Glashütte Original aka Glashütte I / SA
Glashütte Original aka Glashütte I / SA (Est. 1845 – ) In 1845, with a loan from the Saxon government, Ferdinand Adolphe Lange established Glashütte as the first watch firm in that German city. In the four hundred years until then, the city was principally a silver mining town. Lange’s goal was to create an independent Saxon watch industry in Glashütte.
In the 1850s, the company attracted many prominent watchmakers of the time to its location. These included Adolph Schneider, Julius Assman, and Moritz Grossman. Assmann, in particular, gave the firm its early reputation. His timepieces from the German Ancre Watch Factory won prizes around the world.
These watches were known for their accuracy and Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen purchased an Assman Observation watch in 1910. A year later Amundsen was the first person to reach the geographic South Pole.
The first watches were pocket watches designed to be “simple but mechanically complete.” The workshop system used at the time let manufacturers make use of components produced by local suppliers.
Around 1865, the characteristic elements of a Glashütte timepiece were in place: the Glashütte three-quarter plate, gold lever wheel, gold chatons, and the decorative sunburst finish. For nearly eight decades this design underwent only the most minimal changes.
The firm also became known for the production of pendulum clocks particularly those made in the Strasser & Rohde Mechanical Workshops. Ludwig Strasser was also influential as a teacher and director of the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte.
Acting in the name of the Central Association of German Watchmakers, Moritz Grossman established the school in 1878 to help meet a growing demand for qualified craftsmen. The school quickly became known for its exceptional graduates and for its teachers that included Alfred Helwig. In 2002, Glashütte Original recognized Helwig’s contributions by establishing a school that bears his name.
Helwig is most well-known for developing the Flying Tourbillon which allowed an unobstructed view of the tourbillon and escapement and seemed to show the tourbillon flying. These construction advances helped achieve the best precision for portable precision watches.
Around 1916, Karl W. Höhnel marked one of the pendulum clocks with the phrase, Original Glashütte. It was the first time the name appeared on any product.
In 1918, the name German Precision Watch Factory Glashütte (Sa.) e. G. m. b. H. was entered into the trade registry. The firm used this proof origin in its trademark. In 1921, the firm began using it on its pocket watches to distinguish them from imitations that used similar names, e.g. System Glashütte.
In 1927, the firm introduced its first watch for women.
In 1950, several well-known watchmakers including the firm formerly known as A. Lange & Söhne and VEB Messtechnik (formerly R. Mühle & Sohn) joined forces to create Glashütte Watch Factories, a publicly owned company. This amalgamation became necessary because, after World War II, it was difficult if not impossible for Germany to import goods from abroad. Consequently, autonomy in production became a manufacturing necessity.
In the 1960s the firm produced a wide range of men’s and ladies wristwatches for daily use. Important features included rugged construction, a sweep seconds hand, date display, shock resistance, automatic winding, and improved accuracy.
Through the 1970s, the firm introduced new models including the “Spezimatic” and the “Spezichron.” The latter boasted – for the first time – a weekday and date display with a ball bearing mounted rotor. These remained in production until the mid-1980s.
Glashütte is also known for marine chronometers. By 1978, about 13,000 of the mechanical marine chronometers had been produced and distributed around the world.
In the 1970’s when the quartz movement was introduced and turned the watchmaking world on its head, Glashütte watchmakers did not convert their entire production to such watches. However, some models with quartz movements both in men’s and ladies’ models were produced into the 1980s.
After German reunification in 1990, the firm revised its company name and became Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH. The name Glashütter Original was adopted in 1994 making it the official legal heir to all formerly existing watch companies that had operated in Glashütte through 1951.
Glashütte Original created many original features including the module panorama date, mechanical chronograph with straight and reverse counters, and the intelligent self-winding movement which adjusts itself to the rhythm of its owner.
One special feature of Glashütte Original watches is the Panorama Date. It shows the date on two concentric discs and is far more readable than those that usually appear in small windows. Product lines range from watches with manual winding tourbillon and chronograph to those that display lunar phases.
Sporting models are also geared for women as is an elegant series, the Pavonina with its square shape and opulent diamond trim. In addition to watches made in stainless steel, the firm’s finest watches are made of gold and platinum.
Pano is one of the most well-known product lines from Glashütte Original. This chronograph with manual winding is available in numerous variations and in its classic design has a pink gold case, a strap of finest alligator leather and watch glass made of sapphire.
Some watch industry publications invite the public to choose a Watch of the Year. In 2000, for the first time, a Glashütte Original timepiece, the Senator Perpetual Calendar received the honor. Readers of the trade publication, Armbanduhren and the Welt am Sonntag newspaper were the voters.
In October of the same year, the firm became part of the Swatch Group thus enabling the brand to become more widely known for its luxury timepieces.
Insuring that qualified watchmakers would enter the trade was a primary goal when the Glashütte Original Alfred Helwig School of Watchmaking opened in 2002. On completion of his or her studies, every successful graduate is guaranteed a job in a Swatch Group, Ltd., company,
Between 2003 and the end of the 21st Century’s first decade, the brand embarked on a concentrated effort to make its name more well-known. It opened a restructured, modern production facility in 2003, instituted the Glashütte Original Music Festival Award in 2004 (with the first going to the late, music conductor, Kurt Masur), and has played an important role in the opening and operation of the German Watch Museum Glashütte – Nicolas G. Hayek Foundation since 2008.
In 2012, the firm presented the Grand Cosmopolite Tourbillon calling it, “the most extraordinary and sophisticated masterpiece in the history of the company.” Also in 2012, the firm opened a retail location in Dresden and a new production facility in Frülingsweg.
At Baselworld 2015, the company introduced the Senator Observer, its version of the deck watch. A deck watch is a hand-held pocket watch that navigators can use to back-up a ship’s marine chronometer and is designed to calculate longitude while at sea. While the marine chronometer is the standard by which all measurements are made, the deck watch allows all sailors to do their own calculations and still read time while holding the watch.
The Glashütte Original interpretation of the deck watch takes many of its cues from early deck watch designs. This includes the large power-reserve indicator on the dial side. The white-gold hands and hour markers are filled with green super-luminova to light up in the dark.
At six o’clock, there is the Glashütte Original Panoramic date for which the brand is well known. Inside the Senator Observer is the self-winding caliber 100-14, which features a 55-hour power reserve and nicely finished elements including a three-quarter-plate construction with striping and a skeletonized rotor marked with the “double G.”
While there is nothing particularly novel about this watch, and its 44 mm case size might be too large for some, the watch satisfies in multiple ways from the matte-black dial and the running seconds and power-reserve registers to the oversized date and the self-winding movement. For a watch made entirely in-house, including the dial, the watch sells for $11,800 on a strap, and $13,200 on a bracelet.
Glashütte Original is one of the few watchmakers to use its own movements with ten proprietary movement innovations from which to choose. While Glashütte Original survived hard times, its continuation marked the beginning of a revival of a luxury watchmaking industry in Germany. Today, the German luxury watch brand, marked Glashütte I / SA, is now recognized throughout the world.
The brand’s masterpieces evoke fascination because of their high precision. Limited-edition models such as those dedicated to Julius Assmann and Alfred Helwig, and timepieces decorated with Meissen porcelain dials are passionately sought-after and highly prized by collectors.