Posted on September 27 2023
One of the most enjoyable features in the world of niche watch brands is the way a founder's personality is expressed through the design of watches.
You'll know what I mean.
The founder has a background in car design so his watches work automotive styling into their aesthetic. Or the owner is a professional diver by day and at night creates wonderful dive watches.
As much as I love that side of the watch industry, it was refreshing to get my hands on the Sport model from Holgar. You see, Holgar takes a very different approach to watch design than many similar-sized brands.
Holgar starts with a very clear mission. To uncomplicate Swiss watchmaking.
That's right. They deliberately simplify their watch designs to make their Swiss-made watches accessible. It's an interesting concept, so let's see how it works in practice.
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Holgar Black and Silver Sport
Holgar Black and Silver Sport Swiss Automatic Watch Review
Before we get into the details of the watch it's worth taking a minute to understand the inspiration behind the brand. Although I've summed up the company's ethos as an attempt to uncomplicate Swiss watchmaking, the idea is a little more er.... complicated.
Founded by Nas Ekangaki in 2021 - following a career working in and with luxury brands - Holgar is a company that promotes itself as an affordable and accessible way into the world of Swiss watches.
That core tenet of the brand is relatively simple - Holgar watches are designed and priced to make owning a Swiss watch very attainable. Of course, putting that into practice can be slightly more difficult.
Holgar's solution has been to simplify its watches, leading to three collections that offer straightforward and practical watches that are specifically designed for everyday wear. By definition, they're versatile, rugged and free of over-complications.
Importantly - and I'll get back to this - Holgar focuses on the materials used in the manufacture of its watches more than trying to cram features into the designs. So its catalogue consists of three collections noted simply as Chronograph, Classic and Sport.
Remember, I said it still gets a bit complicated?
Well, Holgar offers a very specific value proposition that influences all of its watch designs. It notes that the key elements of its watches are exclusivity, Swiss manufacture, an upgraded finish and a stylish design.
That's a big ask.
Well-designed Swiss-made watches crafted from great materials and both affordable and exclusive? I was certainly keen to know more.
Especially about the idea that affordable watches could also be exclusive. It turns out that Holgar limits production of its watches to 1,500 annually, with each model limited to 100 pieces a year. Each watch is individually numbered and all the watches are manufactured in Bienne, Switzerland.
The Holgar Sport is the brand's simplest watch and is available in three colourways, beige and gold, black and gold and the one I've been wearing for the past few weeks - black and silver. It's a substantial watch with a 904L stainless steel case and a Sellita Swiss-made automatic movement.
Let's dig in and take a closer look.
The Holgar Swiss-Made Sport Watch in Detail
The Holgar Sport is a distinctive watch. That's clear when you have it in your hand. Two things were immediately apparent - namely, the quality and the size. If you're wondering about the quality of a watch marketed as an entry model into the world of Swiss watchmaking, don't be.
The quality is there.
Although it's a larger watch, the size isn't any kind of deal breaker. If you're after a rugged sports watch, this could be a major selling point. Either way, it's certainly a bold watch that doesn't sit on the fence.
Remember, Holgar specifically designs its watches to be good all-rounders and a part of creating an everyday watch is that it can take what the world throws at it.
So for the Holgar Sport - a watch marketed at customers with an active lifestyle - it has to be robust, versatile and reliable. Even without the brand's ethos of simplifying watchmaking, I'd expect this watch to be relatively simple.
With that in mind, the Sport is a substantial piece with a distinctive 44m case. This is where the brand comes into its own. The stainless steel case is relatively chunky and boasts an unusual shape. The lugs integrate with the bezel giving the watch a unique look that compliments the other fairly simple elements.
But as I noted earlier, although the designs may be simplistic, there's also been an effort to upgrade the materials used. For the Sport model, that means the case is forged from 904L stainless steel, rather than the more common 316L.
I like that. It's an improvement to the watch, designed to aid performance, that isn't obvious or ostentatious. The case is highly polished and angular with short curved lugs that offset the size a little to ensure it wears comfortably.
Like the case, the dial also appears simple at first glance. And again, it does have its own elegance when you take a closer look. It's an attractive guilloche dial with a texture that rewards those close to the watch - again, probably the owner. In keeping with the overall aesthetic it's a black dial with white indexes. The matching hands are dauphine-style and are well-lumed and the utilitarian second hand rounds out the spartan look.
The discreet date window is tucked away at 6 o'clock and there's little in the way of unnecessary dial text. As you'd expect from a sports watch, it's highly legible and offers nothing to complicate the act of telling the time. It's all protected by a sapphire crystal.
To set the time you'll use the modestly-sized signed crown that is partially protected from knocks by the blending of the lugs into the bezel and turning the watch over you're presented with an exhibition back. The relevant spec details including the unique watch number are noted and the rotor is signed.
The Holgar Sport is a Swiss-made watch and the movement is what you'd expect at this price point. It's a Swiss-made Sellita SW200 - a handsome and reliable automatic movement with enough power reserve to get you through a weekend.
The strap is great and adds a touch of flair to the watch.
The 44mm case features 22mm lugs which house a strap with a texture similar to the dial. The black rubber strap - with white contrast stitching - has a leather base. At the risk of repeating myself, it's an upgrade that adds comfort to the wearer without influencing the simple design of the watch. It has a deployment clasp that offers extra reassurance if you're actually going to wear the Holgar during sport and is the final piece of the cohesive design.
To really enjoy the Holgar Sport you have to subscribe to the brand's ethos. It's that simple. Holgar tells you what boxes their watches tick and if that matches your wants it's a no-brainer.
So Holgar watches are exclusive. There are only 100 pieces of this particular watch made each year - and the watch is numbered.
It's also Swiss-made. The watch is assembled in Bienne and the movement is from Switzerland too.
As we've seen with the use of 904L steel, there are subtle upgrades to the watch and the design is stylish, if somewhat utilitarian.
And the price?
It's $1,495 which does seem affordable for an entry-level Swiss-made watch.