Norway Watch Fans Warm to Swap Meets

OSLO, Norway — Of the six watches that Jonas Adolfsen brought to the Oslo Swap Meet — a three-hour event in early February where watch enthusiasts gathered to buy, sell and swap timepieces from their private collections — the one that overwhelmingly drew the most interest was a vintage Ollech & Wajs Mirage III he had bought on eBay in 2021 for $990.

In one half-hour alone, five passers-by plucked the chronograph from Mr. Adolfsen’s collection case. There were questions: Was it an authentic vintage model or a recent reproduction? Had it been serviced regularly?

Although it was an original model and had been serviced, they all moved on to a nearby display belonging to Oskar Nagel, 23, a university student and part-time employee at the Norwegian watch retailer Urmaker Larsen. (He was wearing a Cyma rectangular 22-millimeter watch and said he loved its visible screws as an “interesting and outdated way of putting all the parts together.”)

Mr. Adolfsen said the lack of sales didn’t really bother him. Like many of the approximately 400 watch enthusiasts who attended the third iteration of the event, held in the event space of an office building in the Norwegian capital, he was there to mingle, look at the offerings of his 40 or so fellow traders and browse the displays of the 17 manufacturers exhibiting there.

“Watches are not really a commodity for me,” said Mr. Adolfsen, 48. who sat behind a small wooden table on a series of raised step-like platforms devoted to the traders’ displays. “They are just a hobby that I like, something that I enjoy. If I buy or sell something here today, it doesn’t really matter.”

Yet the 38.7-millimeter blueberry-colored dial of a 180 B Mustikka (blueberry, in English) had caught his eye earlier in the day. Mr. Adolfsen, an architect, said he admired the combination of elegance and durability in the watch, produced by the Finnish label S.U.F. Helsinki, which he said made it equally suitable for office meetings or visits to building sites.

Might there in fact be a new watch in his future? “We will see,” he said.

S.U.F. and Jurmo Watches, another Finnish label, were among the 10 manufacturers who had traveled to Norway for the event. Others included the Swiss watchmakers Zeitwinkel and Baume & Mercier; and Kieser Design from Germany.

”It’s a place where consumers can meet the creators in a relaxed environment and see their products firsthand,” said Martin Kalland, a co-founder of Jurmo Watches, ”and where watch enthusiasts and brands get to connect in a way that’s not possible online.”

Among the seven Norwegian watch brands exhibiting were Radium Instruments, a manufacturer of customized mechanical timepieces; Von Doren, founded by the Norwegian film producer Oyvind Von Doren Asbjornsen; and Bragdur, a family-owned microbrand.

Bragdur presented 25 prototypes at the event and also promoted a pair of his and hers limited-edition diver watches, set for release this summer. They were the most asked-about products, Lars Erik Hansen, the company’s owner, wrote in a later email. He also noted that the brand sold 14 watches at the event.

Other displays offered watch-related products, like timepiece-themed playing cards and straps from a Ukrainian maker. And in an adjacent area, the well-known Danish watch aficionado Kristian Haagen was being interviewed for the Norwegian watch podcast Klokkelandslaget.

Imad Younus Mirza arrived at the event with 11 watches, some of which were destined for a session with Mr. Lume Shot, a watch photographer who took complementary photos of enthusiasts’ timepieces. Others were offered for sale, said Mr. Mirza, 31, including a Credor watch that he hoped would go for 8,000 Norwegian krone, or $780.

In the end, he accepted 6,500 krone for the piece. ”Even though I didn’t earn any money on this one,” he said, “it feels really good to have sold it to someone who really loves the brand.”

The Oslo Swap Meet was created last year by Morten Paulsen and Torgeir Sanders, intended as a gathering for local enthusiasts, many of whom belong the Oslo chapter of Redbar Group, a global collector community based in New York City.

“We had a fairly open mind about what we wanted to achieve, but it was not just about buying and selling; it was about meeting,” said Mr. Paulsen, who oversees the Oslo chapter of Redbar and is a former administrator of the popular Norwegian online watch community Klokkeriet.

When the men debuted the event in June 2022, the concept of a swap meet was new to the Norwegian watch community. But the men, having experienced it in connection with other interests and hobbies, felt it would be a success. “I like antiques and cars, and for these sorts of things we have swap meets here — places where people can buy and sell,” Mr. Sanders said. “So, we thought, ‘Hey, why not something for watches?’”

The approach was relaxed: There was no entrance charge, and neither swappers nor sellers were required to report activity or hand over a portion of their sales. Swappers could use display tables without reservations or fees, although Mr. Paulsen said that might change for the next meet, and manufacturers were charged what he called “a small fee,” but declined to specify.

Attendance has been increasing, the men said, with the February event drawing more than five times the number of visitors to the first one. And, they added, they had turned away brands from throughout Europe that had wanted to take part.

Mr. Sanders said the men decided to allow mostly manufacturers “who are taking risks and doing interesting things” in the watch world, and small independent labels.

“Norway is a rich country and we have the luxury brands here, of course. But I think also the amount of people who like the smaller, unknown brands and watches that are more obtainable is getting quite big,” Mr. Sanders said. “People are becoming interested in watches in a new way, in how they are made, and the passion behind them.”

Near the end of the event, Mr. Adolfsen still had his Ollech & Wajs, so he decided not to buy the blueberry-dial watch.

Cpl. Henrik Onarheim, a squad team leader in the Norwegian Army, had planned to exercise similar discipline. He said he had driven two hours from the Norwegian town of Rena that day in hopes of selling some watches from his collection, including a vintage Longines and a 70-year-old Omega.

Four or five people, he said, looked at the Longines, a 1960s model with a manual winding movement and a cream-white dial that he wanted to sell for 6,000 krone. “People have taken pictures and taken my number,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get a call later.”

But two hours into the event, he still had both — and had bought two Tissot models from his neighbor. “I know nothing about them,” he said, “but sometimes watches just speak to me.”

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