The calendar says spring, and for Swedish Scania there is a little spring in the air although not exactly as the pros would enjoy it in Southern Europe. This is icy cold and blue skies.
Johan Sahlin and Magnus Äppelryd, the founders of the Swedish niche watch brand Bravur, are keeping warm in a cafe on the harbour in Båstad. Magnus nurses an espresso, Johan a cappuccino.
The café is located close to the Center Courten, which every summer hosts an extremely popular and well-attended tennis tournament. Several of the big names are on the victory list that hangs in the stadium, including Bjørn Borg, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.
Why do the big stars come to this small Swedish holiday town?
“The atmosphere in the summer is unique,” says Johan. “The population of Båstad is 6,000, but during the summer holidays it grows to more than 100,000 in and around the city. It makes for a unique atmosphere, and I actually think the players like it being a smaller tournament - it is a little more relaxed."
Johan currently lives with his family in Båstad, while Magnus lives with his family in Stockholm. However, he has a holiday home here, which is why
Båstad is also the base for Bravur.
Magnus and Johan have run Bravur together for ten years, but their friendship goes even deeper than that. Both grew up just outside the town, in the midst of Swedish country idyll. At weekends, they would meet for bicycle races, primarily MTB races around southern Sweden.
They rode for different clubs and were rivals - sometimes fierce - and they often finished right after each other in the races.
"We were pretty competitive back in our youth. Our rivalry has become a partnership and we have great respect for each other and our abilities," says Magnus.
Magnus and Johan leave the harbour café to walk the 800 metres to their workshop.
Here they are working on upcoming models, adding the finishing touches. They will often come to the workshop to assemble watches, test and assess the final look. This is also where the automatic movements are assembled. The watches have Swiss workings, but a Swedish soul, as they say.
It is precisely this level of detail and fine mechanisms that inspire the two Swedish watch designers.
In 2021, they launched the Grand Tour Series, watches which reference the three major Grand Tours - the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and La Vuelta.
With this new series, Johan and Magnus have managed to bring their passion for watches, design and cycling together in a single product. Each timepiece has a clear reference to cycling, be it a discreet inverted 13 in the dial or small dots that appear when the watch catches the light.
In just two months, they will present the upcoming La Corsa Rosa, with clear references to the Giro, which starts in May.
The following morning Magnus and Johan meet at Magnus's summer house just outside Båstad. Right on the edge of town, the property is quiet and idyllic, bordering the forest, with a view of the Kattegat.
This morning the haze has lifted and you can glimpse Halmstad on the other side of the bay.
Halmstad in particular formed the framework for the reunion of Johan and Magnus just over 15 years ago. They both started their education as mechanical engineers in the same class at Halmstad University.
They recognized each other from their youth at the bike races. It was the start of a long friendship, which later became the business venture Bravur.
“For us, good design is when not everything is presented at first glance. When you get the watch in hand for the first time, you see some details. But others are noticed months after you started wearing the watch,” Magnus continues.
So Magnus and Johan are busy selecting colours, and finalising small details on their models in time for the upcoming launch. Everything is tiny on a watch, and every detail must be precise when working in these sizes, even down to the colour of the rosette or the shade of the ultra-thin second hand.
But it is this process that Magnus and Johan thrive in. They do not rush through a design, everything is thoroughly worked out and discussed. Ideas flow readily and equally, bouncing between them as they spar backward and forward.
"We know what each of us stands for, and we are best able to provide constructive criticism, and then where necessary rethink the idea, often to improve it even more," says Magnus.
It's about 1400. Johan and Magnus are keen to get out riding while the weather is nice. Cycling is still a great shared passion and they ride both individually and together.
They change - even though it's March 1st, it's still cool in Sweden and thermal layers are necessary. They have planned a gravel trip to a couple of nearby lakes about 30km east of Båstad. In the forests it is even cooler and the sun struggles to break through the conifers. So they dress well.
Out of Båstad the going is good and the pair settle into a rapid pace. The lanes are small, winding and idyllic. It is a classic Scandinavian idyll - red wooden houses with white windows, secluded, with nothing around them but woodland and sky.
"Cycling has two sides I think,” says Johan “When you are out cycling yourself, it can be a little meditative. It sounds a bit cliché, but one can actually clear the mind.
“The other side is when cycling with others. Here it becomes a social thing, a social moment and at the same time you are training.”
After 25 kilometres they reach the lakes - from here there are numerous gravel roads into the countryside. All of them rise up, not really long climbs, but still a few kilometres.
Both Magnus and Johan are in good shape and you can see how much they are enjoying the ride. Cycling is both their free space and their meeting room. Here they can make decisions, discuss , or just clear their heads.
They often take a trip like this when they work together. They enjoy the break they get in their working day, and if they are stuck in a problem or lack inspiration, then the solution can often be found in cycling.
As they get deeper into the forest and the gravel roads change character, one also senses that they like to test each other. The pace is increasing, quietly. They do not attack each other but there is a sense that one is setting the tempo here. Perhaps as a gentle form of revenge in their eternal competition from their younger years.
Today it is Magnus who has taken over. Not much, but enough. Enough for him to push Johan.
“When we cycle together, it is primarily about getting away, socialising and talking. But it is also possible that you try to push the other when a small hill comes," says Magnus with a twinkle in his eye.
After a couple of good laps by the lake, the two friends head in the direction of Båstad. Back towards the cottage, to the clockworks. Back to the design.
Soon they will launch their three new Grand Tour watches, inspired by the biggest races in cycling. But inspired just as much by their shared passion for time on the bike and the free space it provides in their everyday lives.