Glashütte Original Brand History: A Phoenix Risen From Cold War Ashes

Glashütte Original Brand History: A Phoenix Risen From Cold War Ashes2018-06-30T13:13:40+00:00

Glashütte Original, also rendered Glashuette Original, creates high-quality luxury German watches which benefit from its all-inclusive manufacturing process.

This brand (see all of our covered watch brands) takes pride in its comprehensive watchmaking capabilities, that is, its ability to manufacture 95% of its watch components.

Because of this, a wide range of custom tools, equipment, and facilities see use in the company’s workshops.

The name refers to authentic Glashütter provenance, since the company’s traditions originate from a time when counterfeits were common (and still are today, sadly).

However, the firm’s uncommonly self-sufficient integration of watchmaking processes leave no doubt: each and every watch is truly “Original.”

Omega Seamaster 300 Watch Front View

Images: Glashütte Original

"A modern German classic!" Centralized parts production and eye-catching designs make these watches truly Original.
Glashütte Original Watches Reviewed by Paul Anthony on .
Rating: 5.0★★★★★

Glashütte Original’s roots trace back to the Glashütte watch industry’s 1845 beginnings, though its official founding was more recent.

Hence, decorative motifs and manufacturing methods with an indelible connection to Glashütte heritage see heavy use by the company.

Keep reading to learn about the brand’s origin, famous models, and current direction, or skip ahead with the links below:

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Precursors to Glashütte Original

Glashutte-Original-Watchmaker At WorkWhile the company officially formed in 1990, its lineage is longer and more complex, as with many other Glashütte watchmakers.

The company emerged from the holdings of East German state conglomerate VEB Glashütter Uhrentrieb, but these holdings went back further.

Glashütte is in eastern Germany, therefore, the communist East German government nationalized its businesses.

This included all of the region’s watchmakers, so specific company histories across this period are generally quite nebulous.

However, Glashütte Original has connections to Glashütte’s watch heritage, and continues the town’s rich traditions.

How Did Glashütte Begin?

At first a mining settlement, Glashütte’s holorogical industry built up from the mid-19th century onward. By about 1875, it was chiefly a watchmaking town.

Glashutte Original Old Illustration Of Town

Indeed, the Glashütte style of watch design enjoyed high status and popularity around the turn of the century.

System Glashutte Example WatchHence, in the early 1900s, the Glashütte manner of design and layout saw imitation by companies elsewhere.

Although a few German firms did this, generally it was Swiss companies.

While a few respectable Swiss houses made Glashütte-type watches above board, like Touchon & Co., others were less scrupulous.

These simply inscribed “System Glashütte” or “Système Glashütte” on their dials, hoping to fool those searching for genuine German timepieces.

Why Does Glashütte Original Make All Of Its Parts?

World War I’s end brought sanctions against Germany and, coupled with other effects of the war, these crippled German industries.

Glashütte’s watch industry did not recover until the 1930s; this time, it kept going strong, even through World War II.

Although the Allies strategically bombed many German industrial centers, Glashütte was far from most of the targeted facilities.

Glashutte Original Old Workshop

The end of World War II split Germany in two and, afterwards, the Soviet-controlled government merged East German watch companies.

At first, watch production came to a near-standstill. This happened because many watchmakers fled to other countries, while access to watch component and materials suppliers was effectively severed.

Glashütte’s watchmakers wouldn’t give up, instead toiling to develop their own manufacturing capabilities for everything they would need.

Though it started from necessity, this practice lives on in Glashütte Original’s manufacturing operations today.

The company formed from the remains of VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe in 1994, and became part of Swatch Group in 2000.

Glashütte Original Collections: Homage To Past, Present & Future

The brand’s current lines take cues from three different periods of the Glashütte watch industry, and hence represent different styles.

Glashutte Original Pano And Sixties

Some take from early Glashütte pocket watches, others from the VEB era, while more contemporary models forge a new image.

In the brand’s later history, its centralized manufacturing model necessitated higher prices, which then impacted sales.

However, as a Swatch subsidiary, the company comfortably takes its place as an exclusive prestige brand.

As with other companies, collections come and go; some popular lines, such as the Sport Evolution, have retired.

Pano: Off-Center Accuracy & Precision

Glashutte Original Pano Graph CloseupThis collection’s unusual designs are perhaps the company’s most iconic, due to their asymmetrical face layout.

For the most part, this series includes silver, blue, black or grey galvanized dials.

Therefore, the dials are very corrosion-resistant.

Though very subtle, delicate concentric circular channels decorate the hour and minute subdials.

Watchbands are either stainless steel link bracelets or Louisiana-raised alligator leather.

Each model’s name describes its main features in abbreviated form, such as the PanoMaticLunar, an automatic moonphase watch.

