In general, a conversation about the top watch producing countries centers around two nations: Switzerland and Japan, with Japan often occupying the more affordable end of the spectrum and Switzerland more commonly associated with luxury watches and high watchmaking. Of course, this is an overgeneralization of the highest degree, as Japan is home to many of the finest watches in high watchmaking and there are indeed great deals to be found from Switzerland. However, the real tragedy here is the omission of the often overlooked superpower in watchmaking that is Germany. Home to dozens of brands including some of the best in the business according to a variety of metrics, Germany is an excellent country for watchmaking.In this article, I’ll be taking a look at some of Germany’s better known watch brands to provide a sort of industry overview of names you should know if you’re new to German watches. In each synopsis, I’ll begin with a bit of history, share a few of the brands major accomplishments or best-loved models, and say a bit about what they’re up to these days, other than eating bratwurst and watching Fußball, of course.To bring order to this list, I’ll attempt to arrange the brands by where they sit in the retail price hierarchy. I’ll start with more affordable brands and work my way up in a very general way, knowing that many outliers in price exist within almost all of these brands. If it’s towards the end of this list, it’s going to be a bit pricey. That should help to prevent the uninitiated from trotting off into Google to buy a Lange 1 without realizing they’re $50k.
Laco began life as Lacher & Co. in 1925 in Pforzheim, where they are still based today. They are most famously known for being one of the five brands contracted to produce flieger watches (such as the Beobachtungsuhr) for pilots in the German Luftwaffe ― alongside A. Lange & Söhne, Stowa, and Wempe.The Laco of today continues to be popular for its flieger watches. And unlike IWC and Stowa, Laco doesn’t shy away from using Japanese movements so that it can offer its flieger watches at more affordable prices. For more discerning fans, Laco also has a range of higher-end flieger watches that feature Swiss movements and artificially weathered cases and dials. Not wanting to be boxed in to just making fliegers, Laco also has a range of dive and dressy vintage-inspired watches.
Steinhart was founded by Günter Steinhart at the start of the current millennium and has grown rapidly to become one of the largest microbrands today. Though it operates mainly through its website, Steinhart can now count on a network of distributors that span the globe from Finland and Poland, to faraway places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea. For better or worse, the company is most famous for its homage watches, which draw heavily from the design of vintage Rolexes.The Ocean collection of dive watches that pay homage to Rolex’s Submariners is arguably the company’s most well-known. And following the rise in interest in Paul Newman Daytonas, Steinhart promptly released its strangely named Ocean One Vintage Chronograph – a Paul Newman Daytona homage that’s powered by an ETA-2824 with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module. Today, the company is making attempts to forge new grounds by introducing original designs with models like the Triton, Apollon, and Lemans GT.
Founded in 1927, the name Stowa is a portmanteau of its founder, Walter Storza. Today, the company is run by Jörg Schauer, a watchmaker who acquired the brand in 1996 from Werner Storz, Walter’s son. The brand was most prolific in the late Thirties and Forties. During this period, the brand produced its first Bauhaus-style watches, and it was later contracted to produce pilot watches for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) to be used in the Second World War.The modern Stowa operates almost exclusively online and it is most famous for its Flieger and Antea collection of watches. The Flieger collection houses modern interpretations of the classic Beobachtungsuhr as well as versions that are more faithful to the original. The Antea collection, on the other hand, continues Stowa’s history of making Bauhaus style watches with designs that pay homage to the past, but with modern twists.
Damasko was founded in 1994 by Konrad Damasko, who realized that the high-performance materials that he developed for aerospace applications would be ideal for highly durable watches. In fact, up until 2002, Damasko was a supplier of hardened watch cases to Sinn. Today, Damasko continues the tradition of making tough watches. For example, its dive watches are made out of submarine steel and are bead-blasted and surface hardened to give them an enhanced Vickers rating that exceeds typical 316L stainless steel watches.Like most young watch brands, Damasko is focused on developing its own movements. It has even developed its own silicon balance spring, called the EPS spiral, and silicon escape wheel. But as competent as Damasko’s in-house movements are, it’s most well-known models are arguably the DA38 series of flieger-inspired watches, which are powered by ETA movements are their equivalents. These feature the brand’s signature hardened cases and dials that are inspired by fliegers of old.
