The Truth About Watches welcomes around 2300 readers per day. And? Writing for this fearlessly fierce website is a labor of love. What watch journalist-reviewer wouldn’t take delight in the fact that their words were being read by a single (different) reader in Botswana, Cambodia and Azerbaijan? Yesterday, 30 Norwegians validated our raison d’etre. Hey guys, ever heard of hometown horologists Von Doren watches? . . .
Media Studies majors will recognize the name. In 1959, Charles Van Doren shocked the nation when he told Congress that NBC producers fed him the correct answers to questions on the hit TV show Twenty-One. Boomers learned of Van Doren’s ignominy through Robert Redford’s movie Quiz Show (above, click here for his actual appearance).
I don’t know if Von Doren watches’ founder and namesake – Øyvind VonDoren Asbjørnsen – is related to Charles Van Doren. Yeah, I know: Van vs. Von. Who cares as long as they love their mother? Anyway, there’s an obvious connection between the two men: games. Charlie was a quiz show guy, Øyvind is a chess fanatic.
For the fifth year in a row, Von Doren watches are the Official Timekeeper for Norway Chess.
The 2021 event – underway as I write – is billed as the “world’s strongest chess tournament.” Apparently, that’s how you describe a competition where six Grand Masters move the bits around the board. Including Norwegian Grandmaster Aryan Tari. (Note: he’s a GM, not a chess piece.)
That’s Øyvind on the left, Aryan on the right. I could give you the 411 on Mr. Tari’s illustrious chess career, but wikipedia’s got that covered. We’re more interested in the watch on his wrist: a 39mm Midnight Blue Aksla Mark II. Jævla! It’s sold out and not coming back. Not to worry . . .
Von Doren watches’ Aksla Mark II Pure Black – Rose Gold is immediately available to aficionados of Scandinavian minimalism. I reckon the black Aksla has a more pronounced Norwegian vibe. Its dial evokes the spirit of Tromsø, a village where the sun doesn’t make an appearance from November to January.
The black Aksla comes complete with a “luxurious Italian black leather strap” and delightfully luminous hands. The presentation box is a bit over-the-top for a $470 quartz watch. As they say in Norway, man skal ikke skue hunden på hårene (don’t judge a dog by its hairs).
If you want to spend less krone, the $293 Von Doren Runde Purple is the money move. It’s another 39mm quartz powered timepiece (Ronda 1069), sporting a dial that’s almost bright enough to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder. But not quite.
If you’re tempted to sing Help Me Runde, don’t expect a response. The watch’s namesake island is home to a million seabirds and 113 souls, none of whom are members of our Norwegian fanbase. Yet! Meanwhile, the Runde’s caseback is a recreation of a 1724 Dutch Gold Ducat from the famous [in Norway] Runde Treasure.
Von Doren presented the “open heart” watch to Magnus many moons ago – before the chess player’s Chris Hemsworth-style glow-up (see: pic at top of this post). The watchmaker and chess player go way back: Magnus was the subject of Von Doren’s pre-The Queen’s Gambit documentary film The Prince of Chess.
The Caissa Automatic’s another sold out/discontinued model. Anyway, I think the Von Doren Watch Company would prefer to promote their limited edition quartz Norway Chess watch ($224) or their ETA 2824-powered Grandmaster Mark II ($1821). You’re welcome.
This website would prefer to have a dozen more Norwegian readers. But no matter how many people from the motto-less Scandinavian country stop by, know this: Von Doren didn’t pay us for this article. Unlike HoDinkee and its ilk, TTAW isn’t a watch industry pawn. Skål!