Daan de GrootJune 15, 2023
And up close and personal with the brand's founder Hakim El Kadiri, aka "Elka"
It’s not often that you see the same watch available with a choice of four different scripts on the dial. The Elka Watch Co. Diversity Series might be a first for me. It was created to celebrate diversity and the friendship between two watch aficionados. However, it also shows us how different a watch can look depending on the script that is being used. Let’s take a closer look at the Ace Jewelers × Elka Watch Co. Diversity Series.
The Elka name originally belonged to the Dutch Kiek family. In 1913, they started the Elka watch brand and based the name on the founder’s full name and city — Eduard Louis Kiek Amsterdam. The family ran a few boutiques in Amsterdam where, among brands like Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Blancpain, they also sold pocket watches and wristwatches under their own name. The original Elka company was dissolved in the year 2000, and the current company has no affiliation with it. Nevertheless, having been born and raised in Amsterdam, the brand feels a little special to me
After having worked for Hamilton and Rado as head of product, Hakim El Kadiri decided he wanted to become an entrepreneur. He wanted to make something from scratch by himself without having to justify every single step to the rest of the company. So that’s why around the year 2020, he decided to build a watch brand of his own. He checked whether the name “Elka” — his nickname since childhood — was already taken, and that’s when he stumbled upon the Dutch Elka brand.
As the company had already ceased to exist, he was able to register the name, and in 2022, Hakim launched the brand with a successful campaign on Kickstarter. He started with the dressier D Series, which was based on the watch designs from the ’60s that he loves so much. Later on, he introduced the more sporty-looking X Series, which featured numerals on the dial and a NATO strap. And now, based on the X Series, Hakim and Alon Ben Joseph from Ace Jewelers are launching the Diversity Series.
Hakim and Alon met during a Hamilton event in 2008. They immediately “clicked” because of their mutual excitement over watches and their designs. The two stayed in touch over time, and when Hakim found out about the history behind the Elka name, he immediately contacted his friend from Amsterdam. They started discussing a possible limited edition, and Alon proposed the idea of the X Series with different scripts on the dial to celebrate diversity and their international friendship.
And here it is — the Diversity Series. These watches use the same case from the D Series and X Series but feature a new gradient blue sunburst dial (it’s less purple than the previous blue dial in the collection) and four different scripts. There is, of course, the “original” version with Western Arabic numerals, but there are also versions with Eastern Arabic, Chinese, and Hebrew numerals. Designing them wasn’t just a matter of looking at Google Translate, though.
Because, for example, in the Hebrew numeric system, the “0” doesn’t exist. So that’s why it says “60” at 12 o’clock. And the number “15” is represented by “9+6”, because “10+5” would refer to the name of God, and that wouldn’t be appropriate. In the end, all watches were checked by people with the right cultural background and should all be correct.
I’ll be honest in saying that I wasn’t too familiar with Elka Watch Co. before I heard about this collaboration. Then, when I started looking at the brand’s watches on the website, I didn’t immediately get excited as they look quite plain and straightforward in the pictures. I must say, though, that I got much more excited after checking out and trying on the watches in real life.
The 40.8mm stainless steel case is inspired by the Elka pocket watches from yesteryear. It has a highly domed sapphire crystal on top and a similarly shaped screw-down case back. But what really surprised me were the lugs that protrude from the case. They flow from a very thin mid-case and fan out to reach for the leather strap. When you look at the watch from the side, there’s a nice interplay of lines happening. And that continues on the inside of the lugs, where there’s a slim bevel sloping down towards the strap.
Apart from this interesting design feature, the watches also feel very well made. What else would you expect from an industry veteran like Hakim? And this high-quality approach is also evident in the choice of the movement. Inside the Diversity Series is the G100 from La Joux-Perret, an automatic movement that runs at 28,800vph and provides a comfortable 68-hour power reserve.
Note that the watches in the Diversity Series don’t have a date window. That’s a first for the watches in Elka’s portfolio. I prefer this look as it keeps the dial nice and clean. Plus, with the numerals, there’s already enough going on. Inside, though, the date disk is still there and fully functional. Hakim said he might opt for a specific no-date movement, but for now, he feels there’s no need. I guess that’s an example of his no-nonsense approach.The stars of the show in the Diversity Series are the different blue sunburst dials, of course. My favorite is the one with the Western Arabic numerals simply because that’s the one I’m able to read. It also looks the most organized to me. I guess your preference will also be highly influenced by your background. That’s what makes the Diversity Series a truly multicultural collection, which I applaud.
With a 10.8mm thickness (partly due to the highly domed sapphire) and a 46.5mm lug-to-lug, the case sits nicely on my 17cm wrist. It’s a time-only and bezel-less watch, so it could look a little on the bigger side. But the combination of the bold white minute track and the numerals makes the watch appear a little smaller than it is.All versions come on a nice cognac-colored suede strap with a comfortable microfiber lining. I think I would prefer to wear this watch on a NATO to make it look a little less dressy. But that is, of course, a very personal preference.
The Ace Jewelers × Elka Watch Co. Diversity Series models will see a production of 25 pieces per dial variation. The first seven of each version are reserved for four-piece collector’s sets, while the remaining 18 are for sale individually. They are available now for €1,620 (excluding VAT) each from Ace Jewelers in Amsterdam. But if you’re not in the neighborhood, don’t worry. You can also order yours online from the store’s webshop or Elka Watch Co.’s official website.Let me know in the comments below what you think of these four different watches. Do you like them, and if so, which one would be your pick?