American watch brands are in the ascendency these days. Not watchmakers of course, most stateside timepieces are built in Switzerland, but the number of cool brands ranging from rugged tool watches to quirky, intensely contemporary fare has led to a flurry of novel watches crossing over the Atlantic. As is the case, of course, with Axia and the Sofia II.
While Axia – taken from the Greek word for value – might sound like the horological province of a classics major, it actually comes from the sporting side of the Ivy League. The story goes that when founder John Kanaras was playing lacrosse for the University of Pennsylvania (he was in goal, if you were wondering) his team won the league, which was great. The watches they were given by the university to go with the win, less so. It was frustratingly low-quality.
For 30 years, he looked for a high-quality timepiece with the logo of his alma mater, long enough that he decided to just do it himself. In doing so, Kanaras realised that university-shaped hole in the market was just waiting to be filled, a need for scholarly branded watches with serious quality under $1,000 (between $500 and $900 to be specific). The initial focus was select universities, before expanding to ultra-custom championship watches, bringing the idea full circle.
That then followed to custom pieces to commemorate great accomplishments, largely in sports, and led directly to Kanaras’ clientele enquiring into where they could get an Axia Time-branded watch. It was an appetite that was satiated with the Sofia II.
The Sofia II exudes the kind of sophistication of someone that can quote ancient Greek – which is fair, given its name comes from ΣΟΦΙΑ, the Greek word for wisdom. In that wisdom, Axia have opted for a halfway house between sporty and elegant.
Case-wise that means 40.5mm of lightweight, hardwearing titanium, something we’re seeing more and more from smaller brands. Not only does the material’s innate properties make it a good fit, but the signature grey colouring works flawlessly with what’s on the dial – a gorgeous, tiered expanse of brushed blue and charmingly retro numerals. As you can see from our own shots, it’s an absolute stunner.
The attention to detail carries through to the movement, which is a step up from the usual workhorses with the Sellita SW360 Elabore. Yes, it’s still a Sellita, but it’s the upper crust of what the Swiss movement specialist does, with a 42-hour power reserve and just enough decoration to warrant the sapphire caseback.
As with all these sorts of brands – cool, independent, and American – accessibility is also a key issue. It’s no surprise then that the Axia Sofia II comes in at $795, or roughly £670. For a titanium- cased semi-sports watch with a classy calibre inside, that’s not bad at all.
Of course, that’s not all they have. There’s the Odysseus (no relation to the A. Lange & Sohne), a high-contrast dive watch with 200m water resistance and solid diving credentials; the Aletheia, a pared-back watch whose minimalism could give the Bauhaus specialists in Glashutte a run for their money; and the Kronos, a GMT modelled on WWII era pilots watches. Finally there’s the Kairos, a beautifully minimal time-and-date piece that lets the details do the talking.
Axia still produce plenty of university-dedicated watches and wearable sporting championship trophies, but with pieces like the Sofia II leading the way, they’re making a big push into the kind of accessible quality you don’t need a degree to appreciate. The Axia collection is all Greek to us – and in this case, that’s a good thing.
Price & Specs:
- Model: Axia Sofia II
- Case/dial: 40.5mm diameter x 10.8mm thickness, titanium case, navy or black dial
- Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
- Movement: Sellita calibre SW360 Elabore, automatic, 31 jewels
- Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
- Power reserve: 42h
- Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
- Strap: Alligator leather
- Price/availability: $795 (approx. £670)
More details at Axia Time.