Union Glashütte Brand History: Precise German Quality, At More Approachable Price Points

Union Glashütte Brand History: Precise German Quality, At More Approachable Price Points2018-06-30T13:13:10+00:00

Union Glashütte is a German watchmaker that offers mechanical chronographs and calendar watches at a midrange price point.

When it began, the company sought to provide Glashütte quality and aesthetics to those seeking a more affordable watch.

However, it has also sold higher-end, more complicated offerings at various points in its history.

The Union brand has changed hands over the years, but its Glashütte location and basic philosophy have stayed the same.

A sister Swatch Group watchmaker to Glashütte Original, this brand is mainly available in Western and Central Europe.

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"A lesser-known Saxon contender!" Union Glashütte's watches offer solid designs and easily serviceable movements.
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Rating: 5.0★★★★★

With its roots in the 19th century, the Union brand has long sought to provide good-value German quality of design.

Though most of its watches historically excluded expensive luxury materials, the company has occasionally made high-end watches alongside these.

This is also true in the current era, for example, in its gold and rose gold editions.

Continue reading to learn about Union’s connection with Glashütte’s horological history, and how it continues that tradition today.

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The Union Emerges

In 1880, Johannes Dürrstein first sold watches under the brand “Union,” but the company that became Union Glashütte began later.

This was the Glashütter Uhrenfabrik Union, and it was here in 1893 that Dürrstein and his craftsmen realized his vision.

Union Glashutte History

Johannes Dürrstein’s Big Plan

At this time, Glashütte was home to several other watchmakers.

However, Dürrstein sought to serve the section of the market that couldn’t afford these expensive pieces of haute horlogerie.

Therefore, the company made watches with excellent workmanship and good accuracy, but without premium materials like gold.

While doing so, Dürrstein and his expert watchmaker Julius Bergter also worked to create luxurious complication pocket watches.

These included, for example, a watch with Louis Piguet’s “La Fabuleuse” grande complication movement, assembled in Union Glashütte’s workshop.

The Death And Revival Of Union

Union Glashutte Old Watch AdAlthough the company enjoyed a few more decades of success, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, business declined.

The firm shut down in 1933; afterwards, the brand would be absent until the 1990s.

It only returned after German reunification, when private companies emerged from the remains of the East German state conglomerate VEB.

Julius Bergter Watch Movement Close UpIn 1996, the Union brand was back in action; during this period, the brand used Glashütte Original movements.

This was true in, for example, the Julius Bergter watch, with its Glashütte Original caliber 30 movement.

This particular Glashütte Original caliber 30 movement features moonphase and power reserve indication, making it more complicated than Union norms.

A few years later, in 2000, Swatch group acquired the company.

New Life Under Swatch

Union Glashutte WatchmakingIn order to better fit the brand within its portfolio, Swatch Group reimagined Union Glashütte as an upper-midrange watch brand.

Therefore, it now fits alongside Swatch brands like Longines and Rado.

However, Union timepieces are still, on the whole, more affordable than those of many other prominent Glashütte brands.

Because of Swatch’s vertical integration model, Union Glashütte now uses ETA movements, some of which are exclusive for Union.

Only some of the parts come from Switzerland, however; Union’s watchmakers make the rest, combining them with the Swiss parts.

Glashütte-made components include rotors, bridges, and balance cocks, for example.

Alongside a rhodium electroplating process, Union’s watchmakers decorate these with perlage and the traditional Glashütte stripe finish.

Due to German law, the watches must consist of at least 50% Glashütte-produced components by value to claim Glashütte origin.

Union Glashutte Watchmaking Assembly

These are still ETA designs, though, and that does bring a certain advantage.

Although Union Glashütte watches are relatively uncommon, some of these ETA movement designs are common and, therefore, easier to service.

Current Union Glashütte Collections

Union Glashutte Viro Date Closeup
Union Glashütte’s current collections are dressy, 1950s and 1960s-styled watches exhibiting an undeniably German aesthetic, with precise indices and numerals.

Thin, clear, and distinct lines characterize the dials, generally with markers for each minute of the hour.

Union Glashutte Johannes Durrstein Edition GoldDial colors are high-contrast, though not ostentatious: black on white, white on black, deep blue, or dark brown.

Each dial’s crystal is sapphire with an anti-reflective coating and, therefore, quite scratch-resistant.

The casebacks of these watches also have sapphire windows to reveal their movements.

Case options are chiefly stainless steel, though gold and rose gold are available for a substantial premium.

Watch straps come in both calfskin leather and steel.

Viro: A No-Frills Marriage Of German & Swiss Tradition

Union Glashutte Viro Date BrownThe Viro is the brand’s basic model, which comes in either a chronograph or date model.

In contrast to the other Union collections, the Viro is available in a smaller diameter of 34mm.

Dials include bright silver, matte black, or sunburst in brown or blue, though sunburst colors are on Date models only.

Date indication appears at six o’ clock on Viro Date watches, and at three o’ clock on the chronographs.

