The story of Halda Watch Company – Sweden’s Oldest Watch Manufacturer
Halda is a special watch brand, unique in so many aspects that it doesn’t fit into the category of your ordinary watch brands. It is a brand with a long and rich history and great success.
Its history stretches far back to 1887 when factory owner Henning Hammarlund founded Halda in the small town of Svängsta, a town situated in southern Sweden.
Although founded in 1887, the first watches left the factory in 1889 – a relatively short amount of time considering the immense craftsmanship that went into a Halda timepiece. The Halda Watch Company is the first watch manufacturing facility in northern Europe at the time of its founding.
Hammarlund’s vision was to never compromise, ever, and his challenge was not just to manufacture watches. In fact, Hammarlund started out by building the machines and tools demanded to be able to manufacture the clockworks.
As a result of Henning’s attention to detail, and willingness to only produce the best, his timepieces were spread among the world’s fine mechanical engineers, holding a quality and standard that was comparable to the very best of the Swiss watchmakers.
Henning Hammarlund – the founder of Halda
The name Halda is formed by a contraction of the founder’s surname –Hammarlund( a).
Henning’s ambition was to create the most perfectly engineered watch that money could buy, and he succeeded greatly, getting credit for his work from all around the world.
Henning Hammarlund was born on December 30, 1857, in Varalöv in southern Sweden.
As a young child, he showed great interest in mechanics, and built watch constructions in wood, following instructions in newspapers. His professional life began in Helsingborg’s mechanical workshop, and soon after, he was being taught by a watchmaker in Ängelholm. After this, Hammarlund continued his studies in Stockholm for a few years before he headed off to a journey that would last in 7 whole years, leading him to a list of cities in Europe and U.S.A. His long education was finished with studies in the watchmaking academy in Geneva.
After this, Hammarlund returned to Sweden ambitious to create his very own Swedish pocketwatch factory. He found the location for his factory in the small community of Svängsta, in southern Sweden.
In 1897, and on the Royal Cour’s request, His Majesty King Oscar II of Sweden was presented with a unique Halda timepiece decorated with his own portrait on the back of the watch case.
During world war two, the demand for exclusive pocket watches dramatically decreased, leading to Hammarlund beginning with offensive investments in the factory to meet the predicted market for typewriters after the end of the war. Hammarlund also did other things to be able to cope with the decreased demand for pocket watches during this time. He began developing new ideas for typewriters and taxi meters, leading to the creation of the Halda taximeter – the only approved taximeter in all of London for the following decades from 1902. His typewriters that were launched in 1914 were also a big success, being used all over the world. Moreover, the Halda typewriter was also Ernest Hemmingway’s preferred choice when writing.
When the war was over, the factory was meant to be ready for the demand with 300 workers, but Hammarlund’s optimism wasn’t shared with the bank, so in 1917, they denied further loans for Hammarlund. This lead to Hammarlund being forced to leave his lifework on the 8th of November 1918.
After Hammarlund’s leave, the Halda company was split into several different companies – many of which are still active and highly successful today, but with only one company following his passion of creating timepieces.
When Hammarlund was forced to leave his lifework, AB Halda Fabriker, took over the manufacturing of typewriters. For the production of taximeters, Fabriks AB Halda taximeter took over that part. This company is the origin of today’s Haldex AB which is a manufacturer of gearboxes and four-wheel drive systems to name two.
Most importantly, after Hammarlund left the company, the production of watches did not stop. In fact, his pocket watches lived on after watchmaker Carl Borgström, who had been an employee Halda since 1904 bought the remaining stock of watch parts and machinery, and hired experienced watchmakers from the factory to start producing watches again. The company Aktiebolaget Urfabriken (ABU) came to produce pocket watches until 1926 when they started producing fishing equipment such as fishing reels. Today, that company is known as ABU-Garcia AB, one of the largest producers of fishing reels, still to this day located in Svängsta, the same town as the Halda watch factory was situated.
In 1887, a watch cost seven monthly salaries and therefore became the ultimate symbol of success. From the periods of 1888 to 1917, Halda manufactured about 8,000 pocket watches of the highest standards.
It took ten months to produce a timepiece and the production process included about 3,000 different production elements and testing. To improve the quality of the watches, Henning kept developing and improve his instruments, because some parts in the 19th century had to be manufactured with a precision down to one 100th of a millimeter.
Halda is relaunched
After the liquidation of the Halda Watch Co, the watch brand was put to rest. This would, however, not last forever, when Swedish entrepreneur and engineer Mikael Sandström, in 2009 after several attempts, managed to buy the watch brand and the global rights of it.
Following Hammarlund’s example of a profound enthusiasm for innovative engineering that never compromises with quality and function, Sandström set out to present the world with a watch never before seen. He collects a team consisting of pioneering engineers, renowned watchmakers, and astronaut Christer Fuglesang, and began sculpturing the first watch with the Halda name in a very long time.
