Glashütte Original has invented and introduced many world premiers in watchmaking. But we are not limited to the technical dimension. In recent years we have won many awards just for the look of our timepieces
In today’s heady marketplace the term “manufacture” has become a little too ubiquitous. If you want to define a “manufacture” as a high-end watch factory with a specialization on creating movements “in-house” then the number of true manufactures in horology are surprisingly few.
Interestingly, while Jaeger-LeCoultre is perhaps the most complete manufacture in Switzerland, it is the small Saxon town of Glashütte that is the home of two of horology’s most complete, innovative and artistically inclined manufactures. Why Glashütte? One major reason, explains Dr. Frank Muller, CEO of the dynamic brand Glashütte Original, “Is that Glashütte was located within East Germany. At the time of the Quartz Crisis, where a huge amount of know-how was lost in Switzerland, Glashütte was relatively insulated from this crisis, because there continued to be an enduring demand for mechanical watches in the Soviet-controlled nations. In many ways this demand preserved our know-how. And although Glashütte’s famous watchmaking combine, the GUB, specialized in unsophisticated mechanical movements, the watchmakers there still possessed the skill to create highly innovative and beautiful movements.” Indeed, many of modern watchmaking’s most skilled watchmakers had their training at the GUB.
It was precisely this expertise that was tapped by Glashütte Original’s founder Heinz Pfeiffer when he purchased the former GUB with the dream of creating a hotbed for high watchmaking. Pfeiffer immediately identified the type of buyers he wanted to target. He was after the type of people who ask first about the content of a watch before all else. As such, from the onset, Glashütte Original’s focus was on its movements. In the 13 years since it was privatized, the company has created more than ten proprietary movements, with two of the resulting watches — the Senator Perpetual Calendar and the PanoRetroGraph — winning the major awards in 2000 and 2001 respectively.
In the realm of chronographs, Glashütte Original is world apart from its competitors, with a stunning manual wind chronograph, the PanoGraph, as well as the PanoMatic Chrono. This gorgeous chronograph, powered by the company’s new caliber 95, twin barrel movement features a step gear that adjusts to the movement of the wearer. This winds both unilaterally and bilaterally by using two transmission wheels. The first operates on small degrees of movement and winds in both directions while the second slower winding wheel operates only in one direction. When the spring barrel is sufficiently wound, only the slow-winding mechanism stays operative to reduce wear on the inside of the barrel caused by overwinding. At the same time, Glashütte Original boasts one of the world’s most affordable and functionally brilliant perpetual calendar modules and one of the most impressive workhorse basic calibers. The Glashütte Original caliber 100 is one of the few basic automatic movements that feature a “zero reset” mechanism, that enables the seconds hand to jump to zero during time setting for optimum precision. It is also the only movement in horology that achieves its “zero reset” without disturbing the delicate regulator known as the balance wheel.
It is REVOLUTION magazine’s pleasure to announce the creation of a multi-part story that follows the journey of a Glashütte Original watch from conception to end product. We will simultaneously post the images and text of the story in even greater detail on our website www.horomundi.com. Why did we choose Glashütte Original to partner with in the first of our ‘Birth of a Masterpiece’ series that follows a mechanical watch from the initial flashpoint of inspiration to its final majestic manifestation? Simply because the spirit of true artisanal watchmaking, embodied by a commitment to high level finish, valid engineering solutions and sublime aesthetics lives in greatest measure at this Glashütte home for horology. As we go through the various stages of construction for the watch in question — a Sports Evolution Perpetual Calendar (a novelty targeted for 2008 and unveiled exclusively to us) — we will also reveal in greater depth the history, hallmarks of quality and commitment to excellence embodied by Glashütte Original.
Glashütte Original has flourished under the leadership of Dr. Frank Muller, an individual of unprecedented passion for legitimate horology and a true champion of German watchmaking. Under his leadership, the brand has achieved far more consolidated brand identity and ever strong brand equity. It gives us great pleasure to discuss the objectives of our labor of love with Dr. Muller.
Please tell us why you decided to initiate the educational project ‘Birth of a Masterpiece: A Glashütte Original Watch is born’? First of all, it is so fascinating to invite the general public to witness the genesis of a masterpiece of time — not ex post but live! To my knowledge something like this has never been done before. REVHLUTION will make the sophisticated manufacturing process transparent and will reveal a unique set of skills and competencies necessary to develop, produce, assemble and finish a movement. The final completion of a watch is the crowning moment after several years of relentless striving for perfection and excellence.
I am very proud that the renowned magazine REVOLUTION has chosen one of the very few remaining authentic watch manufacturers for this exciting venture.
Please briefly outline for us the various steps in production of your timepiece that we will see in this series of articles. We will try to show the complete process of how a Glashütte Original comes to life. The decision making process that will determine which model is envisioned as novelty, the discussions with the engineer of how to develop the movement, the various designer’s sketches, prototyping, pre-serial production, and finally the introduction of the masterpiece to the public.
Do you feel this series of articles will help to express the vast in-house legitimacy of Glashütte Original? Indeed, I hope and believe so! All of those who have already visited our premises realize that Glashütte Original is mastering the entire classic process of the making of a mechanical (and German) watch — from A to Z. Now, this challenging project with REVOLUTION provides us with a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate our strengths not only in the context of a real factory tour, but as a journalistic voyage in a magazine’s reportage.
Do you think this in-house capacity distinguishes Glashütte Original from the majority of brands on the market? With all modesty required: Yes, I think so. There are many brands proclaiming to be true manufacturers. Yet, a close look into many watch cases tells a different story, as very often, standard movements are used. And even if in recent times, some brands have built up in-house capacities to manufacture their own movements, two circumstances remain frequently valid: first, this capacity is, as a matter of fact, not based on a continuous and true history; and second, in some cases, this new manufacturing ability just applies to a small portion of their collection.
