STOCKHOLM — Convinced that a bedroom should be a smartphone-free sanctuary, Lisen Bage set out to design the perfect alarm clock, one resembling the high-quality, collapsible travel model her grandmother kept at her bedside in Lausanne in Switzerland when Ms. Bage was a child.
As an adult living in Stockholm, with a background in corporate recruitment and retail , Ms. Bage had “an urge to reclaim my bedroom, to retake a small part of the day for myself and make it digital-free so that I could unwind, recharge, sleep and dream,” she said. “In order to do this, I needed an alarm clock.”
But while her inspiration for the clock’s appearance was clear enough, its construction posed a challenge: She wanted to create a model that was affordable yet stylish and featured as many parts and techniques used in fine watchmaking as possible.
Also high on her wish list was that the clock’s construction be carried out in a manner that ensured its sustainability — many of the models she encountered while trying to buy such a clock were mass-produced in plastic and had no hope of ever being able to be repaired.
A clock manufactured like a mechanical watch could be dismantled if a part needed to be replaced or repaired, she recalled thinking. “This means that the clock can last a very long time,” said Ms. Bage, 49. “This was our take on sustainability.”
But creating a product that paid homage to both fine watchmaking and affordable luxury, she soon realized, would entail compromises; a mechanical alarm clock composed of Swiss parts, for example, was going to result in a product costing much more than she had planned.
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To realize her dream, she recruited Federico Casado, a watch expert who for 10 years managed Nymans Ur 1851, a luxury Scandinavian watch retailer. In 2021, he and Ms. Bage released their first line of vibrantly colored, leather-bound alarm clocks under the name Bage & Soner, with Soner (“sons” in English) referring to her four sons.
“My first reaction was, are you really sure that people are going to buy alarm clocks?” said Mr. Casado, 48, recalling the day in 2018 when Ms. Bage, who had been a Nymans Ur client since the mid-1990s, first pitched the idea of starting a business together.
Bage & Soner now operates a workshop and office in central Stockholm, where two employees assemble about 2,000 clocks a year, for sale on the company’s website or from retailers in Europe and the United States.
Priced at 4,395 to 5,295 krona in Sweden and $550 to $600 in the United States, the battery-operated clocks have some parts in brass and a square casing made from stainless steel that comes in three finishes — brushed, polished and gold-plated — and coated in either lamb or cow leather in a choice of eight colors.
Daniel Moberg, the chief executive of the high-end Stockholm watch retailer Rob. Engstrom, which carries the clocks, said in an email that customers were drawn to the uncluttered Scandinavian style of the clock’s design and the watch-like mix of metal and leather in its construction.
“Many tourists like them because they are handmade and marked ‘Stockholm,’” he wrote.
The aim was to make a clock with a sleek and modern-yet-classic appearance, Ms. Bage said. To achieve this, she and Mr. Casado merged design elements inspired by Rolex, Patek Philippe and Jaeger-LeCoultre watches with those from the alarm clock that belonged to Ms. Bage’s grandmother.
The decision to feature a line of separation between the alarm zone and the rest of the dial, she said, was inspired by the Jaeger-LeCoultre Memovox; the sun ray and tapestry patterns on the alarm dial were inspired by the Rolex Oyster Perpetual and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak; and some color choices, including a gray dial, played off well-known watches such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus.
Other details in the clock’s construction are a nod to fine watchmaking: Indices are fastened by hand, rather than glued, to a brass dial whose alarm dial is patterned using polishing techniques found in watchmaking. (As for the sound of the alarm itself, Ms. Bage’s desire for birdsong lost out to Mr. Casado’s insistence on a more conventional beeping that gets louder and faster as seconds fly by.)
A button on the side of the clock that operates both the snooze and light functions resembles a crown (the knob used to wind a watch) and the glass covering the clock’s face is made of tempered mineral glass as opposed to sapphire crystal or plastic.
“We tried to use different techniques and materials from fine watchmaking,” Mr. Casado said. “So, for instance, we don’t glue the glass; we press the glass with a gasket. We apply the indices and numerals; we don’t glue them on.”
To get the ball rolling on a business, he and Ms. Bage said they dismantled numerous alarm clocks to observe their inner workings. They also conducted a bit of market research whose results revealed a desire for the return of traditional bedside and desktop clocks.
“So many people came back with that kind of feedback,” Mr. Casado said, referring to some of the comments from 100 people, ages 17 to 78, who were surveyed at a Stockholm flea market as part of the research.
The most desirable functions in an alarm clock, the survey showed, were the ability to snooze and having enough light so that it could be read in the dark. Then Ms. Bage and Mr. Casado insisted on another feature: the clock must be totally silent aside from the alarm and not emit a single audible tick.
As a result, they set their sights on equipping the clocks with a continuous sweep movement, which enables the hands of a watch to glide silently around its dial, or face, instead of jolting from one second to the next.
After visiting manufacturers in Europe and Asia, Ms. Bage and Mr. Casado settled on a plastic quartz movement produced by a manufacturer in China and powered by a regular AA battery. (The two said they experimented with rechargeable batteries but found them less suitable.) As for parts, such as hands and dials, they recruited a Chinese firm that could produce the Swedish company’s designs using technology that was accurate to one-thousandth of a millimeter, Mr. Casado said.
The movement was considered durable and affordable — and more important, it had the size and the power required to accommodate the complications necessary for an alarm clock. It also freed them up financially to focus more on parts and quality control.
“We decided, ‘OK, so the movement is the movement,’” Mr. Casado said. “We’ll find the best one possible and then we’ll focus on the exterior parts and the assembling.”
“Usually in fine watchmaking, brands talk about their history and their tradition. They talk about this in connection with their movements,” he continued. “Obviously, we know we can’t do that. We are talking about the product as a whole.”
That the parts were relatively low-cost, Mr. Casado said, enabled the company to produce 13 models of luxurious yet affordable clocks in eye-catching hues, worthy of the colorful titles chosen by Ms. Bage and her sons: Forest Dream, Sea Breeze and Starry Sky, to name a few.
Now, Ms. Bage said, she can offer an arsenal of stylish options in her mission to keep smartphones and digital devices out of bedrooms.
“It didn’t make me more happy, more clever or add anything to my life,” she said, recalling the days she would scroll through her smartphone while lying in bed. “Instead I had just taken time away from myself, my sleep and my dreams.”