Skagen Watch Review for 2020: Cheap Fashion Accessory or Nice Watch?

Skagen is a fashion brand from Denmark that makes some good-looking watches that are both lightweight and thin. They’re famous for having minimalist Scandinavian designs and being quite fashionable.

However, they’re not the best in terms of quality and durability, and consistently break down after just a couple of years. Despite being deisgned in Europe, they’re mainly manufactured in East Asia out of cheap components.

Here’s the bottom line:
➼ If you want a durable and reliable watch, avoid Skagen watches.
➼ If you just want a minimalist wrist-fashion-accessory, Skagen may be a good choice for you.

Nevertheless, they are one of the nicer-looking fashion brands, and probably have the best designs out of similar-priced mall watches.

In this Skagen watch review, we’ll explore:

Design:3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)
Value:3 out of 5 stars (3.0 / 5)
History:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)
Quality:1.5 out of 5 stars (1.5 / 5)
Respect:2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
Price:2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
Warranty / Customer Service:2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)
Overall Rating:2 out of 5 stars (2.0 / 5)

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Last updated on October 30, 2020 4:33 am

Understanding the Skagen Brand: What Are They Selling?

Many successful companies primarily sell a “brand” or an “image” first, and the product second. In a perfect world, a good product doesn’t need a good image to sell; as a corollary, a bad product shouldn’t be able to sell just because we see pictures of hip happy Europeans wearing it… but it happens all the time, and it’s happening now with Skagen.

A bad product shouldn’t be able to sell just because we see pictures of hip happy Europeans wearing it

This is the vibe and image that Skagen is selling:

  • Modern, playful, and in the moment
  • Appreciation of nature and the wild world around us
  • Small but significant
  • Creative energy
  • European multiculturalism and small-town Scandanavia
  • Fashion journey
  • Hip, happy, and creative
  • Made with love
  • Minimalism and passion
  • Copenhagen, Nyhavn, and Aurora Borealis
  • Traditional and fashionable
Skagen in a nutshell

What does this have to do with watches? Basically nothing: Skagen watches are just totems for these vibes. Put another way: Skagen products are meant to invoke these feelings and associations in customers – they are not meant to sell you a working watch.

Skagen Denmark is a “fashion brand
Skagen sells a “vibe” – a “brand” – an “image”. Some of these just happen to take the shape of a wristwatch. It’s all about how they look; that’s why they barely work.


A Review of the Best Watches of Skagen Denmark in 2020

As of 2020, Skagen has over a dozen collections, including:

  • Melbye
  • Falster (smartwatches)
  • Ancher
  • Aaren
  • Jorn
  • Holst
  • Hagen
  • Kristoffer
  • Anita
  • Grenen
  • Signatur

Fundamentally, there is no real differentiation between any of the model lines. There are Signatur watches that look like Jorn watches, and Holsts that look like Hagens. The names seem to be randomly assigned, and most likely originate with friends, family, and employees of Skagen Denmark.

While Skagen watches boast some simple minimalist designs, many of their most popular models are scaled-down copies of Georg Jensen designs. However, the price is also scaled down from $1000 to a fraction of that. Furthermore, many of their models do feature original designs.

Nevertheless, the following is a review of Skagen’s best-selling watches that have captured the adoration of an American customer base longing for such simple designs.

Some of the qualities shared by most Skagen watches:
➼ They get loads of compliments
➼ They are very thin
➼ They have better designs than other fashion brands
➼ Little to no water resistance
➼ Mostly powered by quartz movements

Skagen Denmark Melbye

Skagen Melbye | View more Colors

The Skagen Melbye is a very simple titanium watch on a mesh band. Do you like how it looks? That’s all there is to it.

The quartz watch is exceptionally thin and versatile enough to wear with any outfit. Like most Skagen watches, there are many color variations, but this one has blue accents and a blue-tipped seconds hand.

For just over $100, you’re getting a basic minimalist watch. Overall, many customers love it.

Pros
  • Very Thin
  • Eye-Catching
  • Made of titanium
  • Goes well with many outfits
  • Comfortable
  • Day and Date windows
  • Mesh band allows skin to breathe
Cons
  • Can’t read in the dark
  • Arm hair catches on mesh
  • Crystal is thin and exposed
  • Very low accuracy

Skagen Aaren Kulor Watch

Skagen Aaren | View More Colors

The Aaren is probably Skagen’s best design, based on a classic Bauhaus style. Adopting this minimalist design, Skagen has made it into a kid’s toy, with the same color for the dial, case, and strap. There’s something very “Legos” about it all.

