Before buying timepieces, shoppers tend to look into and consider the manufacturer’s origin. Completely understandable, after all, a timepiece is an investment every watch enthusiast takes seriously. Now if we talk about timepieces and their respective manufacturers, Switzerland will easily come to mind after rightfully earning its spot in the world of horology since time immemorial. In fact, the term Swiss Made is now synonymous to exceptional watchmaking. But across the borders of the neutral country, its European neighbors, specifically Germany, have caught up with the innovations and developments that surround the craft of watchmaking.
Before the eventual unification of Germany in 1990, its watchmaking industry tremendously evolved. With the East Germany cordoned off from the West Germany and the rest of the world, manufacturers learned to be self-sufficient in the production of their watches and all its bits and pieces. Just like their Swiss counterparts, Germans began to make their own springs, jewels, hands, balance wheels, and other important items. Soon enough, after being dormant for half a century and after recovering from the World War II, Germany was able to finally establish itself in the competitive watch market.
With their unique designs and renowned craftsmanship, you will not be surprised to know that some of the best watch brands hail from Germany. Take a look at our rundown of German watch brands that boast of German engineering at its finest.
A. LANGE & SÖHNE
The establishment of A. Lange & Söhne in the mid-nineteenth century is often considered the catalyst for the German watchmaking business. Among the oldest watchmaking companies in the world, its founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, started making timepieces a little over 173 years ago in a small village near Dresden called Glashütte. With the help of his sons, Richard and Emil, Ferdinand was able to create topnotch pocket watches. When soldiers returned from the war with their watches strapped on their wrists, the company began manufacturing wristwatches. Now, A. Lange & Söhne considers itself a leading manufacturer of only the best watches that are all designed with high-end functionality and elegant designs.
The tiny village of Glashütte boasts of a long history of watchmaking and a long list of watch brands origins. One of these brands is Glashütte Original, which traces its roots from this small town after being the legal successor of the once-consolidated watchmaking industry in Glashütte called VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, or GUB. Now, the company preserves the famed artistry of master watchmakers from Glashütte as they continue the tradition of excellent craftsmanship. What’s more, the company was able to set new standards in the watchmaking business with remarkable refinements that proved to be much-needed today. This includes the patented panoramic date display, the three-quarter plate with stripe finish, and the gooseneck fine tuning.
A pilot by profession, Helmut Sinn realized that only a number of timepieces can actually meet the many demands of his work. This prompted him to establish his eponymous brand in 1961 in the city of Frankfurt. From its very beginning, Sinn made it a point that all its timepieces can withstand the harshest environment by purposely designing and manufacturing the watches with the highest technical innovation. With other watch brands boasting of a century of history, Sinn found a way to appeal to the market by offering its watches in competitive pricing. How? By removing the middleman, and selling the watches directly to customers.
German engineering and Glashütte craftsmanship all rolled in one—that is Nomos Glashütte founded by Roland Schwertner in 1990, just months after the fall of the German wall. With plenty of tradition and a handful of new in-house developments, Nomos is now Germany’s largest watchmaking business. As a matter of fact, there is no other brand that manufactures more watches than Nomos. We are not surprised given how special this company is. With almost everything, from screws to wheels and plates, made by hand, and calibers and swing systems developed by their own watchmakers, Nomos is exceptional and a rare gem in the watchmaking arena.
Stowa has experienced a rather stellar ascent to the top with its watches that feature elegant designs and a precise time telling mechanism. Founded in 1927 by Walter Storz, the company’s name was actually derived from Storz for “STO” and from Walter for “WA”, consequently forming the name STOWA. In 1996, the multi-awarded goldsmith and watchmaker Jörg Schauer took over the company and continued the Stowa legacy while incorporating innovative techniques and contemporary designs. Today, the Stowa brand, with its classic Flieger and Bauhaus watch models, promises a high quality watch that is perfectly designed for the wrists of the world’s elite.
Next on the list is a relatively young brand headquartered in Münster, Germany. Weller Manfred Brassler, a self-taught jeweler, founded MeisterSinger in 2001. However, MeisterSinger is not Brassler’s first attempt at the watchmaking industry. He first entered the business with the establishment of Watch People with Klaus Botta in 1989, a company that specializes in quartz watches. With a passionate dream of manufacturing high-end mechanical timepieces, Brassler decided to sell Watch People in 1999. A bold move that eventually led to the successful launch of Meistersinger, now an acclaimed watch brand that boasts numerous awards including the iF Product Design Award and the Red Dot Design Award.
