Michelsen Heads South
I recently came across a brand from Iceland – not a country you hear from every day, let alone when it comes to watches. While they’re primarily a reseller of other high-end brands, they have two of their own models. The one I want to focus on today is variant of one of their in-house pieces they purpose-built for a trip to the South Pole. As with other watches (think of Sir Edmund Hillary and his treks), a watch designed for a trip to the South Pole couldn’t just be some slapdash job pulled together off the shelf. Here’s a little background on how the Arctic Explorer came to be:
Miss Vilborg Arna Gissurardóttir began her solo South Pole expedition on November 19th. Miss Gissurardóttir came to us for advice on a watch that would survive tremendous frost and extreme conditions. It’s important to be able to tell the time while in Antarctica. The result was that Michelsen Watchmakers took on the task to make a special watch for her to use in the expedition to the South Pole, where it’s common to have temperatures down to -50°C over the summertime.
Of course, if it can stand up to the rigors of the Antarctic, it should handle anything we would throw at it, right? In the course of corresponding with the brand, I learned that Miss Gissurardóttir did just recently arrive successfully, on January 17th. In the course of the trek, this watch spent the expedition strapped on to the outside of the coat – which means it got about the worst cold-weather abuse you could expect. And the result? It performed without any issues – now that’s an endorsement!
To be fair, her watch did have some upgrades over the standard model, including an upgrade to an Top Execution movement, as well as special lubricating oils that could withstand temperatures down to -50°C. That leads to the logical question – what is it being upgraded from? Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:
- ETA 2893-2 Elaboré grade movement with GMT and date complications
- 42mm stainless steel case (11mm thick)
- Uni-directional rotating bezel
- 100m water resistance rating
- Sapphire crystals front (AR-coated) and back
- Dial: blue, black, or white; all with Superluminova
- Variety of available straps (nylong, rubber, or leather)
So, those are the hard-and-fast specs, and they add up to a nicely appointed watch. Of course, that’s not worth much if the watch doesn’t look nice as well, right?
In terms of design, this has a lot of the qualities that I’ve come to like with the Rolex Explorer II – an Artic white dial (well, that’s my favorite of the three) and almost monochrome treatment; GMT and date complications, and a classic case design. Of course, should you not care for the white dial and NATO strap, they do have two other options – a very nice blue dial on a blue rubber strap, and a black dial and leather strap (I’ve shown both of these models in the post).
This just leaves us with one piece of the puzzle to discover – pricing. Now, of course, we won’t have the special upgrades needed for an Arctic expedition, but there are still some fairly hefty specs accompanying the “standard” watch. Add that to smaller production runs, and the pricing of approximately 2,100 EUR in the EU (1,790 EUR / $2431 outside the EU) seems just about in-line.
For me, it’s an intriguing watch. One variant was put through punishing conditions and excelled, so the folks at Michelsen really seem to know how to build a watch. Add to that the appeal the monochrome white dial has (again, for me), I could see myself having a hard time deciding between this and the Explorer II. Thankfully, my watch budget isn’t near either of those, so we can save that argument for another day.