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Why German design is leading the way

From watches to laptops and even kitchens, German design combines innovation with quality to impressive effect. We look at some of the nation’s most exciting brands, from Porsche Design to A Lange & Söhne, to discover the spirit of innovation that keeps them moving forward

Stephen Doig
Stephen Doig,

Germany has a long and illustrious history of design, from baroque to Bauhaus and beyond. While it may have been overshadowed in recent years by its neighbours to the north in Scandinavia, it is currently home to a host of brands with a bold, minimalist aesthetic and intelligent, forward-looking ideas, covering every area of contemporary life from interiors to accessories.

Porsche Design’s roster of covetable products covers everything from trainers and sunglasses to hi-tech must-haves, each representing shape and function in perfect harmony

Porsche has created some of the world’s sleekest cars, so it’s no surprise that its design-focused offshoot – called, straightforwardly, Porsche Design – has garnered praise worldwide since it was launched in 1972 thanks to its pioneering and ambitious approach. Among its most recent ventures is a new addition to Miami’s skyline, the Porsche Design Tower. This striking 60-storey building offers 132 luxury apartments whose interiors reference the parent brand’s covetable cars with features such as carbon-fibre kitchens and gull-wing doors. Instead of a basement car park, the structure has special lifts to whisk owners’ supercars up to their own integrated garage in the sky, which is separated from the living area by a glass wall. A second Porsche Design Tower is underway in Frankfurt, and is due to be completed in 2018.

It’s not all about cars and architecture, however. The brand’s roster of covetable products covers everything from trainers and sunglasses to hi-tech must-haves, each representing shape and function in perfect harmony. Among the latter are the recently launched high-performance Book One convertible computer; the latest Mate smartphone in partnership with Chinese brand Huawei, which has an integrated Leica camera; and the sleek 911 Bluetooth soundbar.

A passion for technology also sets Poggenpohl apart. Founded in 1892, it is Germany’s oldest specific kitchen-focused brand, but has always looked to the future. It has previously offered a fully connected kitchen – that is, a kitchen where surfaces slide and morph into different shapes at the touch of a button, a table gliding seamlessly into a drinks bar, complete with temperature-control wine cellars and touchscreen cooking systems. Recent innovations include chrome-plated lacquered doors for a glossy, futuristic aesthetic in this most functional of rooms.


Watch specialist Nomos has its headquarters in Glashütte, an area that has been known for high-quality watch production since the mid 19th century

© NOMOS Glashütte

That focus on innovation carries into how Germany’s watchmakers approach their craft. The small mountain town of Glashütte, in the state of Saxony, has been known for high-quality watch production since the mid 19th century. It’s an appreciation of history married with an eye for the thoroughly modern that informs Nomos, a brand founded in the area in 1990. Those two tenets are maintained by a team of local craftspeople – some of them the fifth generation to work in watchmaking – and a group of cutting-edge designers in Berlin.

Innovation is the unifying thread: the brand was the first to produce mechanical watches with the ‘Made in Glashütte’ label. That sensibility is evident in the visually impactful designs; the new water-resistant Aqua series features vivid coral and cerulean shades, a blast of bold colour that contrasts with the cool minimalism (see the classic Ludwig) that the brand has become known for.


The Nomos Glashütte Aqua Series Ahoi Neomatik in signal red is typical of the brand’s striking aesthetic

© NOMOS Glashütte

Glashütte is also the base for the fine timepiece house A Lange & Söhne, founded in 1845 and producer of some of the world’s most exceptional watches – again focused on mechanical movements over quartz. With prices that run into the five, and sometimes six, figures, it’s no surprise that the brand’s roster of models offer an array of complications – essentially, features that goes beyond the display of hours, minutes and seconds. 

The 1815 Chronograph, for instance, offers a masterclass in tradition and pioneering techniques. The inky black dial, for example, looks like a slab of ebony but is actually solid silver, while the movements inside combine a standard chronograph movement (that facility to measure specific periods of time, like a stopwatch),with a pulsometer (employed by doctors to measure the heartbeat). All of this bold modernity is created entirely by hand, proof that the enterprising spirit of German design hasn’t forgotten the importance of the human touch along the way.


A Lange & Söhne has been making fine timepieces since 1845, and continues to push the boundaries of watchmaking today



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