You know what “Swiss Made” means when it comes to watches, and we all know what “Made in China” denotes. Did you know, however, that “Made in Germany” was originally a British label designed to disparage German-made goods?
Many German companies today use “Made in Germany” as an identifier, and a recent study states that “Made in Germany” is THE most respected “Made in” moniker.
There is another, even higher designation, called Meisterkries, “Master Circle” in English, that sets truly remarkable companies apart. Companies like Leica Cameras, Nesmuk Knives, Porsche Automobiles, Steinway Pianos and… Glashütte Original timepieces.
The Meisterkreis is designed to take “Made in Germany” to the next level, focusing on the best companies in the country.
Says Clemens Pflanz, chairman of the Master Circle, “Meisterkreis stands for a culture of excellence. In Germany, we are not interested in luxury, because luxury is an attitude. We are interested in the highest quality and creativity and sustainability in Germany. The objective of Meisterkreis is to combine the very best of German companies to form a new Avant Garde and to maintain a strong tradition of German excellence.”
To find out more about German excellence, I went on a trip to Germany to visit three companies to find out what it was all about.
I have to confess that I flew to Düsseldorf via Swiss Airlines, but since they are an airline partner with Lufthansa, the German national airline, I figured I was in good shape. My plan was to rent a car at the airport, drive and spend time with two of the companies — Leica Camera and Nesmuk Knives.
When I went to pick up my rental car, the lady at the Avis desk smiled and asked me if I’d like to upgrade to a brand-new Porsche 911 for only €50 a day.
It didn’t take long for me to say yes, and soon I was behind the wheel of a fantastic, German-made sportscar (with only seven kilometers on the clock — I was the first one to drive it), speeding down the Autobahn at more than 140 mph, heading for my first stop.
Leica Camera — Wetzlar, Germany
First up on the trip log was Leica Camera, a company with a long history, having introduced the world’s first compact camera in 1914. Known for its excellence in engineering and manufacturing, in cameras, lenses, binoculars and rifle scopes. Leica is located in the modern Leitz Park campus, its state-of-the-art production facility sharing space with galleries, restaurants, a Leica boutique and much more.
Leica is proud of its German roots and its German manufacturing, and the company emphasizes its attention to detail, its innovation, and the simplicity and usefulness of its products.
Leica is a niche manufacturer like Glashütte Original. What separates Leica, according to the company and those in the know, is the “Leica Look,” a result of German engineering at its best.
Leica cameras and lenses are some of the most expensive on the market and the company is unapologetic about this fact. What goes into the camera is reflected in the price tag, very similar to the watch industry, and there is quite a collector market for vintage Leicas.
Nesmuk Knives — Solingen, Germany
In contrast to Leica is Nesmuk Knives, a relatively new company, founded in 2008. Nesmuk approaches knives from their intended purpose and everything that goes into the knife revolves around that purpose. Nesmuk knives have a unique shape, which helps them stand out in the market.
Nesmuk is located in Solingen, known throughout the world as the center of knife manufacturing in Germany. Nesmuk moved here five years ago and decided to differentiate themselves by emphasizing quality, the use of innovative design and materials (cutting geometry, Damascus steel, coatings and more).
Nesmuk’s production is low (around 50 knives a day) and the prices are higher than many companies but, again, there are good reasons for this. Nesmuk is proud to be German made, in fact they put it on all their products — “Excellent Knives, Made in Germany.”
Sensing a theme here?
German excellence and innovation, without any corners being cut, ever, results in the highest possible quality, which all comes at a price.
Glashütte Original — Glashütte, Germany
I visited Glashütte Original last year, spending a few days there to find out what makes the brand so special. Glashütte is a small town, not unlike Switzerland’s La Chaux-de-Fonds — both places where watchmaking enterprises congregated. The Glashütte way of making excellent, functional watches became known around the world. So much so that companies from other countries added the words “System Glashütte” to their watches to capitalize on the reputation of the town.
To combat this confusion, companies based in Glashütte started to add the word “Original” to their watches, to identify them as truly Saxon-made.
Today, the name Glashütte Original comes from this identifier, and the company is keeping the tradition of the Saxon watch industry’s founders in mind as it develops new watches. Today, Glashütte Original exemplifies the traditions of German watches. Some of the hallmarks of the brand, and the Glashütte way, include the use of 3/4 plates and Glashütte striping, sober, pure designs, useful complications, legible indications and more.
Glashütte Original is a true manufacture, with more than 95% of all the parts made in-house, including the dial. The design and development process of every watch takes place completely in the Glashütte facility: including the design of the movement with every single function and component as well as the dial, the shape and material of the case, and the strap.
“German Made is for us very important,” says Thomas Meier, CEO, Glashütte Original. “We have a long history in our company, our roots start in 1845. In this area there is a long, long tradition, which reflects in today’s products. We’ve got the spirit and the experience of more than 170 years, and we confer it into today’s products.
