Ze Germans are famous for their cars, Oktoberfest, music, and all sorts of wursts. However they’re also receiving high praise for their watchmaking abilities. Although most people are looking for “Swiss made” watches, it would be foolish not to explore their European counterparts.
Unlike the neutral Switzerland, Germany has been infamous for its scarred history. As a result, its watchmaking industry has been through a tumultuous history. A. Lange & Sohne for example, was torn apart after World War II, then revived after the fall of the Communist East German government. Glashütte Original also went through a similar history, only being revived from its ashes 20 years ago. The 2 major regions where Germany’s watchmaking industry was born are Pforzheim and Glashütte. The Germans have been making watches for hundreds of years and until recently have gone rather unnoticed. However as with many other industries, it is fair to say that they are truly innovative. The Germans spend a lot of time putting their designs through the right engineering processes and focus on quality. You might think that the Germans are boring, but in the watchmaking world they strike a chord with many watch aficionados.
German designs are no nonsense and minimalist. They differ from their Swiss counterparts. Simple, functional, but oozing quality and it is obvious they their designs are well thought through. You’ll see good use of lines, edges and colours. So what manufactures or watches might interest you? Let’s look at a few at different price points.
A. Lange & Sohne is a perfect example. Their movements are simply amazing to look at, and some would easily say are the best looking movements in the world today. Even the revered master watch maker Philip Dufour wears a Lange watch, a rose gold Datograph to be exact. Lange watches come with the signature three-quarter baseplates made of German silver (not really silver) and with a hand-engraved balance cock, true Saxon style watchmaking. A. Lange & Sohne are certainly at the top of their game globally, and their prices reflect it. The latest version of the Datograph is priced at AUD$94,000.
Glashütte Original also follow the same Saxon watchmaking style. They are a high-end brand making some very special watches that not many would recognise. The Senator Observer at approx.. AUD$13,500 is a nice example. A 44mm stainless steel case with a lacquered grey dial with their special Panorama date. If you thought only the Swiss made Tourbillons and perpetual calendars you are certainly wrong. Both Glashütte Original and A. Lange do so.
Helmut Sinn began making watches for aviators in 1961 and quickly received a reputation for producing high quality watches at an affordable price point. They don’t manufacture their own movements but (as with all the Germans) pay close attention to detail and use of materials. They even developed DIAPAL technology where special materials are used to negate the need for lubrication. What this translates into is longer term precision as watchmakers don’t have to worry about degrading lubricants in the watch over time. The Sinn 757 DIAPAL is made with a scratch resistant case and is able to protect against magnetic fields up to 80,000 A/m. It also operates from -45 degrees to 80 degrees Celsius and has a handy 12-hour hand to track another time zone. It is a true sports instrument watch with an automatic Valjoux 7750 GMT movement. AUD$5,215 for one of Sinn’s most robust and complete models.
Another Glashütte resident is Nomos. They’re well known for their Bauhaus inspired designs and are also producing their own movements. This small independent is definitely turning some heads. Prices range from $2000 to $6000. Not overly expensive and definitely value for money considering you are buying an in-house movement. Their designs are simple yet extremely functional. You’ll definitely not see many of these out in the wild, and that’s actually a great thing. The 38mm stainless steel Nomos Tangomat Datum at AUD$4,000 is a great buy. The automatic movement is based off the Glashütte three-quarter plate with blue tempered screws. Glashutte sunburst and ribbing with a touch of perlage that finishes off the movement attractively.
MeisterSinger is a relative newbie on the market. Launched in 2001, Manfred Bassler decided to focus on creating simple instruments. Designed in Germany but made in Switzerland (ETA movements), their claim to fame is their interpretation of the single handed watch. It takes some getting used to but the stop watch style design makes for a simple dial layout that is clean and a winner of several awards. For those that don’t need to be exact when reading the time, the Singulator No. 1 at AUD$2,000 is a great choice.
Stowa has a strong naval and pilot watch heritage. We particularly like their Flieger range that pays homage to the pilot watches of yesteryear. The tempered blue steel hands with lume on their look great on the black dial. At $900, they’re using ETA movements but the Flieger’s are really eye-catching and the good choice if you are looking for a pilot’s watch on a budget.
So the next time you think you have to buy a Swiss watch, think again. Some of the Germans are actually doing it equally as well, if not better than their neighbours. See below for a list of stockists:
Lange & Sohne
Watches of Switzerland
199 George St
1300 808 135
90 Pitt St
02 9221 6288
265 Castlereagh St
02 9264 7769
Article written by guest contributor watchonado.com.au