Junghans got its start in 1861 when it was founded by Erhard Junghans. In the company’s earliest years, it was focused on producing clocks. In 1903, with an annual production of over three million clocks, it was the largest clock manufacturer in the world. It was only in the Thirties ― some 70 years after its founding ― that Junghans made its first watch.The modern Junghans is known for its association with Swiss designer Max Bill. A disciple of the Bauhaus style, Max designed clocks and watches for Junghans that became horological icons. Today, Junghans still produces watches inspired by Max Bill’s original designs in its Max Bill collection. These are classically-styled watches that adhere to the mantra of form follows function and have proved to be resolutely timeless. Shop here
Hanhart wasn’t always a German brand. The company was founded by Johann A. Hanhart in Diessenhofen, Switzerland in 1882. But in 1902, he moved north, crossed the border, and relocated to Schwenningen in southern Germany. In the Twenties, the company started to make mechanical stopwatches. Business was brisk and they moved yet again to Gütenbach, where they have remained to this day.Seeing that Hanhart got its start in stopwatches, it should be no surprise then that their most iconic watch is a chronograph, specifically the 417 ES which was frequently seen on the wrist of Steve McQueen. This day, Hanhart continues to be popular for its chronographs. There’s even a modern reissue of the 417 ES in its modern collection.
Tutima was formed in 1927 by Dr Ernst Kurtz through the merger of two companies: Uhren-Rohwerke-Fabrik Glashütte AG and Uhrekfabrik Glashütte AG. Like other brands based in Glashütte, Tutima was affected by the Second War World. Dr Kurtz quickly moved west before the war was over and set up a small watch factory in Ganderkesee, near Bremen. It was there that Kurtz became a mentor to one Dieter Delecate, who revived the Tutima name and moved back to Glashütte.To commemorate the move back to Glashütte, the company created the Tutima Glashütte Hommage Minute Repeater ― the first full minute repeater ever made in Glashütte, and also the first wrist minute repeater in German watchmaking history. With interest in Glashütte watchmaking at an all-time high, the company released its Patria watches in 2019. The Patria is a classic-looking watch with a hand-wound in-house movement executed with a traditional Glashütte three-quarter plate, gold chatons, and screwed balance wheel.
Sinn was founded in 1961 by Helmut Sinn as Helmut Sinn Spezialuhren. This makes it a relatively old name in German watchmaking. Unlike most of its German counterparts, Sinn was founded in Frankfurt and still operates there today. The history of the modern company really began in 1994, when it was acquired by Lothar Schmidt, an engineer who promptly renamed the company Sinn Spezialuhren. Thereafter, the company was focused on developing technologies for making sturdy tool watches.Sinn’s most recognisable model has to be the U1 dive watch. Unlike most other dive watches, which are made of stainless steel, the U1 is unique in that it’s made out of German Submarine Steel. Additionally, the bezel has been treated with Sinn’s Tegiment technology, which increases the hardness level even further. Dive watches aside, Sinn also has watches designed for financial professionals like the 6096 Frankfurt World Time Watch that tracks time in three time zones ― after all, Sinn is based in one of the major financial centers of Europe.
Founded in 1990, just two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nomos has, in the short span of thirty years, risen to become one of the most popular brands in German watchmaking. Much of this is down to a combination of sensible pricing, classic Bauhaus design, and outstanding quality. In the past couple of years, the brand has been steadfast in its pursuit of developing in-house movements and can now count upon an arsenal of well-designed calibers to put in its watches.Today, Nomos is renowned for its classic Bauhaus style watches. The OG Tangente 38 is a hot favorite, and it’s not difficult to see why, with its ageless look. More recently, the brand has been trying to break out of its shell with sportier watches like its Ahoi dive watches and racing-inspired Autobahn watches.
The history of Mühle-Glashütte is fascinating. Though the modern iteration of Mühle-Glashütte began in 1996, the company can trace its roots far further. The history of the brand began in 1869 when Robert Mühle established a workshop that focused on making measuring instruments for the other watchmakers based in Glashütte. Later, the company started making other measurement instruments such as speedometers and clocks for cars and trucks. Sadly, the company was absorbed into the Volkseigener Betrieb Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB) after the Second World War, when the Soviet Union ran East Germany.When the company was restarted in 1994 by Hans-Jürgen Mühle, he wanted to focus on making tools for the marine industry, hence the name "Mühle-Glashütte GmbH Nautische Instrumente und Feinmechanik". However, he soon realized that there was a demand for sturdy water-resistant watches, and that was how Mühle Glashütte as we know today got its start in watches. The company’s most well-known timepiece is the S.A.R. Rescue-Timer, which was developed in collaboration with the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service. In keeping with tradition, Mühle-Glashütte continues to make rugged watches designed for the seas. However, they have also recently introduced more classically-styled watches under its Robert Mühle line that feature traditional Glashütte watch-making elements like the three-quarter plate and hand-engraved balance cock.
