How Do You Pronounce Skagen?

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.

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5 thoughts on “How Do You Pronounce Skagen?

  1. Thank you for this explanation! I bought my first Skagen watch today (a two-tone Freja design). Indeed, I asked the sales person how this brand is pronounced. As you’ve noted, she said is as “Skaw- Gen” (hard “G”). Online, I found another explanation supporting yours – “Skein” like “vein” with an “S”… Having taken a few Caribbean cruises myself, I agree with your description of the islands’ shopping attractions. I also agree that the vendors would know the correct pronunciation. Much appreciated. Enjoy your Skagen! :)

  2. Just a quick edit – in Dutch, “Skagen”, although not a word, would be pronounced /ˈskaːɣə/, or /ˈskaːxə/. The “ɣ” sound being like a “g” that is dragged along (much like the Greek gamma, or German “r”), and the “x” in the second pronunciation being the sound in the back of your throat such as in “chutzpah” with the original Amish pronunciation. Dutch people gravitate towards the /x/, while Flemish people towards the /ɣ/.

    There exists no rule in Dutch that would ever let a “g” be silent – it is a very strong and unique sound in Dutch. The only way to make the “ay” sound (as in “day”) that was mentioned would be with “ee”. “a” is always pronounced /a/, and “g” always as /ɣ/ or /x/.

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