Draken Origins – The Tugela River

As I mentioned in our first episode, the inspiration for Draken came from a particular area in South Africa – the Drakensberg Mountains. This is the mountain range pictured on the back of the Tugela and is also the starting point of the Tugela River.

The rugged features of the Tugela River aligned well with my obsession with tool watches. The rough eroded river stones gave way to the bead-blasted finish on our first model. We continued the matte finish on the other parts of the watch too – the dial, hands and bezel insert. By removing all reflective surfaces, we bring focus to the original function of the tool – telling and tracking time.

The Tugela River has several tributaries, but the true source originates from Mont-aux-Sources, a point to the right of the Amphitheatre. Near this point is another famous feature – the Tugela Falls. This is a 948m waterfall which is second only in height to the Angel Falls in Venezuela. I’ve hiked to the top of the falls several times with friends and family. In fact, with its altitude at 2,972m, it was a good training ground before we did a trip to Peru to complete the Inca Trail.

Another great Tugela River activity when the water level is a bit higher, is floating down the river on an inplated tractor tyre tube. Mind out though or you’ll have a very sore tailbone – those river stones are just below the surface!

Going on holiday to the Drakensberg as a kid would not be complete without purchasing one of these sculpted clay animals. Local kids from the village would patiently wait for you at the single-lane bridge over the river. We were each given a ten Rand to hustle the best sculpture from these kids. Looking back I think our parents obliged us just to keep us quiet on the long trip back to Johannesburg. After 30 years, I find it amazing that the local kids still do this. Some things never change. 

Kia kaha.




  1. Love the history of the origins of Draken watch, and in on of the most spectacular location in South Africa

  2. Jason Noblitt

    I wanted to check with you to see if there are any plans on having any limited edition Tugela’s. I was reading up on your brand and stumbled upon the Shaka edition, with the fully lumed face. I think that series deserves a reissue. I plan to purchase my son a red one for his graduation present this year. If the Shaka edition makes a reappearance I’ll be buying one for myself as well. Thank you for your time and keep doing what you’re doing.

    1. Hey Jason.

      Thanks for the message. We don’t have any plans to bring back the Shaka edition at this stage. Would love your support with purchase of the Red Tugela though!

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