What’s the first thing you think of when you think about Stockholm? Minimal style? Architectural masterpieces? Unspeakably delicious cinnamon buns?
Whatever it is, it’s probably not watches. Because despite the Swedish capital’s status as the contemporary throne of cool – not to mention a long-standing track record for terrific design – it’s not exactly a byword for fine watchmaking.
Which isn’t to say the Swedes don’t make watches (they do, and have done for some time) but that some of the country’s most recent exports have perhaps exploited their homeland’s reputation for Scandinavian minimalism to the point of pastiche: churning out thousands of Spartan styles – all clean lines and austere watch faces – that, by virtue of their sheer ubiquity, lose something of their appeal.
Not so, Corniche – a Stockholm-based watch brand bringing something entirely new to the table: affordable and beautifully designed dress watches that look money, but don’t cost too much.
Founded in 2013, the label cites the Côte d’Azur – a long-time favourite destination amongst the style set and where Corniche’s founders summered as children – as its starting point for inspiration, the coast’s intrinsic association with timeless elegance informing the brand’s painstaking attention to detail.
Since starting out just a few years ago, the brand has been steadily gaining traction for its focus on exceptional design, premium materials and – online – a luxury watch-buying experience its competitors could only dream of offering. Corniche’s is, in the watchmaking world, a unique value proposition – one that’s rapidly earned it a loyal global following among some of the most discerning watch connoisseurs (watch blogger and Instagram star Anish Bhatt, of Watch Anish, among them), as well as sought-after retail space in stores like Liberty in London and the Beverly Hills Hotel in LA.
Leading the charge for the brand is its hero piece, the Heritage 40, a sleek, sophisticated yet resolutely modern take on a traditional dress watch.
Measuring just 7mm thick (perfect for sitting comfortably under a shirt cuff) the Heritage 40 combines the trappings of a classic dress watch: a ceramic dial with dauphine hands and hand-applied polished markers; a stainless steel (or rose gold-plated stainless steel) case; and a genuine leather strap, with considered contemporary details like a Mediterranean pine tree embossed on the caseback, or punchy contrast blue hands in two of its four main iterations. All of which, by the way, is yours for just €325, or about £290.
For that price, you might understandably expect Corniche’s watches to arrive bunged into a bog-standard cardboard box, but that’s anything but the case for the detail-obsessed watch brand.
Determined to ensure a luxury experience, Corniche ships all of its watches in a piano lacquered wooden box housed within a dark chocolate brown outer box. Carefully laid inside is an owner’s manual and a certificate of authenticity – proof that what you’re about to strap on is every inch the original.
The brand also does a good line in limited-edition models. Inspired by places, seasons and feelings, Corniche has so far released seven – each a subtly different spin on its Heritage 40, and each sold out within weeks of going on sale.
Its latest, the Heritage 40 Paloma, was arguably the most radical departure yet. An exclusive collaboration with renowned Cap Ferrat beach club Paloma Beach (otherwise known as one of the French Riviera’s most glamorous destinations), the Paloma swaps the Heritage 40’s plain ceramic for a two-tone dial, the caseback’s signature embossed pine tree for ‘Paloma Beach’ in cursive script and a plain dial for one thoughtfully marked with the French tricolore at 6 o’clock – a fittingly striking tribute to a place that takes its name from none other than Pablo Picasso’s daughter.
If you’re lamenting missing out on these sell-out special editions, don’t: Corniche is set to release another two limited-edition styles in the coming months. When exactly, the brand won’t disclose. But what’s sure is watch fans the world over are already awaiting their release with bated breath.
The special editions are a savvy move from a watch brand on the up, the making of a legacy that sticks it to longer-in-the-teeth watchmakers who might like to dupe themselves into thinking Corniche is just a flash in the pan. It is instead, as it describes itself on its – by the way, flawlessly designed – website, a “small player with big ambitions”. And we can’t wait to see what it does next.
Corniche’s full collection is available at cornichewatches.com.