Leijona a historic watch brand that proudly keeps an enduring relationship with two countries: Switzerland and Finland.
Leijona means Lion in Finnish language. The brand traces its history to the last decades of the 19th century. Initially, Leijona watches were made in Switzerland. Since then, it has remained a popular watch brand in Finland. However, after the quartz crisis, the production of Leijona watches has been moved out from the country.
Leijona watch brand was originated in the famous watchmaking valley of Val-de-Travers in Switzerland. Since 1892, a watchmaking company named Manufacture d’Horlogerie Lion SA had been the location where the watches bearing the distinct twin-tailed Leijona logo were made. The same logo, however, had already appeared on some of the pocket watches created by Albert Kenel in the 1880s, who would later be hired to work at the Lion factory.
The first importer of the Leijona watch in Finland was J.W. Lindroos, a watch wholesaler and retailer based in Tampere. The first documented appearance of a Leijona watch in Finland was recorded in 1907, but Lindroos may very well have imported Leijona watches at an earlier period in time as well.
The last decade of the 18th century was a period of great unrest in Finland. The popularity of the Fennoman (Finnish nationalist) movement, which sought to establish the dominance of Finnish culture and the Finnish language in a country that was still ruled by the Russian Empire, was increasing by the day.
The Russianization policy at the turn of the century also contributed to the popularity of this historic movement. Many everyday items were given Finnish names, and so J.W. Lindroos decided to register his new Lion watches under the equivalent Finnish brand name “Leijona”.
The Finnish Coat of Arms has featured a lion since the Middle Ages, and it is most likely for this reason that the Leijona watch became a symbol that the populace could use to discretely show which side they stood on.
While this may sound like a small gesture, it was anything but – even the act of displaying the wrong type of painting (for example, Edvard Isto’s “The Attack”, where the three-headed Russian eagle attacks the Finnish Maiden) could result in exile.
The use of wristwatches became more widespread in Finland during the wars, and the Leijona watch could be seen on the wrists of those fighting for the independence and freedom of Finland during the Second World War.
Finns have worn their Leijona watches as they reconstructed the country, educated themselves and gained new success across the globe. During all of this, the Leijona watch would always remain the best-selling timepiece in Finland, and the history of the Leijona watch encompasses hundreds of thousands of touching personal stories of success and loss.
On the 8th of November 1918, three brothers (Jalo, Urho and Oiva Perkko) founded a company bearing their family name, Oy Perkko Ab. One year later, they would purchase J.W. Lindroos’ business. Their brand portfolio now encompassed the watches made by Omega, Tissot, Certina, Rado, Leijona, Pierre Balmain and Jaz.
In 1939, Perkko became the first watch company in Finland to launch a gross price system to stabilize the retail prices of watches. The previous net price system had introduced an element of uncertainty to the market when it came to determining the “right price” of a watch.
The Second World War would also cast its shadow on the Perkko family: the company’s managing clerk, C.U. Bergman, and Ensio Perkko, the son of managing director Jalo Perkko, perished on the front in 1941. The following year, Jalo himself died from his grief, after which his position in the company was passed on to his beloved wife, Esteri.
To honor the life’s work of her late spouse, in 1943 Esteri Perkko made the remarkable decision to donate 500,000 Finnish marks to the establishment of the Finnish School of Watchmaking. The school began its operations only a few months later in February 1944.
A lack of currency, strong import regulations and high tariffs created a good opportunity for smuggling activities. Coffee, watches, tobacco and money soon became the most smuggled items to Finland. Leijona watches would also become a popular item with smugglers, as tens of thousands of Leijona wristwatches were smuggled to the country.
The ever-popular Leijona watches were easy to smuggle as, by the 50s, the watches were manufactured in numerous Swiss watch factories across Switzerland. For its part, the Perkko Company attempted to restrain these activities by registering the Leijona trademark in Sweden, which had served as the main thoroughfare for watch smugglers, and by having its factories stamp the letter P on each genuine Leijona watch.
In the 70s, Quartz watches became increasingly widespread and completely disrupted the market for traditional mechanical watches.
The Swiss watchmaking industry was badly behind in the development of its quartz machineries, and it was decided at this time that the production of Leijona watches would be moved from Switzerland to Japan, which would allow for more affordable consumer prices and further increase the popularity of the Leijona brand.
Leijona is Finland’s oldest and best-selling watch brand of all time, with hundreds of thousands of satisfied consumers. Despite the fact that the Leijona watch has always been considered a “Finnish watch”, its origins lie in Switzerland.
In 2019, in collaboration with Master watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, the company launched the Leijona Heritage 1907 Collection as a tribute to the brand’s Swiss origins. This new series is comprised of Swiss made watches produced in the valley of Val-de-Travers.
The Leijona brand offers affordable quartz wristwatches in the price range of 50 to 200 Euros.
The newly launched Leijona Heritage 1907 collection is comprised of Swiss Made mechanical watches in the price range of 2,500 to 5,000 Euros.