The Brand Name

Welcome to the first in the series called Draken Origins, where I’ll be sharing a bit about the inspiration for the brand and how it ties into the design of our watches. 

When I started the company in 2016, I was obsessed with tool watches. I still am today. Sinn, Damasko, Laco and Hanhart are just a few of the brands I look up to. The idea that a watch be used for function instead of just a piece of jewellery has always been a foundational belief for the brand. 

At that time I had just gotten my New Zealand citizenship, but I wanted a way to keep the South African heritage as a part of my life. Thinking about my childhood in South Africa, I recalled very fond memories of my time in the Drakensberg. 

The Drakensberg (Mountain of Dragons) is the biggest and oldest mountain range in South Africa. It spans about 1000km, stretching from the Eastern Cape region to the northern part of Southern Africa where it hosts such amazing features as Blyde River Canyon, Three Rondavels and God’s Window. At its highest point, it reaches 3,482m (11,424 feet).

The word ‘draken’ comes from the Afrikaans language meaning ‘dragons’, the singular being ‘draak’ in Afrikaans. The word traces back to Dutch, and similar wording can be found in German (‘drachen’), Swedish (‘drakar’), Norwegian (‘drager’).


The area known as the Northern Drakensberg is where I spent many summer holidays with my family. Almost every December we would head down from Johannesburg to a holiday park called Hlalanathi. This particular spot nestled in the foothills of the mountain, near the edge of the Tugela River, boasted incredible views of the Amphitheatre, the part of the Drakensberg that we used as the case back engraving for the Tugela diver watch.

In the lower reaches of the mountain, you will find Protea bushes dotting the hillside, black eagles soaring the blue skies, and baboons barking from the valleys. The Tugela Falls, the second highest in the world (falling 947 m (3,107 ft)), can also be found tumbling over the edge of this ancient landform. Hiking in this area in summer is spectacular. As you wind your way through the valleys you’ll come across stunning rock pools, with the crispest, clear water you’ll ever taste or jump into. Some of the oldest known bushman paintings can also be found on cave walls around the Drakensberg. 

The region is also the stronghold of the Zulus, the formidable tribe once ruled by King Shaka. This is certainly a land rich in cultural history, and what better place to feed an appetite for adventure?


I recall going on a 5-day hike into the Berg with one of the most esteemed guides – Malcolm Pearce. We learnt much about the beauty of the Drakensberg and its dangers. Puff adder snakes are lazy, well camouflaged and highly venomous – a dangerous combination for hikers climbing up the rocky crags. Lightning is also a serious threat, giving true meaning to ‘run for the hills’. He also told us tales of body snatchers – servants of Sangomas (African witchdoctors) who would come over the borders of Lesotho, and harvest the kidneys of sleeping hikers. Not so sure how true that one was, but there have certainly been cases of human parts being sold on the African black market.

These are just a few tidbits that come to mind when I think about the Drakensberg, some of which inspired the design of the Tugela, our first model. With its rotating outer bezel, the Tugela does of course share some traits with the ubiquitous Rolex Submariner, but many details also set it apart.

We’ll delve more into these details in the next post. Thanks for reading!

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