This collection is inspired by the Aurora Borealis, or maybe by Copenhagen’s Nyhavn district, or maybe all of that is made up marketing from their site.

That Skagen logo should have been at the top to counterbalance the small seconds subdial at the bottom. As it is, it looks skewed from a design standpoint.

The best part of the watch is that it comes in dozens of colors, and they all stand out on the wrist from very far away. Hovering around the $50 price point, that’s probably as much as anyone should consider spending on this brand.

Pros
  • Very thin
  • Gets lots of compliments
  • Chic pop of color
  • Very light
Cons
  • Cheap fashion accessory
  • Looks like a toy
  • Dust sticks to the silicone strap

Skagen Kristoffer Watches

Skagen Kristoffer | View More Colors

The Skagen Kristoffer is one of the brand’s more confounding watches. Resembling a half-cross between a Soviet Geiger counter and a cyclops, the Kristoffer is simultaneously minimalist and too busy.

The Kristoffer has small circles alongside the numbered indices – why not just have the numbers? Why do the numbers have a 0 prefix? This watch raises too many questions about its design to appreciate.

The nice part is the small seconds subdial. It’s got another subdial at the top to show the time on a 24-hour scale (instead of the regular 12-hour scale), which is one of the least useful features on a watch. Priced between $50-$100, it’s an expensive toy.

Pros
  • Easy to read despite small digits
  • Good contrast
Cons
  • Stiff leather band
  • Limited outfit matching

Skagen Jorn Review

Skagen Jorn | View More Colors

The Skagen Jorn is Skagen’s answer to Daniel Wellington and MVMT watches. The relevant question was “what’s the most we can sell a $5 quartz watch for?” DW and MVMT are raching the $200 mark, but poor Skagen is struggling to sell it for under $75.

This watch looks like it barely got finished. It’s an artistic statement in the genre of “cheapest materials known to man.” It’s a case study in marketing, where the consumer is the unwitting test subject.

Holst Skagen Watches

Skagen Holst | View More Colors

I’m a sucker for reflective dials, so this Skagen Holst is the only watch I can appreciate here. The golden brown sunburst matches the brown leather strap quite nicely, and complements the golden brown outlines on the hands, indices, and subdials.

There’s two subdials with actually useful complications – day of the week at the top, and date of the month at the bottom. Working together, the alignment of the 5 hands will never have the same configuration, so you’ll have a new dial face with every glance.

Pros
  • Stylish
  • Date functions
Cons
  • Very cheap crystal
  • Bad timekeeping / accuracy

Skagen Falster Review

Skagen Falster 3 | View More Strap Options

Well I’m not sure what smartwatches have to do with minimalist Scandinavian designs, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Skagen Falster 3 is one of the brand’s best-sellers.

The name of the watch tells you what you need to know about how long it will last – just until the Falster 4 comes out. That’s a heck of a way to spend a paycheck. Why don’t you just save yourself the heartache later and go for the older Falster 2 now? This should tell you why I avoid smartwatches. A real quality watch should last you 20-200 years, not 12 months.

For a smartwatch, the Falster 3 has a lot of cool features: Heart Rate, GPS, NFC, and Smartphone Notifications. You want a phone on your wrist? That’s what you get.

Pros
  • Smartphone on your wrist
  • Skagen logo on the dial
  • Smartwatch features
Cons
  • Boring
  • Must be recharged
  • Going to be outdated in about a year

History of Skagen Designs

Timeline

  • 1989 – Skagen founded
  • 1991 – First Skagen watches produced
  • 1992 – $800K in sales
  • 1998 – $30M in sales
  • 2005 – $70M in sales
  • 2012 – Acquisition by Fossil
  • 2020 – Estimated $100M annual revenue

Founding (1989-1991)

Skagen Designs was founded in 1989 by an immigrant couple from Denmark – Henrik and Charlotte Jorst. They started out selling corporate-branded gift watches to businesses. After establishing a decent supply chain with Chinese factories, they started making their own designs.

Showcasing them at a 1991 New York corporate gift fair with positive feedback, they launched the Skagen Designs brand, and achieved $800,000 sales in the following year.

Acquisition by Fossil (2012-Present)

In 2012, Fossil, Inc. purchased Skagen for 150,000 Fossil shares and $25 million.

Today, Skagen Designs Ltd. is owned by Fossil Group, Inc.
After massive success selling watches, they’ve expanded to other accessories such as backpacks, purses, handbags, sunglasses, and jewelry.