We’ve heard that you are a “technical brand”. what precisely does this mean? One of Glashütte Original’s most important qualifications is to develop and to build the engine of a watch — the movement, respectively the calibre — by its own means. With our rich experience, the necessary technology, and especially with a highly gifted and motivated team of in-house engineers, we focus on constant innovation, true manufacturing credibility as well as the highest quality and functionality.
Glashütte Original has invented and introduced many world premiers in watchmaking. Just to name a few: the panorama date with date discs being on the same level, a mechanical chronograph to count forward and backwards (PanoRetroGraph), the intelligent automatic movement adapting to the watch owner’s wearing habits (PanoMaticChrono), the digital calendar week indication (Senator Calendar Week), the zero-reset function without interrupting the escapement (Senator Panorama Date).
But Glashütte Original isn’t limited to its technical dimension. In recent years we have won many awards just for the look of our timepieces — we always try to bring together both sides: design and technology.
Tell us a bit about the birthplace that we will visit through these articles, your manufacture in Glashütte. The cliché about watchmaking sometimes is that an old man with a long beard sits in a corner under a diffuse light, manufacturing and assembling a watch, component by component.
But today’s reality is a different one. Watchmaking is performed by young (often female) talents, under clean, light and almost sterile conditions, supported by high tech production processes to guarantee perfection by the thousandth of a millimeter.
Our workshops that were rebuilt in 2002 reflect this: we perform our art in a modern transparent building. In visiting Glashütte Original you will discover seeming contradictions that are united at the end in our watches: craftsmanship versus machinery, human beings versus technology, material versus spirit, tradition versus future, a modern factory in a 500-year-old town. I strongly believe that today’s success of Glashütte Original has its basis in our dream to bridge these seemingly opposing states and hence to create rich, complex timepieces.
And as this is such a fascinating process, we are happy to invite the international public to come to Glashütte and to enjoy a guided factory tour and to experience first-hand what is happening on our premises.
Why is it that some of us may not have heard of the name Glashütte Original before? Glashütte Original is a brand with a long past, and the factory is tracing back its roots to the year 1845. Yet, it is a young brand. The reason lies, as so often in life, in our history. Being a German company and looking back on many years of existence, it is obvious that our fate was quite often linked to the national German history. And given the fact that Glashütte as a city is located in the former East Germany, the brand was hidden for some decades from the world’s eyes.
Can you give us a brief history of your brand: when was it founded, what was its core focus? When Ferdinand A. Lange and Gustav B. Gutkaes started their first workshop in Glashütte in 1845, soon to be supported by other pioneers like Julius Assmann, Moritz Grossmann and Adolf Schneider, it only took a few decades until Glashütte became an internationally highly reputed watchmaking site. The booming years ended with the turning points of World War I and the economic difficulties of the 1920s. In 1921 the “Deutsche Präzisions-Uhrenfabrik Glashütte (DPUG)” registered the trade brand “Original Glashütte” to protect the Glashütte watchmaking features against Swiss and Black Forest imitations. Under socialist rule after World War II, all still-remaining watch companies were unified, their owners already expropriated in the late 1940s. From here on, the past of Glashütte was transferred into one single company. Although there would be no more manufacturing of luxury watches for the next few decades — which actually had already ceased to exist from the 1930s due to enforced production of military watches — the new company can be credited for two key achievements.
Whereas in France completely and in Switzerland to a high degree, the industry for mechanical watches would disappear with the introduction of the quartz movements in the late ’60s and ’70s, the so-called “combinat“ or collective combine would continue to invent, produce, and assemble mechanical watches — albeit cheap ones. And due to a lack of hard currency there was no component imports from the West and watches were made to almost a 100 percent on the spot. Thus, the combinat preserved the particular knowledge and experience to create mechanical watches that once made up the strength of all former workshops in Glashütte.
The collective combine was privatized after the Berlin Wall came down and refocused during the following years on using its abilities to create luxury and fine timepieces again. In also providing watchmakers to new enterprises in Glashütte in the early ’90s and in even handing over old brand names, Glashütte Original contributed to the development of our city as a living and diverse site of high class watchmaking again. Having survived the difficult times, Glashütte Original has laid out a foundation for what would become the renaissance of German luxury watchmaking, labelled “Glashütte I/SA” meaning “Glashütte in Saxony” — nowadays again appreciated all over the world.
What are its core values now? In one sentence: Glashütte Original is a genuine German manufactory for elegant, modern, mechanical wristwatches with exclusive and innovative movements that are designed, produced, assembled and finished to a very high degree of internal value.
Why do all men need a good watch? The sociologist Paul Watzlawick once famously said that, “you cannot not communicate.” Therefore wearing a watch or not, or wearing a good watch or rather a “bad” one, is always an expression of somebody’s personality. Some people don’t need a watch as there are mobile phones or computers around indicating time. But referring back to your former question, there are a million exciting reasons why fine mechanical watches are fascinating to us and therefore ought to be worn: tradition, the myth of mechanics, the beauty of design. Therefore, a good watch is a chance to express your own personality as you feel it and to give a signal to the world of how you want to be perceived. To me, a “good” watch is a manifestation of character. Also, a good watch eventually becomes your companion and your friend. The watch handed down to you by your farther, the watch worn at your wedding, the expensive watch bought from your first earned money — they are constant reminders that life bears wonderful moments. And finally, it has to be admitted: men do have especially fewer possibilities to dress up, compared to the ladies. A watch is a wonderful object to do so.
What watch have you selected for this series of articles and why? We have chosen the Sport Evolution Perpetual Calendar as the watch will incorporate creative work concerning movement and design. H