Transparent manufactory

If a mail-order company in West Germany had not continued to have mechanical watches produced in the east German town of Glashütte, the Glashütte watch industry might not exist today. In this way the state-owned Glashütte Watch Company, in which all the previously existing companies had been combined in the GDR, continued to foster valuable fine mechanical skills. Under socialism, luxury watches were not desired but Glashütte still maintained a high quality standard. After German reunification the enterprise was privatized and broke back into high-priced market segments. Now part of the Swatch Group, Glashütte Original makes almost all of its components in its “transparent manufactory”, where visitors can track every step of production.

The summit of watchmaking

The 1997 election of A. Lange & Söhne to “most important German luxury brand” was not a small but a great miracle. The pioneering company from the Saxon town of Glashütte had been in existence for 103 years and earned an international reputation, when in 1948 it was expropriated and the production of luxury watches seemed to be history. However, after German reunification, the company was relaunched by Walter Lange, great-grandson of the founder. Within a few years A. Lange & Söhne again became a world leader, with Saxon ingenuity, a sense of tradition and the greatest precision. The company is now part of the Swiss luxury group Richemont and is distributed worldwide.

History of time

In a building that was once the German Watchmaking School founded in 1878, young people are today learning this craft again. But since 2008 the larger part of the building is home to the German Watch Museum Glashütte, created jointly by Glashütte Original and the town of Glashütte. The history of watchmaking in Glashütte is illustrated with over 400 exhibits, many of them unique in the world. These include pocket watches, wristwatches and pendulum clocks from different periods, as well as marine chronometers and escapement models. But in one point, the museum is already obsolete: nowadays there are again ten brands of watches made in Glashütte. Each manufacturer must prove that at least 50 per cent of the production is carried out in Glashütte to be able to put under its brand name to the coveted lettering “Glashütte i/SA”, “Glashütte in Saxony”.

Origins of precision engineering

Without one of the museums in the Dresden State Art Collections, the Glashütte watch industry would not have existed: the famous collection of the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments in the Dresden Zwinger, which established the fine craft of the region. Its exhibits are not only technical masterpieces but also of high artistic value. And not only clocks belong to the collection, but also early precision mechanical instruments, globes, calculating machines and musical automatons.