Are Skagen Watches any Good? Quality of Skagen Watches

When you buy a Skagen watch, you’re buying a colorful wrist accessory that resembles a watch. It’s got basic watch mechanisms inside, including a battery, a watch case, hands, and a crystal that kind of work together.

Do you want to be able to look down at your wrist and know what time it is? To know consistently that the time is correct without having to double-check against your smartphone? Skagen can’t promise you that.

In a nutshell:
Skagen watches are made of cheap parts, are low-quality, and have bad accuracy. For a watch in their price point, this is unacceptable.

Skagen watches are made of cheap materials. Their estimated lifespan is about a couple of years with normal wear, which makes them “disposable.” Also depending on your luck, they may start to lose significant accuracy within a few months. Considering that super-accurate quartz movements are pretty cheap, this is unacceptable.

The crystals (glass) on Skagen watches have a tendency to crack for no reason, out of the blue, after about a year.

The straps tend to last just a couple of years before you have to replace them. Many Skagen models have integrated straps, meaning you have to buy a replacement from Skagen when they break.

Additionally, despite being specified to 100m of water resistance, you shouldn’t get them wet. They’re not suitable for swimming or showering.

Altogether, their watches are overpriced by about $50-$100; but if you find one on sale for under $30 and you like the design, you should get it.

Skagen used to offer a Limited Lifetime warranty, but these days it’s only a 2-year warranty. That’s about as long as I’d expect the watch to last.

Reputation of the Skagen Watch Brand

Despite it’s quality issues, Skagen is one of the most popular fashion watches in the world. This is because Skagen has very good marketing. At the end of the day, their watches do have a ‘pop’ on your wrist. They do provide a minimalist style that’s very popular with young people.

So Skagen has a mixed reputation: in terms of quality, it’s on par with Daniel Wellington (DW), MVMT, and Michael Kors fashion watches. From a fashion and design standpoint, Skagen’s models are the most interesting and eye-catching. The company has a long history of a consistent design style that’s unique to them.

A good fashion brand is one that is fashionable

A useful exercise when considering the reputation of a watch brand is to look at it from a couple of different perspectives, since different people have differing levels of experience with watches.

Your friends and coworkers (who wear smartwatches):
Cool watch – I love the minimalist design, and those are cool colors! Where did you get it?

Your watch-wearing uncle (who wears Longines and Grand Seiko watches):
That’s great that you’re finally getting into watches. Wait, you paid how much for that? I’ll have to get you a nice Seiko 5 for your birthday.

Where are Skagen watches made?

Skagen watches are Made in China and assembled in Denmark and worldwide.

In China is where the components are manufactured from raw materials by Chinese factories. Some portions of the watch are assembled there as well, creating about 5-10 separate components.

These components are then shipped to Denmark, where they’re assembled into the final product.

The company worldwide headquarters is in Reno, NV, USA. Their European HQ is in Denmark.

What kind of Movements does Skagen use?

Skagen uses a variety of cheap chinese, Miyota, and even Seiko movements. Some of these are as cheap as $10 each. Some of their automatic models use the durable Miyota 9015.

Skagen mostly uses Miyota movements.

Skagen Name and Logo

Skagen is named after the northernmost city in Denmark – a fishing peninsula located where two rivers meet. These rivers are the Skagerrak and Kattegat bodies of water, which curve around the landmass. The logo of Skagen depicts the meeting of these two rivers, as you can see overlaid here:

The Skagen logo represents the place where two rivers meet

Final Thoughts

Skagen Designs is first and foremost a fashion brand. They look great, they get a lot compliments, and they’re both thin and lightweight. Skagen has been making fashion products and watches for over 30 years, and have a solid brand image of Scandinavian minimalism and hip fun adventure.

So are they a cheap fashion accessory, or a nice watch?
Skagen watches are a cheap fashion accessory that is going to last a couple of years, making it “disposable.”

However, a nice fashion watch is what a lot of people want. All else considered, they have much nicer designs than other fashion brands like DW and MVMT.

Overall, they’re about $50-$100 overpriced, and I would recommend getting a Casio or a Citizen in the same price range as your best bet. Even Timex makes more reliable timepieces with a higher water resistance. However, you won’t get the same design aesthetic in a fashion watch outside of Skagen.

Skagen watches may be a good choice for young people looking for a fashionable wrist accessory, but they would look out of place on men over the age of 30.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review of Skagen watches.
My goal is to help you pick a watch you’ll be happy with. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the brand in the comments below. Was I being too harsh, or totally fair?


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