Straum may not have come into your purview until sometime in 2021, but the folks behind the brand have been working hard at developing their first model for the past five years. Over 1,800 days putting one foot in front of the other, working evenings and weekends while juggling family life and full-time employment. The two founders are industrial designers with a passion for horology and for their native Norway. They wanted to create a watch, the Opphav (meaning origin in Norwegian) that would be both unique in its design and innovative in its construction. As you will see, they pretty much nailed these two aspects.
On the Wrist
Before seeing the Opphav in the metal, I was somewhat skeptical that it would fit my 16.5 cm (6.25”) wrist due to having a 41mm case diameter. However, the lug-to-lug distance is only 46.6mm and the height a reasonable 11.1mm. So all in all, great dimensions, and consequently, a great wearing experience. The watch sits flat on the wrist and gently extends to the full width of my bony wrist, in a good way. I can see the watch, I can feel it, but it is never obtrusive, nor is it uncomfortable. I’d say, actually, that it is the most comfortable 41mm-case watch I’ve ever worn, not only due to its dimensions, but also due to its unique case design.
I’m going to speak for myself here—and for my other watch people who wouldn’t dare say it—I do sometimes like to wear a watch that calls for attention. I like to feel the watch proudly sitting on my wrist while I’m busy doing something else, so that I know it’s there, that there is something I love sitting on my wrist helping me keep track of time. I don’t need to look at it every five seconds, but I feel its presence. Often times, wanting this effect equals wearing a watch that is too big or too heavy and that costs thousands of dollars. Not with Opphav. It commands a gentle attention and creates a constant reminder that I’m wearing a great piece of horology.
As we said, the reason why the Opphav wears so well is because it’s thin and well-proportioned. The caseback—a sigh in itself, as we will see later—is wide and has somewhat of an octagonal shape, making it perfectly sit within the slightly concave portion of my wrist. The bold and angular lugs are short and turn down abruptly at the edge of the wrist, thereby allowing the strap to fall down and follow the wrist. Last, but not least, the crown guards sit high on the mid-case and point up, not down, so away from the wrist, making the unwelcome crown-digging-into-skin impossible.
The dial is one of a myriad of striking visual elements of the Opphav. It’s made of two distinct parts: the center portion that floats above the minute track, and the latter. The two are not on the same vertical plane, and what’s more impressive is that the center portion of the dial is held in place by the even baton-style indices. Being a definitely unique visual aspect of the Opphav, the center section has a texture that amalgamates several elements of the Norwegian natural world. In their own words: “Ripples on a lake. A glacier. The seabed.” The lake is embodied in the blue version of the dial, the glacier in the white version, the seabed in the black version, and finally, Norway’s forests in the green version. (The texture is the most similar to that of windswept snow on a glacier.)
The dial texture has something of hammered metal effect too, something that was forged by hand and manipulated under intense heat, covered with a glossy finish giving the dial a mirror finish. The minute track on each model has a color that is very close to the one of the center portion, although a bit muted, thus creating depth. The sensation of depth is accentuated by the applied indices and stylized logo, as well as the alternating shorter and longer indices. Despite the fact that the watch head is almost all dial, it doesn’t look too big on the wrist due to its unique design layout and visual intricacies.
The hands are highly polished and are a somewhat more geometric version of baton hands with a subtle triangular design. They are fat, in a good sense, and of equal width at the tip as the one of the indices. The hands beg to be seen and blend perfectly with the dial. The seconds hand has a rectangular counterbalance with round edges and a rectangular section to account for lume. Speaking of which, lume can also be seen on all indices and hour and minute hands and is made of thick layers of BGW9 Super-LumiNova that glows ice blue. Um, a delightful combination.
Case, Bracelet, and Movement
The case design and construction is unique. Let’s start with the caseback which showcases something quite remarkable: a wide piece of steel running across the caseback, the latter being embossed with the design of two mountain ranges that surround the Straum logo. Half of the caseback is therefore see-through and lets us admire the movement within: the Sellita SW200-1. Maybe a little moan of mine is the fact that this movement, in this configuration, has a ghost date position, but this is nothing that would hinder the enjoyment of wearing the watch for more than five seconds. The details and finish on the caseback are quite superb, something rarely seen for most brands, especially a young brand, especially on their first model.
The rest of the case displays sharp geometric angles that meet together in harmony. The lugs are flat and wide (22mm lug width), and a polished chamfered edge runs all along the case to the other side. The right side of the case shows a slight interruption in the case design to make space for crown guards. The crown sits comfortably within and is made of brushed facets that make operating the crown easy. The crown, it should be noted, does not screw down, a fact that doesn’t prevent the Opphav from boasting 100 meters of water resistance.
The bezel is something that is quite pleasant to look at as well. It’s flat, finely brushed, and displays a polished chamfer. This alternating of polished/brushed finishes echoes the overall look of the case, the latter showing finely brushed finishing on the sides and top surfaces. The light plays are delightful. The glossy dial reflects light when looking at the watch straight on while the bezel nullifies this effect, and when looking at the watch from an angle, then the chamfers of the dial and bezel shine and reflect light in little streaks. Overall, the watch head is gorgeous.
At the moment of writing, the Opphav can only be had on custom-fitted leather straps that come in black, blue, brown, and green. Straum is working on a fully articulated stainless steel bracelet with solid links and endlinks which will be available mid-2022. The straps fit the case design perfectly as they extend outside of the lugs, continuing the case lines to the entirety of the wrist. These straps, by the way, are probably some of the best-made leather straps out there. The leather is of high quality, is supple (once broken in), and the hardware is of equal quality and finish as the case.
I hope you can all relate to the following situation: once in a while I see a photo of a watch appear on my Instagram feed and I instantly know I’ll like the watch. Then I become obsessed with it and learn everything I can about it. Then, knowing that the package is en route to me, I hope that I won’t be disappointed. (Disappointment often occurs when we spend too much in the expecting/waiting phase, be it for a watch or a blockbuster movie.) But no, I was not disappointed. Quite the contrary. The Opphav is the kind of watch that not only looks good on photos and on paper, but that looks even better in person. Its many small design details and unique construction left me speechless.
What Straum accomplished for its first model is quite remarkable. I rarely hear of a brand that can put so much time and effort into designing their first watch and create a successful model on their first try. The Opphav surely nods more than one time to Norway’s beautiful natural world, and the creators of the brand managed to infuse the Opphav with a lot of personality, rarely seen at this price point. What’s more is that the Opphav is well-made and gives a lot to look at every day.
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Check out the Straum website
Straum Opphav Specs