The larger your collection grows, the harder it is to find a timepiece that stands out from the bunch. Microbrands are a great way to find a unique watch with an original design, but not every microbrand is good.
Nordgreen is a Copenhagen-based brand that specializes in minimalistic timepieces, but are they any good? To find out, I've got my hands on their latest Pioneer model.
This gorgeous Danish chronograph watch looks great on paper, but will it be able to compete with the big guys like Seiko, Citizen, or Timex? Let's find out!
Who's Nordgreen exactly?
Considering Nordgreen is still relatively new, you might've never heard of them. In short, they're a Scandinavian brand that focuses on minimalist designs.
The watches are designed by Jakob Wagner, a renowned Danish designer which has been prized many times for his minimalist conceptions in a plethora of different fields.
For instance, he's been involved in the design of product lines from huge brands such as Bang & Olufsen, Alessi, HAY, and many more.
As you skim through Nordgreen's website, you will quickly notice how eco-friendliness and social responsibility are important to them. Not only do they offer a wide variety of vegan straps, but you can also choose one of three causes with your purchase, and Nordgreen will donate for you.
The three causes to choose from are: Providing clean water for the Central African Republic, Educating children in India, and Protecting Latin America's rain forests.
I personally chose to provide clean water for the Central African Republic, and I was pleased to learn that I gave 2 months of clean water for a person in need.
The Pioneer's Packaging
The first perk you get by buying a Nordgreen watch is free express international shipping. Since they're based in Copenhagen and I live in Canada, I expected to wait a few weeks before getting the watch.
To my surprise, the Nordgreen Pioneer was at my doorstep within 4 business days of placing my order. It arrived in a neat box that exudes elegance and simplicity.
Just based on the box itself, I knew this would be a perfect gift idea, as there's no need to place it in a different box. Furthermore, Nordgreen also offers a "gift box" package, which comes with two interchangeable straps, and comes in an equally beautiful square box.
It's also good to note that the box is eco-friendly, which goes well with the Pioneer name. Indeed, Nordgreen named this watch as such in reference to Denmark being a pioneer in green technology.
Weight (no strap)
When I first read that the Nordgreen Pioneer's case measures 42mm I was a bit scared. I usually try to stay below the 40mm mark for my small 6.25" wrists, so I was a bit reticent when I ordered it.
When my Pioneer arrived, I was pleased to learn that the lug-to-lug length (46.5mm) is very small for such a large case, so it looks incredibly good on my slender wrist. Of course, the dial takes a lot of real estate, but this is to be expected from a chronograph watch.
I must admit that the case is quite thick, which is not the norm for quartz watches, so I don't recommend wearing it with tight-cuffed shirts.
30m / 3 bar
Push & Pull
As is expected from microbrands, the movement in the Nordgreen Pioneer is sourced from a third-party Japanese manufacturer. The Miyota 6S21 caliber is known for its reliability, accuracy, and for its technological prowess.
For instance, you get Miyota's "Heart Cam Reset System", which allows you to reset the chronograph hands instantly, in a smooth sweeping motion (more on that later).
You also get their shock detection system (prevents the hands from jumping), 4 beats seconds hand (sweeps in 1/4 seconds increments), and a premium clicking mechanism for the pusher buttons.
As you can probably tell, the 6S21 is a quartz movement, so you can count on it to keep time extremely accurately (+-20 seconds per month). According to Miyota's website, the expected battery life is 3 years, but that will greatly depend on how often you use the stopwatch feature.
Nordgreen prides itself in the quality of the sapphire crystal they use for the Pioneer. Not only is it extremely resistant to scratches, but the slightly domed configuration also makes it look amazing.
Even if this sapphire crystal is great on paper, I have a slight issue with it. Sapphire is notoriously a very reflective surface, so it can be quite a light show under the sun.
To counter this problem, Nordgreen applied a layer of anti-reflective coating both on the outside and inside of the crystal. Even with this protective film, the dial still reflects a lot of light.
I can't really complain because the dial is still easy to read, and this problem is related to the properties of sapphire more than it is Nordgreen's fault.
The water resistance rating of the Pioneer chronograph is a bit confusing. On Nordgreen's website, the WR rating is 5 atm, but in the instructions manual, they say you have 30m of water resistance.
One thing is for sure, Nordgreen strongly advises against swimming or showering with the Pioneer. The good news is that it will withstand light splashes, such as rain or washing your hands.
As you can probably tell from the modest water resistance, the Nordgreen Pioneer uses a push & pull crown.
Situated at the 3 o'clock position, the crown features an engraved Nordgreen logo. It is used to set the date and time, and the mechanism is pretty crisp.