Stick hands adorn the dials; the Date versions have luminous hands, while the Chronographs do not.

Both date and chronograph models feature either a calfskin band or Oyster-style steel bracelet.

Inside The Viro

Union Glashutte Viro With Movement

The Date watch’s movement derives from the ETA 2892A2, a common yet reliable and ultra-thin caliber.

Similarly, the Chronograph uses the Valjoux 7750 design, which provides small second, day and date and chronograph functions.

Specifically, the chronograph subdials measure 60 second, 30 minute and 12 hour intervals, while the main dial features a tachymeter.

Both the Date’s 2892A2 movement and the Chronograph’s 7750 offer hacking seconds.

Noramis: Smart & Stylish With Classic Character

A narrow bezel, faceted dauphine hands and thin curved lugs give this collection an elegant appearance.

Overall, this line takes a minimalist form that is reminiscent of Bauhaus design.

Union Glashutte 3 Noramis Variants

Each entry in the Noramis series also has a convex, rounded sapphire crystal.

Chronograph models come with a polished steel-and-nickel finish, triangular faceted indices and small, yet precise tachymeter markers, creating an exacting look.

What Is A Noramis Gold Watch?

Uniion Glashutte Noramis GoldUnlike the Viro, the Noramis collection includes a rose gold variant.

The Noramis Gold has a rose gold case, brown leather strap and, generally, a silver-colored dial, besides its black-dialed limited edition.

Rose gold appears in other models besides the Noramis Gold. For instance, the Power Reserve features a rose gold bezel and crown, while the rest of the case is steel.

Meanwhile, the Gold, Power Reserve, Date, and Big Date sport hands with a PVD rose gold coating on certain models. This process is also used on the indices and numerals of these watches.

Hands & Faces: Noramis Details

Union Glashutte Noramis Big Date Hands DetailUnlike the Viro, date indication on the Gold, Date, Big Date and Power Reserve are at three o’ clock.

Further, the Noramis Chronograph’s date is at six o’ clock.

The Power Reserve’s indicator resides at seven o’ clock, while the Chronograph’s subdials are at three and nine o’ clock.

The Big Date features graceful feuille minute and hour hands, coupled with a stick hand for the seconds.

This is in contrast to all others in the collection, which have faceted dauphine hands.

The Chronograph and Sachsen Classic 2017, specifically, have dauphine hands illuminated with SuperLumiNova.

Railroad-style markers around the dial’s perimeter indicate the minutes; this, in particular, is a characteristically Glashütter dial motif.
Union Glashutte Railroad Track Markers

Inner Workings: Noramis Movements

The Gold uses the same movement as the Viro Date, that is, the U 2892A2.

Therefore, it uses a different caliber from the other Noramis watches with similar functionality, the Date and Big Date.

Inside the Power Reserve, the U2897 uses the ETA 2897 design, which is a modification of the ETA 2892-A2.

Union Glashutte Noramis Gangreserve

ETA’s 2896 design is inside the Noramis Big Date; in essence, it is a big date adaptation of the 2892.

This high-end movement also powers, for instance, sister Swatch brand Tissot’s luxury Sculpture line.

Union Glashutte Noramis Steel Black DialCalibers that see more extensive modification have a different numbering scheme from their ETA forebears, however.

The Date, for example, uses the UNG 7.01 automatic movement, which is a Union Glashütte version of the ETA 2892.

By comparison, it has a larger power reserve, at 60 hours, than the 42 hours of the 2892.

Finally, both the Chronograph and the limited edition Sachsen Classic 2017 use the UNG-27.02, a takeoff of the Valjoux 7753.

The Belisar Flies High With Union Spirit

Union Glashutte Belisar Moonphase And MovementWith a classy yet rugged appearance, the Belisar takes design cues from aviation watches.

Its seven variants offer more complications and functions available than either the Viro or Noramis.

The watch likely took the German name of Belisarius, the legendary Byzantine general hailing from Germania.

Belisar watches come with a variety of dials; certainly, there are more options than for the Viro and Noramis.

Most common is the sunburst pattern with surrounding concentric circles, though it’s unavailable for the Time Zone and Moon Phase.

This dial style accompanies nickeled sword-style hands and rectangular indices; both hands and indices utilize SuperLumiNova.

Union Glashutte Belisar ZeitzoneOther dials sport precise, graphic lines on flat backgrounds, while featuring a diverse collection of hands.

The Belisar Time Zone, also known as the Belisar GMT, for instance, includes luminous baton hands.

These sit over a creamy ivory-colored dial with red second time zone markers around a red circle.

A hand with a particularly eye-catching red-and-white triangle points out this second time zone.

On the Chronograph Moonphase, however, lance hands point out hours and minutes, while a unique crescent-tipped hand indicates the date.

In order to make the latter possible, the periphery of the dial has inscriptions of dates up to 31.

Union Glashutte Belisar Moonphase And Movement

Learn More About Union Glashütte

We hope you enjoyed our brief history of Union Glashütte.

For further information on this German watch house, related brands, and other helpful information, follow the links below:

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