The world of watches, specifically independent watchmaking, can be full of surprises…Starting with the myth that all high-end watches are made in Switzerland. Actually, you can find talented watchmakers in most parts of the globe. A perfect example of this situation is Stepan Sarpaneva, probably the best-known watchmaker from Finland, together with fellow Finn Kari Voutilainen. It’s been two decades since Stepan Sarpaneva returned home to Helsinki, Finland, to create his highly distinctive watches. And to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his eponymous brand, the independent watchmaker releases a series, the Sarpaneva Stardust and Stardust Nostromo.
In a portrait we published a few years ago, Stepan talked to us about his past, present and future. His career, he told us, started as an accident. Not really interested in academic studies, his first choice was to become a goldsmith like his father, but he was selected for watchmaking school instead. Willing to give it a go for one year and then pursue his goldsmith’s apprenticeship, Stepan found his natural calling in watchmaking. He then applied to study in Wostep in Switzerland, in Neuchatel, which he started in 1994. Stepan started his watchmaker career at Piaget, followed by Parmigiani with another Finn and friend, Kari Voutilainen. He then moved to the company of another talented indie watchmaker, Vianney Halter. In the year 2000, he went to work with Christophe Claret. And in 2003, things changed drastically. Stepan flew back to Finland and created Sarpaneva watches and S.U.F Helsinki a year later (SarpanevaUhrenFabrik, a more accessible sister brand). The rest is 20 years of highly personal, polarising creations with a genuinely distinctive design, collaborations with some other great watchmakers and the unmistakable Sarpaneva Moonface that can be found on most of Stepan’s watches.
To celebrate two decades of his eponymous brand, Sarpaneva releases a new pair of watches that couldn’t be more related to the brand. Korona case, bold colours, signature hands, off-centred indication, a Moonface on the back… It’s all there. Still, these new Stardust and Stardust Nostromo are slightly different from previous creations and mark a new journey into the unknown, what Finns calls sisu. Both watches share almost identical parts but have different dial executions.
The Sarpaneva Stardust and Stardust Nostromo are housed in the signature Korona case, with its scalloped sides and composition that associates convex and concave lines. The crown sits at 4 o’clock, as often with Stepan, and the case is made of Finnish-forged stainless steel alternating brushed and polished surfaces. Measuring 42mm in diameter, with a reasonable 10mm thickness and 46mm length, the case is water-resistant to 100m and framed by sapphire crystals. It is worn on a matte black alligator strap with a pin buckle, and an additional rubber strap is also included in the box. While it looks striking on the wrist, it is also very comfortable to wear.
As mentioned, the 20th-anniversary Sarpaneva watch comes in two executions: Stardust and Stardust Nostromo. Both use a typical design of the brand with a multi-layer dial construction, an openworked area and different finishing techniques to enhance style and legibility – the best example are the steel hands with two-tone finishing. The dial consists of seven different hand-finished parts. The Sarpaneva Stardust depicts a night sky with a hand-flamed titanium base dial glowing from beneath, with colours wrought from different torch temperatures – ranging from blue, purple, green and yellow.
The second version, the Sarpaneva Stardust Nostromo, plays on a monochromatic scheme with DLC-coated surfaces in tones of grey. But this version truly comes alive at night, thanks to the hand-applied Tritec luminescence on the numerals, hands and black polished rocketship small seconds hand at 10 o’clock. Stepan uses four different colours of SLN to create a lively scene at night.
Under the sapphire crystal back, and wound by a rotor with the signature Moonface winding mass, is a modified movement sourced from constructor Chronode. This calibre P1003 is a classic movement with a 4Hz frequency and a comfortable 60h power reserve. The modifications mainly consisted of moving the seconds hand from the centre axle to its 10 o’clock position. The back reveals matte-finished surfaces and pleasant decoration. The Moonface on the rotor will be picked out with a bit of lume (not yet ready at the moment of launch).
The Sarpaneva Stardust and Stardust Nostromo are released as limited editions of 20 pieces each, available directly from the brand – www.sarpanevawatches.com. They are each priced at EUR 16,500 (excl. taxes).