The common view that peerless watch design is confined solely to Switzerland is gently starting to shift. Consumers are looking beyond Geneva and the Jura mountains, recognising that world-class craftsmanship can be found elsewhere. For the past decade, Britain has been quietly making waves in the world of horology, and Scandinavia has applied its clean lines and minimalist aesthetic to timepieces. One of the leading countries in watch design, however, is just across the border from the great Swiss brands in Germany, whose watchmakers have recently come to the fore. Pioneering engineering methods and a clear grasp of analytics have long been the hallmarks of German design, and these pragmatic qualities are equally essential to its innovative timepieces.
History of excellence
‘Germany has a strong presence in horology, and historically the country has founded some integral watch brands,’ says Tim Barber, editor-in-chief of luxury watch publication Telegraph Time. In Switzerland, the farming machinery used in the Swiss mountains became instrumental in the founding of its watch industry. Similarly, the area of Glashütte, with its history of engineering and manufacturing, has been a key location in the evolution of the German watch industry.
A pioneering spirit of ingenuity is evident at Glashütte Original. Founded in 1845 as Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, the brand soon established itself as a master of fine watchmaking. In the 1960s, it launched the classic Spezimatic model, which was celebrated in an era of ostentation for its clean, almost minimalist design. This year, the brand plays to its retro-style strengths with the Sixties Iconic collection – a series of classic watches with saturated, richly toned dials finished with lacquer. Glashütte Original unveiled several grand designs at this year’s Baselworld watch and jewellery trade show, including the Senator Excellence watch. The discreetly handsome timepiece, featuring a classic dial and white gold and silver case, proves that Glashütte Original caters to everyone, from the fashion-forward to those looking for vintage inspiration and more traditional styles.
A Lange & Söhne
Glashütte Original is not the only brand from the Glashütte area; the location is also home to historic watch specialist A Lange & Söhne. Founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the brand is renowned for its sense of tradition and classic range of watches. Reflecting its signature pared-back aesthetic, watches are named simply Lange 1, Lange 2, and so on. Despite its long history, the brand is as relevant as ever, and recently unveiled the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater digital watch. In an era where every luxury brand has created a digital timepiece, A Lange & Söhne has produced an exceptional model which boasts a digital display yet is mechanised using the traditional craftsmanship inherent to the brand – the best of both worlds.
While brands such as Glashütte Original and A Lange & Söhne create watches that sell for upwards of four – and sometimes five – figures, the work of German house Perigaum 1972 comes as a welcome contrast, and is accessible to a far broader audience. A veritable youngster compared to other horology houses, it was founded in 2001 by a collective of watchmakers devoted to creating dazzling, bold and contemporary timepieces. The brand was inspired by the famous quote of astronaut Neil Armstrong when he became the first man on the Moon in 1969, and a strong sense of adventure informs its pilot and diving watches. Models such as the Lumberjack look suitably substantial and masculine in contrast to the watch industry’s recent trend for dainty styles.
With all the technical finesse, attention to detail and boldness of design for which their Swiss counterparts are renowned, these brands prove that Germany is a force to be reckoned with in the horological market. Switzerland might currently have the edge in terms of tradition and reputation, but Germany’s roster of innovative brands is – pardon the pun – well worth watching.