Sandström, inspired by Hammarlund’s mindset of never compromising, set out to create new, modern watches, while still tributing traditional watchmaking that Halda’s founder lived and breathed – and never satisfying with anything but the best.
To be able to accomplish this, Sandström was forced to create his own rules in order to master them, and so Halda has. The modern Halda is creating a new standard where good enough is never enough.
Mikael Sandström developed a new watch with an innovative concept with the revival of Halda. This concept is based on a docking station with interchangeable modules – one mechanical, tributing the traditional watchmaking and Halda’s past, and one digital, reflecting Halda’s take on the future. To make something as complicated as the Halda interchangeable concept simple: the concept is based on a time platform and interchangeable time modules. The patented docking innovation allows the user to quickly and effortlessly change between modules – in terms of looks, and also in terms of usability if choosing to use a digital module. Each module is developed for optimal performance in its respective field.
Halda sees the concept as a passionate meeting point between fine watchmaking and the eternal dream of a perfect timepiece. Each module is developed for optimal performance in its respective field and the patented locking system of the platform allows you to change between them – that is why the Halda Concept stands for functional superiority.
Every single decision Halda makes is based on the same drive that Henning Hammarlund established: there is never room for compromise in quality or function, and this can be seen in every little part of Halda’s products – no matter how big or small.
Circuit cards are for example always black, but in order to follow the red theme of the Race Pilot model, Halda went out of their way to custom-make red ones – even though no-one other than the watchmaker at Halda will ever see it.
Halda watches today
In modern times with Mikael Sandström as CEO and revivor of the brand with an interesting history, Halda, two watch models have been released. The Halda Space Discovery, designed for optimal performance in space, and the Halda Race Pilot, designed for optimal performance on the race track.
Both watches feature the patented docking system allowing you to switch between modules – even between the two models.
In developing the first modern Halda watch, Sandström didn’t want to make it easy for himself, just like Henning didn’t when he first founded Halda. Sandström seeing space as the ultimate challenge, he set the aim to create a watch for the most extreme environment known. Sandström wanted to mix the best of both worlds with Halda’s first watch. He wanted a workhorse and a beautiful work of art that is supremely functional. Thus inventing the docking concept.
In close cooperation with astronauts, Halda created their first watch model Space Discovery – a watch and instrument with advanced functions.
To make sure the watch met astronaut standards and could withstand the immense challenge space is, the company worked together with the Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang who tested the watch on his space mission STS-128.
Halda’s Space Discover was a limited and numbered edition of 128 pieces. The model included a full set, delivered in a handmade wooden box including a steel bracelet, Velcro strap and a travel case in genuine leather. The watch itself featured two interchangeable time modules, making use of the patented locking system. Each module was developed for optimum performance in its respective environment – one mechanical module for the earth, and one digital module for space.
2010 was the year of the revived Halda brand’s first launch. The Space Discovery had its world premiere at the international Basel Watch Fair. In the Space Discovery, there’s more than meets the eye, and this emphasizes the drive to produce perfection through all aspects of the watch.
On February 17th, the first Halda Space Discovery out of the 128 limited pieces is delivered to Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang.
The Space Discovery is fitted with a sapphire crystal but has the option to be changed to a hesalite crystal. The reason being is that hesalite is a specially formulated polycarbonate which prevents it from breaking into shards as Sapphire crystal does. While it isn’t as scratch-resistant as sapphire crystal, it is a necessity to use hesalite for a space mission. Therefore, if you are going to space, you need to change the glass of your Space Module from sapphire crystal to hesalite crystal. This is a service that Halda does free of charge.
TECAMAX™ watch case
The case for the digital Space Module is made of the NASA-certified and- used thermoplastic TECAMAX™, particularly developed for military and space, suiting Halda’s concept of the Space Discovery perfectly. The material is extremely lightweight while also being incredibly durable – able to withstand chemicals, acids, as well as temperatures of close 400°C.
Automatically adapting backlight
Just like your regular smartphone, the LED screen on the digital Space Discovery module adapts to ambient light. To improve the usability and readability of the Space Module, they fine-tuned the wavelengths of the color of the light in the display.
The Space Discovery comes with two options on how you can wear the timepiece. Either with the stainless steel bracelet or with the strap appropriate for its name – the flight strap, created so that the watch can be worn on top of a spacesuit.
The flight strap is built according to NASA’s very own specifications, and different from you might think, the flight strap is not your ordinary NATO-strap. Just like the watch, all flight straps come individually numbered.
Functions of the digital module
The digital Space Discovery has lots of clever features, nothing less than you’d expect from a watch that is supposed to help astronauts in space. Inside the TECAMAX™ case, cutting-edge technology is driven by a low power consumption microprocessor for ultimate efficiency.
