Leth­bridge-made watches con­tain his­toric lo­cal steel


Aback lo­calThe in Coal­bankswatch time com­pa­ny­for in­spi­ra­tion.— Dowlai­sis look­ing 1884

lo­cal watch­mak­er­sEdi­tion is a NOVO $3,250 watch. watch made by

Leth­bridgeThey draw area on as the a his­tory coal-miningof the town, and its con­nec­tion to the rail lines that made early growth and devel­op­ment in the city pos­si­ble.

The watches are made with steel re­pur­posed from train lines in the area dat­ing back to 1884.

Steve Chris­tensen, pres­i­dent of NOVO Watch, said once the com­pany set­tled on the idea for the watches, they con­tacted the owner of the old Galt No. 8 mine and pitched the idea.

There was some in­ter­est in the pro­ject — enough that they were granted ac­cess to the mine in or­der to take a look around.

“That was the start of the process,” said Chris­tensen.

The rail line was cho­sen due to the qual­ity of the steel.

“That, to us, was very im­por­tant due to the qual­ity of the watches,” he said.

Trans­form­ing the steel into a work­able de­sign took many hours of trial and er­ror in­volv­ing the ma­chin­ist and a forger work­ing the metal in a forge.

“Once we fig­ured it out, we found out how much ma­te­rial we needed,” said Chris­tensen. “And each watch needs ap­prox­i­mately two pounds of steel.” Chris­tensen learned a lot about the his­tory of the steel and the mine dur­ing the course of the pro­ject.

The rail line steel was made in the Dowlais Iron­works in 1884 — the watches are named after the source of the steel. At the time, Dowlais, lo­cated in Wales, was the largest steel pro­ducer in the U.K.

“The steel was brought over by CP Rail and it be­came an in­te­gral part of the mine area around No. 8,” said Chris­tensen.

“When we take this piece of track, the his­tory that it’s seen over a cen­tury has been help­ing to grow Leth­bridge. It’s al­most a foun­da­tional piece of the city, that we get to re­pur­pose and give a new life on some­body’s wrist — rather than just let it sit in a field and be done with its work.”

The com­pany has made a few watches al­ready, but are plan­ning on mak­ing a maximum of 15. New or­ders will be com­pleted as they come in. It takes about four weeks to com­plete a watch.

He said he has had a lot of fun work­ing with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent lo­cal artists in or­der to com­plete the watches. Nor­mally, watches have very lim­ited “hu­man touch points.”

While dis­cov­ery, forg­ing and ma­chin­ing all take place in Leth­bridge, a lo­cal leather­worker makes the straps, and a Ma­grath com­pany han­dles pack­ag­ing by cre­at­ing boxes out of re­pur­posed barn wood.

“And then I’m the as­sem­bler,” Chris­tensen said.

“I get to do this very cool thing few peo­ple get to do. (The watches) travel through all these hands. And by the time they are com­pleted, you have a his­tor­i­cal piece, but all sorts of peo­ple put time and ef­fort into mak­ing it.”

This could be the start of more unique watch ideas in a sim­i­lar vein for NOVO watch.

“Look­ing for­ward in the fu­ture, it’s one of those prod­ucts that will never get old,” Chris­tensen said. “We can do this lim­ited run of this train track. And then maybe for the next one we find this old tank that has a wild his­tory. Or maybe we travel to Ger­many, and find a piece of his­tory there we can use.”

“It’s one of those things where we can never get bored, and we can al­ways be cre­ative and find some­thing new.”

Her­ald photo by Ti­jana Martin

Steve Chris­tensen, founder and owner of NOVO Watch Com­pany, demon­strates the assem­bly process for a watch made out of a 133-year-old train track from Leth­bridge. @TMart­inHer­ald

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