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History of Glashütte Original

More than 170 years of Glashütte watchmaking tradition

The continuing development of watchmaking since its first stirrings has contributed in a significant way to the contemporary success of the Glashütte Original brand. Equipped with a loan from the Saxon government, in 1845 Ferdinand Adolph Lange founded the first watch firm in Glashütte – a location that for almost four centuries had been marked principally by its silver mining. The goal of the new undertaking was to create an independent Saxon watch industry.

Great master watchmakers come to Glashütte

In the fifties the arrival of such masters of their craft such as Adolph Schneider, Moritz Großmann and Julius Assmann as well generated a great deal of enthusiasm. Over the course of several decades, many timepieces from Assmann’s "German Ancre Watch Factory" won prizes around the world. Their proven accuracy was reason enough for the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen to purchase an Assmann observation watch in 1910; one year later he was the first person to reach the geographic South Pole.


The typical Glashütte precision
pocket watch

The plan called first for a „simple, but mechanically complete pocket watch“. The „workshop system“ in place at the time allowed the manufactories to make use of components produced in a division of labour by local suppliers. By around 1865 the characteristic features of the Glashütte precision pocket watch had matured: the Glashütte three-quarter plate, gold lever wheel and gold chatons as well as the decorative sunburst finish. This watch was produced with only minimal changes for 80 years.


Precision in large and small formats

Glashütte pendulum clocks also represent extraordinary precision, particularly those from the „Strasser & Rohde Mechanical Workshops“, founded by Ludwig Strasser and Gustav Rohde. Precision pendulum clocks were used in observatories, institutes and watch companies in order to regulate pocket watches and marine chronometers. In addition, Strasser achieved a great deal of influence as a result of his activity as a teacher and director of the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte.



The German School of Watchmaking Glashütte

Great demand for precision watches from Glashütte required growing numbers of qualified craftsmen. Acting in the name of the Central Association of German Watchmakers, on May 1st 1878 Moritz Grossmann opened the “German School of Watchmaking Glashütte”. The school quickly earned a formidable reputation through exceptional graduates and teachers such as Alfred Helwig. Glashütte Original has honoured this heritage since 2002 with its own school of watchmaking, named after Helwig.



»Original Glashütte«

As early as 1916 Karl W. Höhnel marked one of his pendulum clocks, for the first time, with the phrase „Original Glashütte“. The „German Precision Watch Factory Glashütte (Sa.) e. G.m.b.H.“, entered on the 9th of November 1918 in the trade registry, also used this proof of origin in its trademark, and beginning in 1921 on its pocket watches as well, in order to distinguish Glashütte quality products from imitations made abroad (e.g. „System Glashütte“).


The Flying Tourbillon

With the development of the Flying Tourbillon a teacher at the watchmaking school won renown: Alfred Helwig. He anchored his tourbillon on one side only; two bearings guided the wheel staff. The tourbillon and  escapement could be mounted without a top cock. As a result the view of the tourbillon was clear, it appeared to fly. The tourbillon was also relieved of pressure and could be executed with great delicacy. The construction achieved the best rate precision of portable precision watches.




Movement blanks and wristwatches

Two new companies were formed in Glashütte: to meet growing demand wristwatch movement blanks were produced for the first time in Glashütte by UROFA, which emerged from the Glashütte Precision Watch Factory. The UFAG factory completed and distributed the watches. The large “G” and the name of the town Glashütte formed UFAG’s impressive logo.






»Glashütte Original«

In 1927, for the first time in the history of Glashütte, a ladies watch appeared with a dial bearing the imprint  »Glashütte Original«.





VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe

On July 1st the publically owned company Glashütte Watch Factories was formed through the merger of the following local firms: UROFA, UFAG, VEB Lange (formerly A. Lange & Söhne), VEB Feintechnik, VEB Messtechnik (formerly R. Mühle & Sohn),  VEB Estler, VEB Präzision Glashütte and the Makarenko trade school. The impossibility to import goods from abroad made considerable autonomy of production necessary. Among the first constructions were the chronograph movement 64, based on the UROFA calibre 59.




Functionality in timeless design

In the sixties a broad range of ladies and mens wrist watches was produced featuring timeless design and robust construction for daily use. Central (sweep) seconds hand, date display, shock resistance, automatic winding and improved accuracy were among the more important features.