“German Made means precision, beauty, innovation, stability and continuity,” he says. “Our timepieces are distinguished by their clear, easy to read design and useful, highly reliable functions. The watch can’t just be beautiful, it has to be useful. We take the process of making our timepieces seriously in every aspect, from the very first idea to the roll out of the final product.”
Glashütte Original watches offer no fluff, as “less is more” is the guiding principle for the brand in design and construction.
The Watches: The Senator Cosmopolite
The Senator Cosmopolite in steel was just introduced this year in Baselworld. Designed for use by world travelers, the Senator Cosmopolite is a snap to read and use. This timepiece displays two time zones, with all 36 time zones available using the official IATA location code in the relevant time zones. 24 time zones are offset from Greenwich Mean Time by an hour, but there are 12 that are offset by 30 minutes or 45 minutes.
The Senator Cosmopolite displays them all, effortlessly. All you have to do is put the time zone IATA code in the display. Simple, which is part of the Glashütte Original way. For the wearer it’s easy and simple, while the intricate and complicated movement does all the heavy lifting.
The Senator Chronograph Panorama Date
The newest addition to the Senator Chronograph Panorama Date family is the Senator Chronograph Panorama Date in stainless steel. This new timepiece uses the integrated chronograph movement Caliber 37, which has been in use in the Senator collection for quite a while and offers a 70-hour power reserve.
A clear white dial contrasts with the details presented in deep black. Extremely legible by day, the black hour, minute and stop seconds hands, indexes and Roman numerals at hours six and 12 glow in the dark, making reading the time at night a snap.
The Senator Chronograph Panorama Date features the signature date display at six o’clock, just above the Glashütte Original logo.
The Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar
At the heart of this timepiece is the ground-breaking Caliber 36-02, which has all the functions of a traditional perpetual calendar (day, month, date, leap year indication), along with a true moon phase. The perpetual calendar in this Glashütte Original limited edition timepiece (100 pieces) will run with no correction needed until the year 2100 — truly amazing.
The Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar also features Glashütte Original’s signature Panorama Date, with large-format numerals on the same plane, without the vertical separation bar. The Caliber 36-02 also offers a remarkable 100 hours of power reserve.
The Sixties Automatic and Sixties Panorama Date
Inspired by “Spezimatic” watches made by the GUB from the 1960s, the Sixties introduced this year include a time-only model and a version with the famous Panorama Date, both with spectacular green dégradé dials, stamped with a pattern by a 60-ton press, crafted in Glashütte Original’s own dial manufacture.
The watches are powered by in-house automatic movements, the 39-47 for the Sixties time-only and the 39-52 for the Sixties Panorama Date. The time-only is in a 39mm stainless steel case, while the Panorama Date version is in a 42mm stainless steel case.
As is the tradition of Glashütte Original, this stunning color will only be available for the calendar year of 2018, then it’s gone forever.
Understanding and Appreciating
I went to Germany to discover the essence of German excellence, and I certainly found it. Companies like Leica Cameras, Porsche, Nesmuk Knives and, of course, Glashütte Original are standard bearers of the Made in Germany/Meisterkreis movement, emphasizing German engineering, quality, purity of design and more.
After visiting these companies and seeing their operations, I have an increased appreciation for all that goes into German Made products, especially those that have a more artisanal and high-quality approach to their design and production.
Glashütte Original is on the leading edge of German excellence, focusing on its own Saxon traditions while pushing the brand into the future.
Wearing the Senator Cosmopolite
The Senator Cosmopolite was an effective, stylish and welcome addition to my trip. It was easy to read on the plane and behind the wheel of the Porsche, and it fit in no matter if I was visiting Nesmuk Knives, eating Wienerschnitzel in the Leica cafeteria or shooting video in the German countryside.
I especially appreciated the IATA code time zone displays. I love the IATA codes (LOL might be my favorite, which is Derby Field airport in Nevada, serving Lovelock City) and having them displayed on the watch is a fantastic touch.
The Senator Cosmopolite is an elegant timepiece that works well with a suit or even with jeans and a button-down shirt. I enjoyed my time wearing it — it was a treat to read it and I found myself checking the time more often, just as an excuse to see it again.
Driving the Porsche
This was my first time behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 and it was a real treat. Powerful and supremely comfortable, I never felt out of control and the speed it got going was eye-opening.
And I loved the sound of the incredible engine, even just starting it up.
Surprisingly, the Porsche got looks from Germans everywhere I went and passersby often gave me the thumbs up while admiring the car.
I put more than 500 miles on the clock of this Porsche, and I could have done more. I appreciated wearing the Senator Cosmopolite while driving, as it was so legible that I only had to glance at it to know the time — important when approaching 150 mph!