When we think of the art of watchmaking, from design to technical superiority, our minds instantly jump to Switzerland. As the home of the Cuckoo clock and the biggest watch-making industry in the world, it is hailed for its boundary-breaking time pieces. However, lesser known is the small German town of Glashütte, the birthplace of the German national watchmaking industry.
When the first master watchmakers established themselves in Glashütte, their aim was to create an independent watch industry. It was the home of luxury timepieces and technical innovation and was so renowned that, in 1881, the German Watchmaking School relocated to central Glashütte. The watch brand Glashütte Original has roots that run deep in that area. This small town in Eastern Germany has a long and fascinating history in the world of Horology that crosses centuries, wars, and political changes. It was initially based in the Saxony area which, after World War II, became part of East Germany and thus under communist rule. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it re-emerged once again under a country of unity and solidarity.
This part of Germany was originally a poor industrial area known for mining. However, once the raw materials started to diminish in the 1800s, the neighbourhood looked for other industries to take over; several were tried but watchmaking was the one that ‘struck a chord’. The area grew to house several independent high-end brands which produced luxury watches and clocks. It even flourished during the wars – unsurprisingly, as the need for time-keeping objects was in high demand. The area was successful during that period but was actually bombed on the very last day of World War II by the Soviets.
After the war, once communist East Germany took over the area, the concept of high-end luxury goods was not in keeping with the philosophy of the far-left wing state, luxury goods being part of an imperialist society. So, all the separate brands were lumped into one and were set to producing mainly wrist watches for the giant communist marketplace. Once the brands were joined together, they were commonly produced under the labels GUB or even GUB Glashütte/ SA; these watches were very much functional as opposed to luxury.
It wasn’t until the wall came down in 1989 and Germany was once again unified that things began to change. It was a slow and laborious process of rebuilding the area and restoring it to its former glory; that is until 1994 when a private investor bought the conglomerated watch brands and returned the area back into the artistic centre of luxury watchmaking and to what we know today as the brand Glashütte Original. With over 170 years under its belt, the nurture of this significant heritage serves the brand as a basis for its efforts to shape the future of the art of watchmaking.
The main factory is based in Glashütte where 80% of every Glashütte Original watch is cut, soldered, and engineered to make a complete timepiece. Literally from cutting the most minute of components to filing and soldering them all the way to compiling a watch in a dust-free environment, the factory is testament to the best of watchmaking skill and technology, and is not just alive but robust. A respectful amalgamation of old and new, watchmakers’ traditional craft skills sit side by side state-of-the-art production technologies.
The brand celebrates six key core values – Excellence, Modernity, Originality, Tradition, Exclusivity, and Beauty – which cover everything from the creation to the visual of each timepiece. Alongside these values is the affiliation with the arts, like the The Dresden Music festival, and just last week, the brand partnered with the 2018 Berlin Film Festival in order to highlight the synergy of where the art of filmmaking meets the art of engineering.
This year marked the brand’s second as a principle sponsor, its first being in 2011. The manufacturer offered 50,000 Euros as the Glashütte prize for Best Original Documentary which was presented during the official awards ceremony and won by the Austrian production, “The Waldheim Waltz”. Director and producer Ruth Beckermann accepted award on the Saturday evening during the official award ceremony at the Berlinale Palast. Glashütte Original also hosted the ‘Golden Bear Lounge’. On the first floor of the Hotel Grand Hyatt Berlin, and directly opposite the Red Carpet, actors, directors, producers, and journalists from all over the world were able to rest relax and mingle in the industry retreat suite.
CEO of Glashütte Original, Thomas Meier, said:
“To present our precise German art of engineering on this generous stage, to show just how the sense of life in a big city today is reflected in our watches – that’s what makes our partnership with the Festival so valuable”.
One other unusual part of the Film Festival is that, unlike many of the internationally renowned film festivals, Berlin is open to the public, and so Glashütte is seen by a far wider audience than many sponsorship opportunities. And as an extended part of this, in the weeks before the opening of the 68th Berlinale, 11 world film cities hosted ‘Movie Capitals of the World’. From New York to Tokyo, then on to Moscow, Venice, and Los Angeles, watches from Glashütte Original stepped into leading roles on famous film sets, putting fans of the brand into the mood for the Berlinale. In New York, for example, the Senator Chronograph Panorama Date evoked the iconic ‘Taxi Driver’, while in Tokyo, the city of ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Lost in Translation’, the Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar made an elegant appearance.
Another part of the celebrations saw the release of three styles of limited edition Senator Chronograph – The Capital Edition. The stylish and distinctive Senator Chronograph Panorama Date was presented in a stainless steel edition of 100, a red gold version limited to 25 pieces and a platinum version of the watch, strictly limited to only five pieces worldwide. Each of the brands timepieces are exclusive and exceptional, whether part of a limited edition or not. Each year the company makes no more than a few hundred pieces of any given model, a rule which extends to even their bestsellers.
As part of a continued support of the creative arts and the cultural community, along with theoretical knowledge and comprehensive practical training, Glashütte Original have the world-renowned school of watchmaking. The watch experts of tomorrow are educated by the Alfred Helwig School of Watchmaking. Every year in Glashütte Original’s Alfred Helwig School of Watchmaking, future watchmakers and toolmakers take up their studies and, by doing so, seamlessly connect the past with the future. So no longer will we think of only Switzerland as the home of watchmaking; rather, we will be more aware of the growing importance of the little German village that became a German town, one that honoured the intricacy of timekeeping expertise.