Glashutte Original Pano Graph Subdial Detail

PanoMaticLunar: A Complication Automatic With Personality

Glashutte Original PanoMaticLunar Watch FrontThe PanoMaticLunar resembles other Pano models, with, for example, a narrow stepped bezel, subtly curving lugs, and left-shifted dials.

On the back, a narrow ring of caseback screws down over a wide sapphire window, revealing the GO 90-02 movement.

The upper-left hour and minute dial has luminous lance-type hands, while a sweeping seconds hand punctuates the dial below.

Note that this is a sweeping seconds hand, one which rotates smoothly, rather than a sweep seconds hand.

In contrast, sweep seconds would signify a centrally-mounted seconds hand, which is not the case here.

This watch displays the moon’s phase to the upper right of its off-center hour and second dials.

Meanwhile, the date shows through an aperture below, on the lower right.

Most Pano variants follow this pattern, such as the PanoReserve with its power reserve indicator.

The PanoMaticLunar comes in either a red gold or stainless steel case.

Pano Chronographs: Automatic & Manual

The PanoGraph’s arc-shaped flyback chronometer subdials reside in the same spot, though the PanoMaticCounter automatic chronograph’s layout is more symmetrical.

Glashutte Original PanoMaticCounter XL

The PanoMaticCounter is an impressive chronograph with many functions, therefore, it requires complex controls, requiring the use of 5 pushers.

The main dial, in the lower center, reads hours and minutes, while the seconds dial sits in the upper center.

For instance, one of these pushers increments a counter on the left of the face that runs from 0-99.

This counter is very similar in appearance to a date window, but has bright red numbers. This is in contrast to the actual date window, with white numerals, on the right side.

Other Pano Complications

Glashutte Original PanoLunarTourbillonIn a fine example of a Glashütte Original high complication watch, the PanoLunarTourbillon is an eye-catching yet understated prestige option.

It has the downturned lugs, stepped red gold case, and cylindrical crown available for the PanoMaticLunar, but with a tourbillon.

The layout and configuration is the same as the PanoMaticLunar and is, likewise, automatic.

In this model, the small seconds hand sits atop the tourbillon’s cage while it moves.

Instead of the sweeping seconds on the PanoMaticLunar, the PanoLunarTourbillon has a ticking seconds hand.

This provides better contrast when placed against the rapid spinning movements of the tourbillon.

More unusual is the PanoMaticInverse, since it prominently features a duplex swan-neck regulator. Although uncommon in general, this mechanism is somewhat more common in German ultra-high-end watches.

Chiefly, swan neck regulators allow minute adjustments of the watch’s rate of oscillation. Similarly to tourbillons, they’re often more for visual appeal than their actual function.

This is to a lesser degree than tourbillons, however, as they are less expensive and complex, and more functional.

Finally, they are more difficult to display in a watch, since they interface directly with the hairspring.

Yet the PanoMaticInverse accomplishes this with an inverted movement. Since the back of the movement faces the watch’s front, its three-quarter plate and dial are on the same side.

Hence, the Glashutte ribbing of the three-quarter plate is visible on the dial.

Glashutte Original PanoMaticInverse

Glashütte Original Sixties: A Cold War Classic Returns

Glashutte Original Sixties Front ViewThis watch hails from a formative time for many of the company’s watchmaking processes, during the VEB period.

The predecessor of the Sixties was the Spezimatic, short for German “spezial Automatic,” and was very popular at this time. With its light, thin, and accurate movement, the Spezimatic was indeed quite the powerhouse.

The most common Glashütte watch line by number; during its run, VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe built over 4 million of them.

The Sixties takes its dial options from this inspiration, such as domed silver or colorful imprinted dégradé.

“Dégradé” signifies a gradation effect; in this case, a transition from a lighter-color center to a darker margin.

The radiating imprint pattern resembles a weathered effect, thereby simulating vintage wear.

The art deco-style numerals are also straight from the Spezimatic. Meanwhile, flat luminous hands and diamond-cut rectangular indices are not from the Spezimatic, but seek to evoke 1960s industrial design.

Glashutte Original Sixties Front View

What Is A Glashütte Original Karree Watch?

Glashutte Original Seventies Karree FrontWhile most of the brand’s watches have rounded cases, some have square cases.

These have the name “Karree,” a German rendering of the French word “carré,” that is, “square” in English.

The French loanword is used because it’s a borrowing from Swiss watchmaking terminology.

Occasionally, this watchmaker’s collections will have Karree editions available, such as the Senator, Sixties, Seventies, 1845, and others.

Keep Learning About Glashütte Original

We hope you enjoyed our history of this remarkable and deceptively young German watch brand.

This watchmaker hails from a long lineage with a perilous history, but its very existence is proof of Glashütte’s mettle.

Finally, for more high quality brand histories, guides, and reviews on watches, visit the links below:

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