Nordgreen Watches Review: Up Close With The Pioneer and The NativeDisclosure: This is a sponsored post containing affiliate links. We received compensation and courtesy product from Nordgreen in exchange for our honest review only. All opinions expressed here are our own. What's this?
Created by the famous Nordic designer behind Bang & Olufson, Nordgreen’s Pioneer and Native watches are as stunning as they are simple. While we struggled with minor issues like glare, these timepieces are wardrobe staples.
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Maybe it started when I ditched my car and started riding a bike everywhere.
Or maybe it was when I bought my first chunky sweater.
No, it clearly started when I felt compelled to start putting candles everywhere in my apartment.
The minimalist appeal of Scandinavian design has been drawing me in for years. My DNA test says I’m only 0.8% Scandinavian. Clearly, the results are wrong.
Recently, I picked up a set of Danish built watches from Nordgreen and I’ve been testing whether the clean minimalist look is right for me.
Arthur had Excalibur.
Thor had Mjolnir.
Ok, I won’t go that epic.
But I will answer whether or not Nordgreen watches are worth it, so keep reading for my full review.
What is Nordgreen?
Only a year later, they’ve gone on to launch a fourth collection. The campaign for their Pioneer became one of the most successful Kickstarter launches, raising over $428,000.
So, yep, they hit their funding goal.
And they’re always looking toward the future—appropriate for a watch company.
For each timepiece sold, Nordgreen gives a portion to one of three causes—you choose which. All you have to do is type in the serial number found on the back of your watch and follow where your donation goes. The brand has partnerships with NGO’s that provide clean water in Africa, educate children in India, and protect the rainforest in South America.
More and more, companies are starting to give back, and while some say it’s a marketing ploy, I say it doesn’t really matter why. They’re doing their part to help, and that’s awesome.
We’ve been following Nordgreen for a while. First, they made the top spot on our favorite minimalist watches under $200. And when we heard they were launching a new collection on Kickstarter, we jumped at the chance to take a closer look.
I dove in and picked up a few of each to see if Nordgreen could keep up the momentum they’ve been building the past two years. Here’s what I thought.
(April 2020 update: we picked up their Philosopher for a review, too. Check it out if you like a harder-edge minimalist aesthetic.)
Nordgreen Pioneer Review
Nordgreen boxes their watches in a beautiful long matte blue box with a white insert all made from recycled paper and felt..
Because of the long packaging, unboxing it creates an element of suspense. You get to view the entire watch, band and all as you bring it into the world.
The watch rests on a padded felt base and is secured by two elastic bands. This box is the perfect size for gifting, but it’s a little large to keep on my dresser.
If you want to pick up a few extra straps for your watch, Nordgreen has a discounted bundle in a special gift box available.
Nordgreen uses the same packaging across their entire line, so I had the same holds true for the Native reviewed below.
The Pioneer has a 42mm case. This is my ideal size for a watch—I rarely go outside of the 38-44mm range.
Nordgreen has stepped out of their comfort zone with this particular timepiece. The case is 12mm thick, which is almost 150% the thickness of their other watches. It’s quite hefty for Scandinavian design, but they’ve dialed back in other areas to help keep it clean and simple.
The entire 316l stainless steel casing is rounded and smooth. Despite having such a thick case, the Pioneer doesn’t come across bulky at all.
One downside to the case is that it’s not as water-resistant as many other watches at a similar price point. It has a 5atm resistance, and the going standard seems to be running more toward 10atm.
To be clear, it’s rain resistant, which is all I anticipate needing. It’s not like I’ll be undertaking a dive adventure with any of my fashion-forward watches soon anyway.
According to Jacob Wagner, the designer, there’s a story behind the dial.
The open space is meant to reflect a clean environment, and the red-tipped hands resemble the fins of a windmill—all pointing toward Nordgreen’s vision for a bright future.
I like that they’re doing more than simply “designing a cool watch.” They have a thoughtfulness that really shows in the final product.
They’ve definitely designed a cool watch, though.
The sunken sub-dials look great, and the deep-set date gives this watch a ton of dimension.
It’s almost like it was created by a legendary Nordic designer or something.
The Pioneer is flanked with two button-pushers and a three-position crown. These are all simple and intuitive to use.
I like the design of the crown—it keeps a rounded profile while staying easy to manipulate.
The button-pushers control a stop-watch. I always consider the subdials on chronographs to be more for style than for function.