The digital module is packed with 11 functions.
- Earth Time
- Dual time
- UTC Alarm
- MET Alarm
- Event Log
- Mission Time
Earth Time setting and dual time
When you are in space, you’re covering ground fast, and keeping track of earth time while in space can, therefore, be a challenge. In space, you circulate around the earth 16 times in 24 hours. This is the reason why the Space Discovery has a built-in earth time setting. This function allows you to quickly access the local time and time zones of 192 countries on earth. What’s more, the Space Module allows you to have dual times activated on your module – making it possible for you to see two world times simultaneously.
The Space Module also features a G-force sensor, which is especially useful when measuring g-forces upon take-off and landing. The max recorded G-forces are then stored in the watch for evaluation. To measure G-forces, the watch as an integrated 3-axis accelerometer.
The event log is a logging function that can store events, UTC-time and serial number. With the function, you can save up to 99 events.
Reveilles is an alarm clock that can be set to once at a set time, repeat the same time every day, or only on weekdays.
The countdown is a function that counts down until a certain time/day. The countdown shows the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds remaining until your selected time.
The mission time function is a countdown for lift-off that you can set to a specific time. When the time you have set has come, the watch will automatically measure the acceleration during lift-off, and it will display the current G-forces during lift-off. When the acceleration stops, the watch senses it and stops the function, displaying
The second module of the Space Discovery is a mechanical, high-beat movement operating at 5 HZ- 36, 000 bph, unlike most movements that operate at 4 Hz, or 28,800 beats per hour (BPH).
Why does the Space Discovery come with a traditional mechanical module? Well, even astronauts spend most of their time on earth.
The higher frequency of the movement allows the watch to be more accurate, and following Halda’s vision of never compromising, creating such a movement is a challenge that yet again reflects that Halda is never cutting corners or taking the easy route. Instead, it seems like Halda is always looking for the most difficult route because if you aren’t facing setbacks, you cannot improve.
The mechanical movement in the Space Discovery is a so-called New Old Stock (Nos) movement, which is an automatic high-performance movement. The movements have 25 jewels and a power reserve of about 43 hours. A movement like this has never been used in a watch before, and with Halda always creating their own paths rather than following others’ trails, the NOS movements were the perfect starting point for Halda.
With the movements being old stock, they needed some serious renovation before they could be used. But due to the complicity of a movement such as the H1920-SA, very few watchmakers had the knowledge, capability, and expertise to work on a movement of such high standard
Halda took help from the infamous watchmaker Dane Svend Andersen, an icon in the watchmaking industry, to modernize and fine-tune the 128 movements for the limited edition mechanical Space Discovery. CEO Mikael Sandström called the movement of choice “a movement for the most discerning connoisseur.”.
In 1985, Andersen founded the Académie Horlogère de Créaturs Indépendant – a society of independent watchmakers dedicated to letting independent watchmakers be seen as artists, innovators, and creators. For Halda, Svend Andersen was the ultimate candidate to help bring the movements into life. Apart from just the fact that Mr. Andersen is one of the most famous and experienced watchmakers, Halda saw a strong connection between the Space Discovery and Sven Andersen’s masterpieces that dealt with the phases of the moon and infinity -thus making him the ultimate candidate for the job.
“Watchmaking is mechanical engineering, and mechanical engineering is an art. Sven Andersen is part of the lineage that traces a winding passage all the way back to a time and place where Halda was the pinnacle. But since the creation of the Halda Space Discovery, we are no longer in the past. Halda is moving forward and the vision of Henning Hammarlund has been reborn – shared and evolved by the Halda team. And now not even the sky is the limit.” – HALDA WATCH CO.
In 2013, the second manifestation based on the Halda concept is released – the Race Pilot.
Halda’s next challenge to create the world’s first genuine racing watch was realized in the Race Pilot – a unique racing instrument developed with race engineers and tested by Formula One drivers. Without compromising with design, function or quality the Race Pilot unites the tradition of mechanical watchmaking with the advantages of modern technology by using the patented docking system, allowing for a quick change of modules, which means one mechanical module, and one electronic – Race Module – both developed for optimal performance in their respective areas.
Halda’s first challenge was to create a watch for the most demanding environment – space, so it’s not surprising that Halda’s second watch after the revival of the Halda brand is dedicated to racing – another environment with extreme demands. The advanced technology in the Race Module has been developed with a countless number of tests under real racing conditions and then being fine-tuned, again and again, to meet the demands of the most experienced race driver, such as Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson.
The Race Pilot’s bezel is made of Titanium for a high strength-to-weight ratio. The bezel is then coated with black DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) to keep the sporty look.