The history of Glashütte Original is complex. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union, which controlled East Germany and therefore Glashütte, consolidated all of the watch companies operating in the town under one company called the Volkseigener Betrieb Glashutter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB). This state-owned enterprise was later allowed to be privatized in 1994, which led to the Glashütte Original that we know today.The brand is arguably most famous for its Pano collection, which can be easily identified by its asymmetrical dial – à la Lange 1. Among the collection, the most distinctive is hands down the PanoInverse, so-called because the back of the movement has been flipped to form the dial of the watch. This exposes the large movement plate with Glashütte ribbing and the intricately decorated balance cock for all to see.
MeisterSinger was founded in 2001 by Manfred Brassler. Interestingly, MeisterSinger was Brassler’s second watch brand and he had the goal of making watches that were “unmatched in simplicity and clarity.” This resulted in MeisterSinger watches having only one hand. The concept might seem unfathomable, but the truth is that the earliest clocks only had one hand.The No. 01 is surely MeisterSinger’s most famous model. It’s a time-only watch with just one hand and large Arabic markers around the clean dial. It seems unusual at first, but its clever design means you do get the hang of reading it after a while. Recently, the brand has been introducing more complicated watches to its collection. This includes models like the Lunascope, which has a moonphase indicator, and the Astroscope, which tells the day and date. MeisterSinger has also embarked on creating in-house movements. In 2014, it debuted the MSH01, a hand-wound movement with an impressive 120-hour power reserve.
Lang & Heyne
Lang & Heyne was founded in 2001 by Marco Lang and Mirko Heyne in Dresden, which is just 30km north of Glashütte. Like Moritz Grossman just below, Lang & Heyne is one of Germany’s most exclusive watch brands, with annual production said to be only around 50 pieces. The company prides itself on ultra-traditional watchmaking, so everything is made by hand and in time-honored techniques. Apart from the usual three-quarter plate and hand-engraved balance cocks, Lang & Heyne goes further with screws that are beveled, have domed threads, and tin-polished heads. Wheels are made of solid gold and chamfered to reduce friction.The brand’s most well-known watch is arguably also it’s most unconventional. It’s called the Georg and, rectangular case aside, its claim to fame is really its movement. Dubbed the Caliber VII, it has none of the traditional elements of German-made movements like the three-quarter plate and hand-engraved balance cock. Instead, the Caliber VII is a series of immaculately finished bridges and wheels that terminates in a large screwed balance wheel held by a large balance bridge.
Moritz Grossmann as a brand was founded in 2008 by Christine Hutter, and presented its first watch in 2010 ― just 10 years ago. The history of the name, however, goes back much further. Moritz Grossmann was born in Dresden in 1826 and, alongside Ferdinand Adolph Lange, was one of the pioneers of the watchmaking industry in Glashütte.The brand is one of the most exclusive watchmakers in Glashütte. Because of their steadfast pursuit of the concept of “manu factum” ― meaning everything made by hand ― Moritz Grossmann’s annual production is measured in hundreds and not thousands unlike crosstown rivals like A. Lange & Söhne. The brand’s most famous model is the Benu, a classically designed watch made to exacting standards. Like most high-end watches made in Glashütte, Moritz Grossman’s watches feature traditional elements like three-quarter plates, Glashütte ribbing, and hand-engraved balance cocks.
A. Lange & Söhne
Widely regarded as the granddaddy of German watchmaking, A. Lange & Söhne was founded by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in 1845 in the sleepy village of Glashütte. It’s really a story of two brands. The original company ceased to exist after the Soviet Union took over East Germany, and the company that we know now was revived in 1990 by Walter Lange, the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, with the late and great Günter Blümlein, and help from several other Swiss manufactures including IWC and JLC.Though the modern incarnation of A. Lange & Söhne is a mere three decades old, its contribution to watchmaking is impressive. For most, the iconic Lange 1 is the face of the brand, the importance of the Datograph cannot be overstated. After all, the Dato, as it is affectionately referred to by fans, is widely regarded as the watch that gave brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin a kick in the pants and forced them to speed up development on their own in-house, manually-wound chronograph movements. Today, the brand is venturing into new territories with the Odysseus – their take on a stainless steel sports watch.
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