently launched two limited edition versions of our Scandinavia model, and the colors for these dials were inspired by colors of some suitcases we had seen. So inspiration really comes from everywhere!
Q: What from your background in industrial design, cycling, and menswear translates directly into your watch design and business?
A: Both I and my co-founder Johan have backgrounds as industrial designers, and this makes us really work all details of a watch through. We never want to compromise, and this sometimes makes the design and development process quite long.
The BW003 with Bottle Green Dial
For us, watches are the perfect combination of industrial design and menswear. It’s a product you wear in your everyday life, and a product made with the highest precision and a mechanical masterpiece. It’s a beautiful combination. We design watches that should work perfect in your everyday life and be your everyday companions, both functionally and stylistically. We aren’t very interested in creating watches that can be worn in space or deep under the sea. We never launch a watch we wouldn’t want to wear ourselves, something that is important for us.
Our interest for cycling is not (yet) visible in the watches, but we often do trips where we combine cycling and work. A few hours on the bike in morning, and then hard work in the afternoon, working out the strategy for the brand or creating new designs. That’s really a perfect setup for us that gives us inspiration and energy.
Q: What value do mechanical movements add to your watches?
A: Very much, I would say! Just like everything else we choose our movements with great care. A mechanical movement really adds something special to a watch, and these movements are fantastic creations. I also think it’s a fantastic contrast to our ever-increasing digital and connected life. The interest for mechanical watches has increased the last few years, and it seems to continue that way.
Q: Being Swedish is central to Bravur’s branding, but your watches don’t necessarily conform to the popular image of Scandinavian design as ultra-minimalist. What does a Swedish or Scandinavian watch mean to you?
A: No, that’s right, we are not pure minimalists. For us it’s all about finding the right balance between a clean, simple design and interesting details. We try to create sublime details that you might not notice directly, but that you will discover eventually. For us, the Swedish/Scandinavian style is a lot about putting the user/wearer to the centre. It’s also a lot about choice of materials, where quality and authenticity is important.
Q: What’s the benefit of assembling the watches in your own studio and using Swedish materials?
A: Since the start we have had an ambition to do as much locally in Sweden as possible, and our own assembly operation was of course an important step in that direction. Doing the testing and assembling on our own gives us much better control of the production and quality, which is really important for us. That way we also have the technical competence and know-how in-house. It’s also possible for the customer to visit us and actually see when their watch is being assembled.
The quartz-powered BW002S and the automatic Geography GMT with Midnight Blue dial
For example, every movement is tested and controlled for accuracy, and if needed we regulate them. We’re proud of being a Swedish brand and Sweden has a very strong reputation, both design-wise but also when it comes to quality. Sweden has some of the leading steel producers in the world, which is why we have chosen to use Swedish steel for our cases.
Our choices are made because of our attention to details and quality, but this doesn’t make anything easier or cheaper for us. The cost for assembly in Sweden is pretty much the same as doing it in Switzerland. We also believe that our customers appreciate a watch that has been specifically built for them.
Q: How is the current public health crisis affecting your business? What do you have to do differently?
A: One of the first things it affected was our participation in the Windup Watch Fair in San Francisco in March, which was cancelled. These types of events are very important for us, since we get to meet a lot of people, and people that have read about us gets a chance to see the watches live.
One of our biggest launches in a few years has also been postponed, mainly because of the concept behind the watch (I’m afraid I can’t reveal anything about the concept yet), but also because of delivery problems from our Swiss movement supplier that is currently closed. We have some launches coming up later this year that might have to be postponed because of lack of parts. So we are definitely affected. It’s very difficult to plan the rest of the year, both when it comes to production but also events.
Q: What would you do with a three-week vacation and $10,000?
A: I’d probably go to Italy or Mallorca, stay at a really nice hotel and ride my road bike all day and enjoy great food. That would be a great trip!