Wristwatch of salmon skin attracts conspicuous consumer

Aslak Berge

With a watchstrap made of salmon skin, Bergen-based entrepreneur, Paal Friele Grung, saw EUR 160,000 of sales in the first year of his start-up. Now he’s got the salmon-farming industry’s attention.

When the 25-year-old Friele Grung launched his collection last spring, sales took off immediately.

“After (SalmonBusiness) wrote about us following our launch, we got a great amount of interest in our watches,” said Friele Grung.

The name of his company is Berg Watches. The company gets the salmon skins from the cuttings that might normally be discarded. They’re then sent to a tanner in Iceland, where they become as rugged and elegant as leather on an island.

As a start-up, Friele Grung faced the daunting challenge of finance-by-crowdfunding. Investors got no shares for providing cash in exchange for product as it was made available for retail sales: some got a 50-percent discount.

But, things got better. The market response was beyond all expectations, and Friele Grung quickly booked pre-orders for 300 watches. Investors made offers.

That name, Berg Watches — and the choice of material for the watch band —  piqued the interest of a deep-pocketed buyer from the north.

“The most interesting and amusing order came from Inge Berg, managing director of Nordlaks (2016 turnover: EUR 270 million). I got a telephone call the day after from a north-Norwegian who said he wanted 10 to 15 watches. I was, of course, in ecstasy that someone wanted to buy so many watches from me,” Friele Grung recalled enthusiastically.

“It turned out to be an order for 11 watches. He said he wanted them as gifts and for his family,” he said, adding that the delivery was made in-person at the customer’s door in picturesque Stokmarknes, northern Norway.

Processor tour
“When we were ready to mass produce our first collection, Ulriken, a colleague and I decided to visit Stokmarknes to deliver the watches to Inge in person. Delivering them at the front door was supposed to be a surprise. But, he wasn’t home. After a nice chat with his wife, we were invited to the factory floor the next day.

“It was unbelievably fascinating to see how effective one could be throughout the aquaculture value chain. Inge showed us around the whole plant and how they combined modern technology with a high-quality labour force to optimize their production.”

New collection
In its start-up year, Berg Watches generated sales of around EUR 160,00. “Now we’re launching our newest collection. It’ll be Berg Watches’ third collection. This one will also come with watchbands made of salmon skin, but this time we’ve looked at the salmon industry and how they constantly innovate.

“So, now we’ve been able to develop a passive NFC-chip that allows you to store encrypted data in a chip that’s embedded in the salmon-skin strap. That lets our customers download their bankcards over to the strap and then pay by card,” said Friele Grung.

The Berg Watches salmon-skin watches last reportedly cost about EUR 330 in stores.