The Truth About Watches welcomes around 2300 readers per day. And? Writing for this fiercely, fearlessly independent watch website is a labor of love. Besides, 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 History majors will recognize the name Van Doren. In 1959, writer Charles Van Doren shocked the nation when he told Congress that NBC producers fed him the correct answers to questions on a hugely popular quiz show called Twenty-One (click here for an original example). Boomers learned of Van Doren’s ignominy through Robert Redford’s movie Quiz Show (above).
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? And anyway, there’s an obvious connection between the two: games. Charlie was a quiz show guy and Øyvind is a chess fanatic.
For the 5th 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 GM Aryan Tari.
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. Jævla! It’s sold out and not coming back. Not to worry . . .
The Von Doren watches’ Aksla Mark II Pure Black – Rose Gold is available to aficionados of Scandinavian minimalism. I reckon the Aksla has a more pronounced Norwegian vibe. It 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,” 50m water resistance and fully 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 looks like the money move. It’s another 39mm timepiece, powered by a quartz (Ronda 1069) movement, with a purple dial that’s almost bright enough to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder.
If you’re tempted to sing Help Me Runde, don’t expect much of a response. Its 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 two go way back: Von Doren was a documentary film producer, Magnus was the subject of his film The Prince of Chess.
The Caissa Automatic’s another sold out Von Doren Watches model! Anyway, I think the Von Doren Watch Company would prefer to promote their limited edition quartz Norway Chess model ($224) or their ETA 2824-powered Grandmaster Mark II ($1821).
Just as this website would prefer to have a dozen Norwegian readers. OK, six. But no matter how many people from the motto-less Scandinavian country stop by, know this: Von Doren didn’t pay us anything for this article. Unlike HoDinkee and its ilk, TTAW isn’t a watch industry pawn. So to speak. Skål!