Halda is infamously known for never compromising with quality and function, and when designing the Race Pilot, Sandström’s focus was to create a watch where the design was in harmony with its function. The platform for the Race Pilot has been shaped the way it has for more reasons than aesthetics. The platform is designed with four openings in the platform, creating an opening between module and docking station allowing the sound to go out, and not get blocked by the wrist, while also creating a resonance effect to amplify the various sound levels of its alarms.
To make sure that some signal reaches the wearer’s ears in loud environments, the Race Pilot has four selected frequencies between 2.5 and 8 kHz.
Functions of the Race Pilot
The Race Module is equipped with 13 advanced features, but despite this, the Race Module has an easy-to-use interface that allows you to use it without an instruction manual.
Some features can be recognized from the Space Discovery such as the G-force measuring function, alarm clock, and dual time feature, and this reflects the fact that while being extremely different, race drivers and an astronaut have similar needs, but for the functions in the Race Module that separates the two models, it is clear that the Race Module is a watch developed for race.
The functions of the Race Pilot are the following:
- Race Chronograph
- FIA Formula 1 Countdown
- Countdown to race
- Dual time
- World Timer
- Alarm Clock
- Alarm Signal
- Perpetual Calendar
- Power Save Mode
Track information of 150 race circuits
The Race Module features information from 150 of the world’s most popular race tracks. The watch senses your geographical location and knows what track you are at. You can also manually select one of the 150 racetracks as well as create your own, using the manual feature.
FIA Formula 1 countdown
The Race Module is also equipped with a highly useful feature – the FIA Formula 1 countdown.
This is a warning system that lets you know about the time remaining until formation lap, according to the Formula 1 regulations of Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). This feature is meant for Race Engineers in particular, but also for race drivers.
The chronograph of the Race Module allows you to measure lap time and average speed of two cars simultaneously with an accuracy down to 1/100 of a second.
Mechanical movement by Zenith
The passion for fine mechanics and mechanical movements is the foundation of the Halda watch brand, so it’s no surprise that the mechanical Race Pilot model is fitted with one of the best mechanical movements there are. The mechanical movement is a celebration of Halda’s past, tributing their history of fine watchmaking and complicated movements.
The Mechanical Race Pilot is the best of both worlds by combining Swedish design, inspired by racing, and is equipped with a movement developed by the highly-regarded Swiss mechanical watch producer Zenith.
The movement in the Race Pilot is, more specifically a Zenith Caliber 685 movement decorated with Clous de Paris, Cotes de Geneve, colimaconnage, and Perlage. It is a 38-jewel automatic movement that beats 28,800 times per hour and has a 50-hour Power Reserve. The decorated movement of the Race Pilot can be adored through the crystal case-back.
For Halda, this is the ultimate movement that follows their vision of never compromising with design, function on quality, which is a perfect addition for the moments outside of the race track.
To make sure everyone can find a mechanical module they like, the Mechanical Race Pilot is available with three different dials
Awards now and today
Over the years, Halda has been awarded several medals – both in past and present time. The past medals reflecting Hammarlunds immense passion in only producing the best, and the present medals shows that the Halda brand is following in the footprints of Hammarlund, and following his vision of never compromising, ever.
At the lead of Henning Hammarlund, Halda registered several revolutionary worldwide patents, and in 1883, Halda received a gold medal at the world exhibition in Chicago, competing with some of the world’s best watchmakers at the time.
Reddot design award
In 2012, Halda won the prestigious Reddot design award for excellent design with its Halda Space Discovery Limited Edition, designed by lead Designer Andreas Lundquist and CEO Mikael Sandström. The Reddot award is often called the Nobel prize in design.
When being awarded the medal, Sandström said the following:
“We are really honored to receive the Red Dot award. It’s a great acknowledgment and an evidence of how hard work actually pays off. So much time has been spent by the Halda team developing the Halda Space Discovery, trying to accomplish the perfect balance between mechanics, advanced functions, and design, and this award is a confirmation that we have succeeded.”
German Design Award
Halda’s Space Discovery has also been nominated for the German Design Award.
Watch of the Year 2014
In 2014, Halda Race Pilot was selected “Watch of the Year 2014” in the category Excellence Award for Design with the motivation “…A modular, highly versatile watch with an interchangeable case that houses a Zenith Elite calibre and a case in which a quartz movement designed in-house offers a multitude of functionalities…”
Svenska design priset
In 2015 Halda’s Race Pilot model was nominated for “Svenska design priset” – The Swedish design award.
Halda watches today
Today, HALDA Watch CO is continuing to build Henning Hammarlund’s legacy from their workshop just outside of Stockholm. Many years have passed, but the core values of Halda still remains the same.
Today, Halda produces 300 watches a year, both to keep their watches limited and exclusive, but also because every timepiece demands great resources and countless hours work by skilled watchmakers.
From the past to the future. Where is Halda heading next? Only time will tell…
Visit the Halda Watch Co Website and learn more.