Le Brassus, Geneva, Biel, Neuchâtel, and Plan-les-Ouates: These Swiss towns are well known among watch enthusiasts as home to some of the most iconic Swiss watch brands. Switzerland is certainly at the heart of the luxury watch industry, but there are also locations beyond the Swiss borders with impressive watchmaking traditions. The most famous is probably the town of Glashütte in Saxony, Germany. This town has a population of around 7,000 and has made a name for itself over the last 150 years as the capital of German watchmaking. Read on to find out more about Glashütte and the brands that make it such a remarkable place.
Starting the Watchmaking Tradition
Glashütte is situated in the federal state of Saxony in the eastern part of Germany. The town is located in the Saxon Switzerland-East Ore Mountain district, which is just south of Dresden and just north of the Czech border. Historically, the town relied on the mining industry, but when the mines dried up some 150 years ago, it was at risk of a mass exodus, which was the fate of many mining towns in the 19th century. Glashütte was located in what was then the Kingdom of Saxony, an independent government, which would prove crucial to the town’s success.
Local watchmaker Ferdinand Adolf Lange, founder of the brand we now know as A. Lange & Söhne, lobbied to have the King of Saxony and the government council invest in horology as a future economic plan for Glashütte. Lange explained that this would be an opportunity to create something unique and make use of the engineering skills that were already present to produce high-quality timepieces. The council agreed and even offered low-cost loans for individuals to become watchmakers. Lange’s plan was a success: Within a matter of years, Glashütte became synonymous with innovation and quality across Europe. This wasn’t just limited to the town itself. The entire region around Glashütte became a stronghold for German watchmaking, and a growing number of factories and colleges popped up to train the next generation.
Finding Their Place in the Watch Industry
If we fast forward a century, we arrive at the First and Second World Wars, which of course also affected the watch industry in Glashütte. After the Second World War, Saxony became part of East Germany and most of the watch companies in Glashütte were joined together under the state-owned VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe in 1951. This marked the end of many names in German watchmaking. It wasn’t until after reunification in 1990 that some of these names reappeared, such as A. Lange & Söhne and Mühle-Glashütte. New brands, such as Glashütte Original and NOMOS Glashütte, were also founded. Today, the town of Glashütte is known for its production of high-quality watches characterized by German precision engineering.
The Definition of a Glashütte Watch
Glashütte has since reclaimed much of the glory it had in the past. The town has become the most important and most recognized watchmaking town outside of Switzerland. As mentioned, watches from Glashütte are defined by their high levels of engineering and production quality. Some might argue that Glashütte watches are sturdier and a little less refined than their Swiss counterparts, however, that is obviously a wide generalization that doesn’t apply to every Saxon brand. The epitome of Glashütte watchmaking is A. Lange & Söhne, known for producing some of the most exclusive watches in the world. They are certainly on par with the top Swiss brands.
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Something that does set German watches apart is their design. Many of the classic Glashütte brands are known for using a distinctive Glashütte style, which is closer to classic British watch design than Swiss. Moreover, several Glashütte brands draw inspiration from the German Bauhaus movement. Overall, the design of Glashütte watches certainly differs from that of many Swiss brands, making them easy to recognize.
Brands from Glashütte and Their Finest Timepieces
Let’s take a closer look at five important brands from Glashütte and find out what makes them so special.
A. Lange & Söhne is widely considered the producer of some of the best luxury watches in the world. The brand was originally founded by Ferdinand Adolf Lange and restored following German reunification in 1990. It has been part of the Richemont Group since 2000. The Lange 1 and 1815 collections are some of the best works to ever come out of Glashütte.
The 1815 Chronograph, for example, is one of the most highly regarded timepieces in the world. The pink gold version with a black dial is an absolute stunner.
Glashütte Original was founded in 1994 following privatization of VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB) and has close links to A. Lange & Söhne. Glashütte Original has been part of the Swatch Group since 2000, and has made a name for itself by creating incredible timepieces that are produced 95% in-house. The Pano and Senator collections hold some of the brand’s most iconic watches.
The Glashütte PanoMaticLunar is defined by its incredible design featuring two off-center dials (one for hours and minutes and one for small seconds), a big date, and a moon phase. The stainless steel version with a slate gray or white dial is an incredible timepiece.
NOMOS Glashütte was founded in 1990 and has become famous for creating some of the most iconic Bauhaus-inspired watches on the market. These watches are characterized by their affordable prices and in-house movements. NOMOS is the perfect choice for those looking for an entry point into the world of mechanical watches.
The NOMOS Tangente is the model that started it all for this brand. The Tangente is characterized by its minimalistic design that is both iconic and instantly recognizable. The watch is available in a number of variations and sizes. The recently introduced Tangente Neomatik 41 Update is a beautiful timepiece with a smart in-house movement that features a date ring around it. It is a classic and innovative piece available at an incredible price.
Union Glashütte dates back to 1893, when Johannes Dürrstein devised a concept for a new, modern Glashütte watch: a piece of affordable luxury. More than 125 years later, the brand still stands by this philosophy. The Union Glashütte collection is defined by a wide variety of watches ranging from classic English-inspired Glashütte designs to 50s and 60s-inspired pieces, all of which are combined with a high level of craftsmanship.
Moritz Grossmann is one of the newer brands to come to Glashütte. The company takes its name from the 19th century founder and director of the German School of Watchmaking, Karl Moritz Grossmann. Founded in 2008 by industry veteran Christine Hutter, Mortiz Grossmann focuses on creating incredible high-end pieces with contemporary designs and in-house movements.