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Watches made in Germany
Bruno Söhnle
Bruno Söhnle
Glashütte Original
Glashütte Original
With the “Made in Germany” stamp the British once aimed to protect their industry against cheap copies from the Reich. In the process, they inadvertently initiated a success story that continues to this day.
by Axel Henselder


The Junghans watch brand was established in 1861. In 1900, the company already had a workforce of some 3,000, manufacturing over three million watches per year. This made Junghans the largest watch factory in the world. “Junghans is certainly one of the most historically significant brands for Germany. Everyone knows it,” says managing director Matthias Stotz, who is also a master watchmaker. Junghans has constructed nearly every type of watch and clock, from alarm clocks to cuckoo clocks, from design timepieces to radio controlled watches and clocks for the wrist and the desk. Junghans perfected radio control technology for the wrist in particular at a very early stage and enjoyed global success with this. Today, the traditional brand is privately owned by the Schramberg industrialist family Steim.


Bruno Söhnle originally comes from Wurmberg in the Black Forest, where the family-run company has a long tradition as a clock manufacturer. Today, Söhnle focuses solely on the production and sale of wristwatches. In 2010, the company presented a new movement, a veritable pocket watch calibre, based on a calibre from Unitas/eTa. The diameter (36.6 millimetres) calls for a case of considerable size, albeit one that fits perfectly with the current fashion in watches. Originally constructed with a bridge, at Söhnle the calibre is fitted with the plate typical of Glashütte watches, which covers around three quarters of the underlying surface and is therefore also known as “three-quarter plate”. In the Mechanik-Edition No.1 it is highly decorated polished, whilst the steel winding wheels bear the Glashütte solarisation.


Tutima actually exists twice. In Schierbrok, in Lower Saxony, not far from Bremen, modern sporting and instrument watches are produced for the German military. But it also maintains modern workshops in the Saxon town of Glashütte. There, under the leadership of master watchmaker Rolf Lang, Tutima is establishing itself as a Glashütte brand. Its predecessors were Uhren-Rohwerke-Fabrik (URO FA), founded in 1926, and “Uhren-Fabrik AG (UfAG), with which the movements were incorporated,” explains plant manager Lang. These two companies made the first wristwatches in Glashütte. The best products of the company were marketed under the name Tutima, derived from the Latin word “tutus” (secure, protected). Today, young watchmakers are working on a manufacture mechanical watch for Tutima/Glashütte, which aims to follow on the long tradition. The corresponding watch is to be launched this year.


One of the few experts in the sector to keep faith with mechanical watches in the 1980s was master watchmaker Gerd-Rüdiger Lang. In 1982, he began to produce modern watches with handed down technology. Lang was also skilful in his choice of name for the brand. The two first syllables “chrono” refer to both the Greek word for time (chronos), as well as to chronographs – a type of watch the brand founder has a very special affinity to. The second part of the name refers to the fact that the brand uses Swiss movements exclusively. These are finished in the workshops at Karlsfeld, just outside Munich.


It is hard to believe that the watch manufacturer Glashütte Original emerged from the “state-owned operations” of VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe in the former GDR. The key in this breathtaking transformation was the reorganisation of the manufacturing process: instead of turning out large volumes of cheap watches with a high degree of automation, the aim was to produce watches of the highest quality with a growing share of hand craftsmanship and thus to vitalise the term “manufactory”. This development was pushed by businessman Heinz W. Pfeifer, who took over the company on 1 november 1994. His vision: the Glashütte Original brand should return to the heritage of the Glashütter Uhrenbau operation founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange, with the highest standards of quality, producing small series of wristwatches of the finest provenance. Purchased by the Swatch Group in 2000, the brand is now a global leader in the design, construction and manufacture of the fi nest mechanical watches.

From left to right: Mühle Glashütte, A. Lange & Söhne, Nomos
From left to right: Mühle Glashütte, A. Lange & Söhne, Nomos


The origins of the Nautische Instrumente Mühle Glashütte company date back to the founding of the firm Robert Mühle & Sohn in 1869. The company produced precision measuring instruments for the local clock making industry and clock making school. In the 1920s, the company established itself as a producer of tachometers, car clocks, rev counters and measurement devices for the automobile industry. On-board instruments for the legendary Horch and Maybach vehicles also came from Mühle. Today, the focus of production is upon wristwatches of the medium price range. The automatic movements utilised are sourced from Switzerland, although they are extensively reworked and refined by Mühle.


In October 1994, the first “Lange watches of the new age” were presented to the horological world. The success of the watches exceeded the wildest expectations and supply shortages accompanied the A. Lange & Söhne brand from the very beginning. With models such as the Lange 1, the Pour le Mérite tourbillon and the datograph Lange made the leap from the world-famous pocket watches of the first half of the 20th century to modern timepieces of the “new age” – albeit bearing traditional elements – writing watchmaking history once again. Some four years prior to the presentation, Walter Lange, the great grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, who established the Glashütte watch industry in 1845, registered the company Lange Uhren GmbH in Glashütte. The brand is now part of the luxury group richemont.


Roland Schwertner can be described as a true pioneer: He was one of the first West Germans to come to Glashütte to found a watch brand. He travelled from Düsseldorf to the eastern Ore Mountains to revitalise the nomos brand. “At that time, the conditions for founding a watch brand were unfavourable. I was no watchmaker, i wasn't Swiss and i had no money,” recounts Schwertner with a grin. The first nomos watches were launched in 1992. In appearance, they have changed very little since then, however, the technical changes have been great. In the early days, the purchased Swiss movements were installed largely unaltered, whereas nomos now designs and produces its own movements. These range from an automatic movement to clever variants of date displays and a tourbillon calibre and universal time watch.


Kitsch or cult? There are arguments for both points of view. Only one thing is for sure: These little guys do no longer live in Snow White’s shadow. According to estimates, about 25 million garden gnomes populate German gardens. But there’s another mystery: Why – for gnome’s sake – is the international association for the Protection of Garden Gnomes based in Basel, Switzerland?

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