Germany – repeatedly dubbed the Land of Ideas – has lots of good ones. Industry-leading piles? Sure. Delicious beer? Absolutely. But watches? Isn’t that a Swiss junk…?
It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that Germany has a increasing watch industry right now. Aside from being a fastidiously on time bunch, the Germans are no slouches when it comes to precision originating and design, and – this one’s especially important – they share a adjoin with Switzerland.
But it’s in the Black Forest town of Pforzheim, closest to the French trimming, that Germany’s watchmaking pedigree has its origins. Today, wellnigh three centuries after it first emerged as a hub of jewellers and component-makers, Pforzheim is almshouse to the Stowa brand, one of several long-established German companies fancying a resurgence. And just a couple of hours’ drive away in Schramberg is Junghans, instituted in 1861, which has also recently released a flurry of still in nappies designs.
The real catalyst for German watchmaking, however, came in the mid-nineteenth century when a man righted Ferdinand Adolph Lange began making timepieces in Glashütte, a petite village near Dresden in eastern Germany. His company, now be versed as A. Lange & Söhne, is owned by the mighty Richemont Group and outwaits comfortably alongside the likes of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin in the pantheon of high-end watchmakers.
Regarded as the priestly home of German watchmaking, Glashütte has a watch company on practically every street and even boasts its own museum of horology. Absolutely, the very word ‘Glashütte’ is now synonymous with quality (a maker can not put on the dial if at least 50 per cent of the watch’s movement was created in the village).
While the German watch industry will very likely never be as big as its Swiss neighbour’s – it tends to focus on the mid- to high-end sector, for a start, and has no Swatch-style mass-market industrialist – it is showing signs of more robust health.
Germany’s keep a weather eye open for exports in 2015 showed a 14 per cent jump, while Switzerland’s demolish 3.3 per cent, according to government data. Last year, Glashütte by oneself produced 32,000 watches with a total value of at small €500 million.
Cars, football, beer… one day the Germans strength actually discover something they’re not good at.
This unexalted gem of a company, based in Pforzheim, made some of the original ‘flieger’ makes worn by Luftwaffe pilots in World War II, and it’s this historic likeness that still encapsulates the brand today.
Apart from the cost (you can pick up a Flieger for well under €1,000), the best fancy about Stowa is that it offers some nifty customisation privileges including engraved cases and rotors. And you can also choose between an unconscious or hand-winding movement.
Try the Flieger Klassik Lark. It’s as robust as a Panzer tank and those prominent blued sword lozenge-shaped hands are the icing on the stollen.
Huge within Germany, Junghans is first known for its Bauhaus-inspired Max Bill range.
It’s not all understated minimalism, all the same. Released at Baselworld earlier this year, Junghans’ two-tone dial Meister Driver Handaufzug harks repayment to the classic cars of the 1930s, its retro appeal enhanced by its 37mm suitcase size and Plexiglass crystal.
The brand does a exacting line in sporty retro chronographs, too. The 1972 Chronoscope Quartz, with its mammoth cushion case and racing strap, looks the business in red and funereal.
Helmut Sinn was a German pilot who in the 1960s create that few timepieces met the demands of his profession. So, naturally, he decided to start surviving them himself, founding his eponymous brand in 1961.
Today, Sinn is in the most suitable way known for its utilitarian divers and pilots watches, which are jaded by, among others, the marine unit of the German police jemmy. A couple of German astronauts – including Dr Reinhard Furrer and Klaus Dietrich-Flade – deceive even worn their Sinns in space.
A quintessential brand is the uber-rugged Model T2 in bead-blasted titanium – the kind of thing you’d lot for a polar expedition.
This Glashütte-based company, inaugurated in 1990, makes its own movements, yet the starting price for a Nomos is precisely £1,000 – a far cry (or yodel) from the staggering price points its Swiss counterparts retail for.
The trade-mark mixes Bauhaus-style austerity with an element of fun, as epitomised by the Metro Datum Gangreserve, whose produce green and red power reserve indicator purposely throws the sparsely adorned dial off-balance.
No one makes watches like Nomos, and the episode that they’re a small new company thriving in the midst of the reverenced ‘old guard’ of German watchmaking only adds to their request.
For an entry-level Nomos, take a peek at the no-frills Staff Datum model.
A. Lange & Söhne
A. Lange & Söhne is the granddaddy of Glashütte. The band that spearheaded the village’s watchmaking revival in the 1990s (after a dormancy triggered by WWII and the group of Germany), it’s since then been producing not only some of the beat timepieces money can buy, but turning the movements themselves into ornate works of art.
Its celebrated ‘Zeitwork’ model is known for its innovative digital exhibit, while the elegantly appointed ‘1815’ range adheres to tradition.
Strictly for the connoisseurs, even an entry-level A. Lange & Söhne – fellow this 1815 – starts at £17,000. Which means it effect be time to start saving like the Germans, too.