I fancy myself a bit of a watch connoisseur. I don’t own any Tag Heuer or Movado (yet) but I certainly have plans to someday. I’m pretty sure the next watch I purchase will either be a Bulova or a Citizen EcoDrive (ironically, both brands are owned by the same company). My current lineup includes an Invicta, an automatic Akribos XXIV, a vintage mechanical Hamilton with original Speidel band, and a Skagen.
I first became aware of the Skagen brand while aboard a Caribbean cruise in January 1999. If there’s one thing all island ports have, besides gaudy t-shirt shops, it’s jewelry – and I was instantly attracted to the brand’s stainless steel mesh bands and ultra-thin design.
Naturally, most Americans would see the name and incorrectly pronounce it Skaw-ghen.
One of the real benefits of finding a foreign product while on a cruise is that the staff (largely western-Europeans) all know exactly how to pronounce the odd looking names.
In 1986 Henrik Jorst, a sales manager from the Carlsberg brewery, moved from Denmark to New York. By 1989 Henrik had tired of the beer business and became a representative for the Danish-made Jacob Jensen brand of designer watches. In time, Henrik began designing a few of his own watches (using another Danish manufacturer, Comtech) and eventually showed them professionally at a 1991 New York gift fair. His designes proved very popular and Henrik was encouraged to market the watches under his own brand name – Skagen Designs, Ltd (taking the name from his Danish fishing village).
In Dutch the word Skagen is correctly pronounced Skay-en (the “g” is silent and the “a” is long). I have found that most Europeans will shorten what looks like a two syllable word into the single syllable Skein; rhyming with vein.
So, the next time you’re at Macy’s, Zales, or even JB Hudon do what I do. Walk up to the display case, point, and ask “may I see one of these”. Refrain from saying the brand name; instead, allowing the sales associate a chance to present their own pronunciation. No matter how they end up pronouncing it (right or wrong) it always makes for a great conversation starter.