Two employees of the Carlsberg brewing company met at a business dinner party in their native Denmark in 1986. The couple were Henrik Jorst and Charlotte Kjolbye. They were soon to fall in love and move to the USA after Carlsberg sent Henrik over there to oversee the company’s American arm of the business.
The couple were married that same year. The pair harboured a dream to create an international design business and hit on the idea of designing and producing watches for sale as corporate gifts, branded with the logo of other companies.
Their initial designs were well received but they were advised that they would do far better to offer the watches under a new company name of their own, rather than brand their great designs with other people’s logos.
With that thought in mind, Henrik came up with four different styles of watch and had 800 manufactured to test the waters. First though, he was in need of a company name that summed up his and Charlotte’s ideals of simplicity and style in a functional product. The name Skagen Denmark was born out of this philosophy.
Skagen is actually a small town in the north of Denmark, renowned for the quality of its light and the timeless beauty of its beaches and blue seas. It has attracted artists to paint there since the late nineteenth century and is known for its tranquillity and peaceful atmosphere.
That first batch of 800 watches was to sell out very quickly. A second batch went just as fast so for the next season the couple came up with a range of 30 watches. These were featured in a mail-order catalogue and completely sold out within weeks.
In the next ten years Skagen Watches grew to employ 100 staff and began to export their wares to Europe. Now they have 170 staff and sell to over sixty foreign markets. Skagen designs can now be found in some five thousand stores around the world.
A Skagen fan would be able to recognise one of their designs even without the stylish logo. The reason is that Henrik and Charlotte ensure the products stay faithful to their original idea. There are no large, chunky, oversized watches under the Skagen name. Their products typically are super-slim with a clean, uncluttered look. A trademark is the use of exotic materials such as titanium and watchbands of finely woven stainless steel.
One might expect Skagen watches to cost a fortune but you’d be wrong. Skagen strive to offer excellent value for money and their products cost no more than many mass produced items with no design flair at all.