At the 2 and 4 o'clock position, you get two plain pusher buttons that are used to operate the chronograph feature (which I explain in the ''Hands'' section below).
Since the Pioneer is a minimalist watch, Nordgreen didn't put lume anywhere on the dial. This is no big deal, as I think lume would take away from the classy styling of this timepiece.
316L Stainless Steel
The Pioneer is currently the only chronograph watch produced by Nordgreen, but they managed to keep their minimalist standards even when adding two subdials to the watch.
You also get a small date display at the 6 o'clock position, which is seamlessly built into the dial using a nice beveled frame.
I chose the black dialed version, simply because I had no other black dial watch in my collection yet. Up close, you can see that the dial has a grainy matte finish.
At the top of the dial, you get Nordgreen's leaf logo, which reminds you of their pro-environmental stance. Also, you get a small ''Copenhagen'' font to proudly display Nordgreen's origins.
I think Nordgreen did a good job with the Pioneer's indices; they are both minimalist and original. For the hour marks, you get small applied ovals with a polished finish.
For the minute marks, you get white painted lines around the chapter ring of the dial. These are the same indices that are found on the outer ring of the beveled subdials.
One small issue I have with the hands & indices is that they are slightly misaligned on the example I got, but that's normal for sub $1,000 watches, and it's barely noticeable.
While the hands don't look that special at first sight, they are one of the biggest distinguishing features of the Pioneer. The shape is pretty normal: baton hands with rounded tips for the minutes and hours, and needle hands for the seconds and subdials.
What's peculiar is the way they operate: the seconds hand is actually the one in the right subdial. The big third hand, which goes all around the dial, is the seconds hand for the stopwatch feature. Finally, the left subdial is used to measure the stopwatch's minutes count.
Also, both the stopwatch seconds and minutes hands have a red tip to improve legibility and to help them stand out from the regular hands. Nordgreen says this is a reference to the red tip of wind turbines.
One of my favorite features is the press of the lower pusher button, which will reset the stopwatch by bringing back the seconds hand to its initial position in a smooth sweeping motion.
I chose to go with the gunmetal grey case as I thought it was the best-looking match for the black dial. This 316L stainless steel case will be durable for years to come, and its rounded shape gives a vintage vibe to the Pioneer.
As you flip the watch over, you get a polished steel case back, with a large Pioneer logo. This case back symbol is kind of a remastered Ying & Yang with leaves, representing Nordgreen's connection with nature.
It was hard to choose a strap to go with my Pioneer, as all the options were very enticing. My decision finally landed on the green nylon strap, because I needed something that would work well with 90% of my wardrobe.
I wasn't sure at first if I had made the right choice, but after a few days of ownership, I completely fell in love with it. Paired with the black dial, this olive green strap makes my Pioneer look like an old school pilot watch.
The Pioneer Collection
The first decision you'll have to make when choosing your Pioneer will be the case color. There're currently 3 colors to choose from: Silver, Gunmetal Grey, and Rose Gold. All of these are good-looking, but you should pick your color to get the best match possible for your dial.
You should note that the case color you choose will also change the color of the minutes and seconds hands.
When it comes to the color of the dial, you also get to choose between three colors: white, black, or blue. My personal favorite is the black dial, but I think the white one also looks amazing. The blue dial is beautiful too, but it might be a bit harder to combine with certain clothes.
As of the time of getting this watch, Nordgreen offered a wide selection of 20 different straps/bracelets with the Pioneer.
The collection has a bracelet for all tastes, ranging from leather (including vegan leather) to rubber, nylon, and mesh.
I only tested out the nylon strap (which is super comfortable), but I think the other straps are equally as good according to the reviews.
The Nordgreen Pioneer will run you $264 to $289 USD depending on which combination you get. This might sound like a lot at first, but you must take into consideration a lot of things.
For this price, you get a unique timepiece from a renowned designer that you probably won't see elsewhere. Also, you get a clear conscience of buying from an eco-responsible company that will also give back to the cause of your choice.
Additionally, this price includes free express shipping worldwide, which is usually expensive for timepieces.
Finally, Nordgreen's been nice enough to share a 15% discount code with my audience, so you can use ROMEO15 at checkout to save on your purchase.
Nordgreen offers a two-year warranty on every watch in their collection. This period will be long enough to find out if you have any defect on your Pioneer, and Nordgreen will gladly replace or repair any defective watch for free.
If you're not satisfied with your purchase, you will be able to return it for a refund, and Nordgreen will even cover the shipping fees to send it back.
Disclaimer - Nordgreen offered me a free Pioneer watch for this review, in no way did this affect my judgment or my impartiality