Manually wound calibres 70.1 and 70.3

The calibre 70 series was developed  at the outset of the 1960s. Among these were the Calibre 70.1 and the Calibre 70.3, which featured a gilded balance rim and was supplied with a chronometer test certificate.





The "Spezimatic"

In the mid sixties two largely identical men’s watch movements were presented, Calibres 74 (automatic) and 75 (automatic and date). The movement of the so-called "Spezimatic" proved convincing with its very low build height of only 4.4 milimetres and diameter of 28 mm.





The »Spezichron«

In 1978 the “Spezichron” model appeared, for the first time with a weekday and date display and ball bearing mounted rotor. These models were produced until the middle of the eighties.





Glashütte marine chronometers

Classic mechanical marine chronometers have a long tradition in Glashütte. Many of them were exported to destinations all over the world. By 1978 around 13,000 mechanical marine chronometers had been made in the Saxon watch city.



The rise of quartz watches

Despite the great demand for quartz models the Glashütte watchmakers did not convert their entire production to such watches – in contrast to many companies abroad. From the mid-seventies on the first quartz-controlled marine chronometers were produced. In 1978 the Calibre 31 ushered in a new era in the production of wristwatches, the manufacture of quartz watches. Several generations of ladies watches followed and, in the eighties, men’s watches as well with a two-hand / analogue-digital movement.




Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH

With the reunification of Germany in 1990 came the transformation of VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe into the Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH. The company is the official legal heir to all formerly independent watch companies extant in Glashütte up to 1951. Since 1994 the brand name “Glashütte Original” has stood for fine German watchmaking with the highest degree of production depth.



On the way to becoming a renowned luxury brand

In 2000 Glashütte Original was honoured for the first time with the much sought-after title of “Watch of the Year”: Readers of the trade publication “Armbanduhren” and the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper put the classic Senator “Perpetual Calendar” in first place. In October the Manufactory joined the Swatch Group Ltd., an important step for the growth of the locally renowned brand into a global luxury brand.



A guarantee for the future

Following the successful start of watchmaker training in 2001, on 12 September 2002 the new “Glashütte Original Alfred Helwig School of Watchmaking” was opened. These highly qualified watchmakers were needed to assure the survival of the traditional watchmaker’s craft in Glashütte. On completion of his or her studies, every successful graduate was to be guaranteed a job in a Swatch Group Ltd. company.




The new world of experience

The restructured Manufactory building was opened on September 8, 2003. In 13 months a modern production facility was built, a clear sign of an innovative spirit and orientation toward the future. In this transparent world of experience visitors embarked on an exciting path of learning that took them to all areas of production and offered direct insight into the fascinating work of the Manufactory.



Cultural and social engagement

In 2004 the Manufactory awarded the first Glashütte Original Music Festival Award, to the renowned conductor Kurt Masur. The award recognizes the exceptional life’s work of an artist who has dedicated himself to the musical arts and developed his gifts over several decades. Since 2009 the award has been presented to an artist who has devoted a great deal of time and energy to the support of emerging artists.



Now time becomes space

In the course of an elaborate celebration the German Watch Museum Glashütte was opened on May 22nd, 2008. In conformance with the objectives of the “German Watch Museum Glashütte – Nicolas G. Hayek” foundation, Glashütte Original developed an exhibition itinerary illustrating the changes in fortune in the history of Glashütte along with various aspects of the sense and measurement of time. Only five months later the museum welcomed its 25,000th visitor.



New perspectives

On the occasion of the 61st Berlinale Glashütte Orginal became a co-partner of the Berlin International Film Festival for the first time. As the heir to more than 165 years of watchmaking tradition the Saxon watchmaker actively supports Berlin’s largest cultural event as well as the art of filmmaking. The “Made in Germany – Perspective Fellowship” created in 2012 was funded by Glashütte Original to the tune of 15,000 Euros, destined to support emerging directors from Germany with their future projects.




Impressive signs of the time

In 2012 the Manufactory presented the Grande Cosmopolite Tourbillon, the most extraordinary and sophisticated masterpiece in the history of the company. A manufactory-owned boutique was opened in Dresden and in Glashütte a new production facility was inaugurated in the Frühlingsweg.

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