To be honest, I use a $12 Casio when I need a stopwatch at the gym. Obviously, when it comes to style, the Casio doesn’t take me nearly as far.
Continuing the rounded theme, the Pioneer features a slightly domed sapphire crystal.
The pure sapphire is great for scratch-resistance. I seem to hit my wrists on corners and doorways a lot whenever I’m wearing a nice watch (am I the only one?), so it’s good to know I have a little protection.
At the right angle, the crystal warps light in an interesting way. That’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about higher-end crystals—they can play neat tricks with light.
I struggled with glare on the black dialed watch. It was near-impossible to read midday with the sun overhead, though there was no issue reading the watch at other times. I didn’t have this same issue with the white dial.
The Pioneer is powered by a Miyota Caliber 6S21.
This Japanese movement is consistent, dependable, and a great value. Most of my watches across many brands run with Miyota quartz movements.
Watchmakers love to use Miyota because it’s hard to beat the value—plus, because it never breaks down, customers don’t need to worry about malfunctions.
Miyota is as consistent as the Energizer bunny and that geyser in Yellowstone—if you could somehow mix the two. But I’d rather not think about that right now.
The upkeep is easy, too. With a three-year battery life, you’ll rarely need to take it to a jeweler to swap the battery.
Nordgreen features a different laser-etched case back for each of their lines. The Pioneer logo has what looks like leaves reaching up from the ground, drawing attention to Denmark’s proud heritage as a pioneer in green energy.
I like that even something simple like the case back shows that Nordgreen incorporates their philosophy into everything they do.
Strap and Wearability
I learned something new while writing this article.
The grade of leather has less to do with quality than the specific tannery it comes from. Let me tell you how I learned this.
The Pioneer’s band is made from genuine leather, which is one of the “lower-grade” leathers. I expected the band on both the Pioneer and the Native to be stiff and take a while to break in. But when I put it on, there was no issue. The leather was soft and the band was easy to adjust.
Genuine leather can be of higher quality than top grain leather if it’s treated the right way. Nordgreen get’s their leather from a trusted tannery that makes excellent products.
That explained why some of the top grain bands I’ve tried are rough on the wrist, and why Nordgreen’s genuine leather bands are much more comfortable.
I also got a chance to try their rubber strap, which looks great with the black dial Pioneer. The rubber has a nice, matte-smooth texture to it.
I’m not a fan of the outward-facing typography on the band because the tail end of the band covers half of it. It just looks like my watch band reads, “Nordgre.”
Other than that small gripe, Nordgreen has done a great job with their bands.
My Overall Thoughts on the Nordgreen Pioneer
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Nordgreen Native Review
A recent redesign has brought a few changes to Nordgreen’s Native. This timepiece now comes in three sizes: 32mm, 36mm, and 40mm.
While the 32mm is designed to gear toward women, the 36 and 40mm work for everyone. I appreciate that they’re expanding their choices. The 36mm is a great choice for guys with smaller wrists. Nordgreen is bucking the trend of keeping watches at 40mm and above, which makes them much easier to recommend.
All that said, I picked up a 40mm case. 40 and 42mm fit me well and they’re in my sweet spot. The Native has a slim profile at 8.35mm thick. It easily fits under coat sleeves, and it makes for a nice, subtle statement piece.
If it seems simple, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful.
This design is fresh and elegant in a way that I didn’t fully realize when looking at pictures. I knew I liked the look, but it really shines in person.
The mineral glass crystal is slightly domed, which makes for cool light effects. I’m a bit disappointed that there isn’t at least a sapphire coating on the crystal to help fight off scratches.
On the plus side, this watch has a low-profile, so I’m much less likely to scrape my wrist against any corners and scratch the crystal.
Nordgreen features a different design on the back of each of their collections. The Native has a sort of infinity symbol with their signature leaf.
The case back is a snap-off, which keeps the design clean throughout—no screws or indentations. It does mean less water resistance. This timepiece doesn’t have great water resistance, but it should hold up in an unexpected rainstorm.
Strap and Wearability
As I mentioned above, the leather straps are soft and comfortable right out of the box—not something I see too often.
I picked up a mesh band to go with the navy colorway, and it’s been great so far. I don’t have any problems with pinching or discomfort. The mesh is fine and closely linked so the whole band feels solid and has a nice shine to it.