Just when you think luxury brands are already exclusive, you meet UTS-München, the most exclusive of them all. There are only hundreds of watches produced a year, and that’s because the work is solely done by a single German engineer turned watchmaker who goes by the name of Nicolaus Spinner. The very first he created, which was the UTS Commander, featured a manual winding movement and a water resistance that can go as deep as 3000 meters. Spinner uploaded this on his personal website, caught the attention of American entrepreneur and fellow watch enthusiast Stephen Newman, formed a business partnership, and the rest was history. Since then, Spinner has made more diving watches, the latest of which was the UTS 4000, which was light in feeling but heavyweight in features.
Junghans has started operating since 1861 but it was not until almost a century later when the company launched the watches that would help it have the legacy it now has. In the 1950s, Bauhaus designer Max Bill joined the company and came with the most iconic watches the company ever launched. The minimalist watches, especially those that were released under the collection named after Max Bill, remain to be among its bestsellers. Other in demand collections include the Meister series, the Mega, and the Voyager. Junghans manufactures many kinds of wristwatches, but it is the mechanical chronographs that remain to be star for the company.
If you want the very best of German watchmaking but do not want to break to bank, then you should know of Deutsche Uhrenfabrik, or simply DuFa. The German company boasts of embodying German precision in its watches while also employing the best of Bauhaus design. It doesn’t have to be flashy to be appealing. Instead, the intricate work that is done is disguised by a deceivingly minimalist design, just like the architectural wonders of its country. Among watches to check out from DuFa include the Gropious, which comes in a lovely emerald green dial and a stainless steel case, and the Breuer, which lets wearers peak into the delicate work that happens beneath the dial.
When it comes to watchmaking, we’ve already mentioned a German town that the nation is particularly proud of—Glashütte. The town has a rich tradition of watchmaking which is why many of the nation’s most esteemed horologers came from it. However, some of the timepieces manufactured by the town’s watchmakers were deemed inaccessible because they were too pricey. In 1893, Johann Dürrstein, a local watchmaker, then decided to form Union Glasshütte to change that perception and to prove that the highest quality of watches do not necessarily have to cost a fortune. There were a few hiccups along the way, but Union Glasshütte successfully came back and continued to be a name synonymous with German precision. These are evident in its current series which include the Sirona, Normais, Belisar, and Viro, among others.
Here’s another German company that has its origins in Glashütte. Mühle Glashütte first operated in 1868, founded by Robert Mühle who was said to once have manufactured and generously given measurement instruments to the German School of Watchmaking. The company first made its mark with its nautical equipment, particularly marine chronometers, but soon enough dedicated its attention to the perfecting of wristwatches. An awardee of the coveted Goldene Unruh that is awarded yearly to distinguished watchmakers, Mühle Glashütte has current collections worth checking out: Terranaut, Germanika and Terrasport. The Teutonia II Chronograph was what won the company the award back in 2014.
Montblanc is more known for its elegant writing instruments such as fountain pens, but the German company is also a renowned manufacturer of wristwatches. Headquartered at Elbe, Montblanc has a century and more of history, but its manufacturing of timepieces was something it only started doing in 1997. The company chooses to do the production of its timepieces in Le Locle and Villeret in Switzerland where they rely on the expertise of the Swiss, although the products are still distinctly German. Among its most memorable watches to date include the Sports Timewalker, Bohème and the Meisterstück models, the last of which have been created after the styles of the company’s most famous pens.
Another relatively young German brand that exudes utmost precision in its timepieces is Damasko. Founded in 1994 by Konrad Damasko, the brand started as a family business and later on expanded into a full-blown manufacture that produces in-house calibres and timepiece parts used for their watches. Durable cases, patented technology, sleek-looking dials and a lot more should be expected when you get a Damasko timepiece, as the brand promises to deliver comfortable and top-quality items for a fair price point. Even the brand’s entry-level timepieces go beyond expectations, which embodies the brand’s value of uncompromising quality. If a brand can encapsulate the work ethics, craftsmanship and artistry of German watchmaking, it would be Damasko.
Neighboring Switzerland may be the first to come up into people’s minds when they think of quality watches, but the list only proves that Germany is worth more than a peek for its long history in watchmaking, which has only been overshadowed by the Swiss. After all, the country is not short of people passionate for the craft, and some of its products, through its renowned watchmaking companies, have been created with locally made parts and mechanisms. The national watchmaking culture has remained stagnant for a significant amount of time, but its watchmakers did not waste any time in developing and perfecting the craft. As a result, they collectively emerged gloriously, claiming a reputation for top precision, enviable craftsmanship, and masterful engineering.
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