The origins of the Leijona watches lie in the famous watchmaking valley of Val-de-Travers. The brand logo comes originally from the Swiss manufacturer of the pocket watches that watchmaker Johan Werner Lindroos (1870-1937) started importing to Finland, in the very early 1900’s. The Swiss trademark archives show that the unique lion with shield logo was first registered by watchmaker Albert Kenel & Co in December of 1880 and continued by Manufacture d’Horlogerie Lion SA from 1892. In 1909 and 1910 there were registry marks with the Finnish name Leijona and a stylized capital L on the shield of the lion by Camille Barré / Montres Lion and Leijona Watch Co.
Roots of the Iconic Lion
The Leijona brand choice, made by J.W. Lindroos in early 1900, was well done as the heraldic lion in general symbolized the Finnish aspirations for independence at the time. A rampant lion has been on emblems describing Finland since the 1580’s with a multitude of official uses such as; stamps, currency and flags. After gaining independence in 1917 the rampant lion has been the National Coat of Arms of the Republic of Finland.
Perkko Takes Leijona Under Its Wings
The newly established Perkko Ltd. was formed by the three brothers Jalo, Urho and Oiva Perkko in November of 1918. Jalo Vilho Perkko (1885-1942) became managing director of the company. In February 1919 they purchased J.W. Lindroos retail and wholesale business, who sought to sell due to failing health.
Urho Perkko (1888-1959) and Oiva Perkko (1881-1934) worked as managers of the Perkko Ltd. owned stores. Ester Perkko (1891-1967), wife of Jalo Perkko, took lead of Perkko Ltd. as largest shareholder, after her husband’s death in 1942.
Wartime Hardships Generate New Beginnings
Perkko Ltd. sales of Leijona watches continued at a slowly growing rate after WW2. During the post war rebuild period, well into the 1950’s, Finland had a set quota on many imported goods including watches, to control the outflow of funds from Finland. This led to the rapid growth of smuggling and contraband watches. As a measure to constrain and restrict the contraband activities, Perkko labeled the genuine Swiss made Leijona watches with a stylized letter P inside a circle. Finally in the 1960’s it was business as usual, and the Leijona brand model variation expanded. All were still Swiss made mechanical watches.
The Quartz Boom of the 1970s
Towards the mid 1970’s Leijona watches with Japanese made quartz movements entered the market, as the Swiss manufacturers had a hard time to catch up. By the end of the 1980’s, due to customers preferences, watches with quartz movements formed the majority of the catalog. Pocket watches and certain wristwatches remained Swiss made.
The Modern Day Leijona
Leijona brand sales has grown steadily over the years and the brand has remained a household name in Finland. Perkko Ltd. catalog lists several hundred different Leijona watch models for children, women and men. Several of the modern watch dials have since lost the iconic lion with shield, and only have the Leijona text remaining.
Over 113 years after its inception the Leijona watches have returned to their roots - to the valley of Val-de-Travers and to the manufacturing of mechanical watches. In respect of its Swiss history, Finnish heritage and the legacy of Finnish watchmakers the Leijona Heritage Collection is manufactured in close collaboration with the Grand Master Kari Voutilainen. The nature of Finns based on integrity and ambition is conveyed by the way of manufacturing, the material choices and the high quality of finishing details in an original and unique way. The end results offer significantly more to their users than merely objects measuring time.