The light, airy manufacture building comprises over 10,000 square yards of production room and theme experience at the same time.
The functional architecture reflects the qual ity predicate “Made in Germany” with its clean structures and transparent materials. It represents values such as precision, functionality, reliability, and constant standard for which watches by Glashütte Original are known and loved throughout the world.
Watch enthusiasts awaits a fascinating expedition into the world of mechanical watches – starting here with our "virtual tour" or "live" during your next visit to Saxony.
The tour begins in the atrium, which is ffooded with light. Selected exhibits document the historic roots of the Manufactory, from 1845 on.
With its truly impressive height of 23 metres, the atrium offers a unique frame for exceptional displays and unforgettable experiences. It is a meeting place for friends of fine German watchmaking and can also be used for exhibitions, concerts and readings.
Every year, thousands of watch connoisseurs visit the Manufactory. Several tours each week generate profound trust in the „Manu factum“ and the value of a „Glashütte Original“.
Every visitor is free to enjoy the dozen different stops along the way. Eight screen presentations, display cases for each department arranged with care, and the competent visitor guides provide detailed information.
The Manufactory offers this service at no charge.
Every watch model begins life in the cradle of ideas
This department‘s responsibilities range from innovative new constructions to the further development of watchmaking highlights and on to new designs for movements and dials.
The main priority is the search for sensible functions and their clear, harmonious aesthetic form. The Manufactory‘s own panorama date display is a good example.
Detailed requirements for potentially successful concepts are set out in a functional specification document. At this point the new project is assigned to one or more constructors. Close cooperation between the production and prototype specialists results in the initial prototype. During prototype construction, one model is first completed and then tested extensively in the laboratory (ability to function, adjustment behaviour, power reserve, shock testing). The design team improves the drafts and finds a final solution. Additionally, designers are in charge of having new products patented.
(From concept to product launch the Manufactory requires three or four years. For a masterpieces of haute horlogerie such as the Grande Cosmopolite Tourbillon, development can take up to six years.)
Individual tools and devices
Following the design phase it comes time to manufacture individual components. A number of different special devices and tools are necessary for this purpose.
In accordance with the Manufactory philosophy, these are prepared by its own team of toolmakers. This gives the Manufactory considerable flexibility to produce even very limited editions and allows it to remain independent from suppliers and to avoid potential quality issues.
It is thus possible to produce drills, milling and turning tools tools, etc. quickly and to make them available in the form required for our own production.
The basic material is clock brass (a special brass alloy), which is heat-resistant and enables processing with minimal deformation and scratching. This material is used to make blanks which are subsequently polished plane-parallel to a tolerance of 5/1000 mm.
These blanks are then mounted on a mobile pallet in the CNC processing centre (up to 30 or 49 blanks). The computer controlled machines select a series of tools from the tool spindle (with up to 90 tools available) and execute a complex series of steps to produce plates, cocks or bridges. Temperature-monitored oil keeps everything cool and disposes of waste from the processing.
The smaller CNC machines in this department are also used to prepare the strip blanks for spark erosion.
With levers, swan neck springs or tourbillon cages, 1/1000th of a millimetre tolerances are required, so Glashütte Original uses the elaborate „spark erosion“ process – an extremely precise, form-giving method of cutting.
The base material used as a starting point is strips of stainless steel, clock brass or Berilco. All the drill holes, countersinks and millings that the component must feature when complete are already prepared.
The metal strip is mounted on a base plate and screwed in place. A tungsten alloy wire measuring 0.05 – 0.1 mm in diameter is threaded into the “start hole” (A human hair is about 0.07 mm thick!) and the machine is closed, filled with deionised water as a dielectric and then turned on using a computer. The wire is charged with 220 volts and cuts the desired part with a tolerance of no more than 5/1000 mm without producing any burrs.
Shafts, pinions, tubes, pins gear blanks and spring barrels are produced in the turning department. Even the tiniest screws for the screw balance or the tourbillon cage are produced here, with diameters of only 0.4mm, 0.3mm threading and a slit of only 0.1mm.
These parts are turned on sliding headstock automatic lathes. Metal rods of 2 or 3 metres long are mounted on a collet in the machine and rotated and turned. tools are used under cam control (conventional machines with “mechanical programming”) or controlled by computer (CNC machines).
One advantage of computer controlled automatic lathes is the relatively short set-up time compared to mechanical automatic lathes (on average 4 -5 hours compared to 12 – 15 hours). With cam controlled long stock automatic lathes it is necessary to mount and adjust not only the tools but also the curve sets custom-made for each part (comprising several curves each).
For perfect harmony in the movement
All wheels, shafts and spring barrels are fitted with teeth. Cutting teeth is performed using a milling process. With flat parts such as gear wheels, a number of blanks are stacked atop each other and processed in a single pass. All other components are processed (fitted with teeth) individually.
Occasionally the parts are so small that they must be mounted on the machine with the help of a loupe. Mounting and dismounting is performed by hand; the actual processing is performed by the machine.
Burnishing improves the operational properties and surface quality of pivots. Components with the relevant pinions (e.g. shafts and pinions) are mounted in a brace and burnished using two rotating metal discs. In this way the pivot is brought up to final standard and the material is compacted.
All the surface coordinates as well as drilling and milling depths of the components produced are examined in this room. An initial opportunity to check the contours of the components produced and to ensure that all specifications have been executed is provided by the profile projector.
A detailed examination of the surface coordinates (radiuses, diameters, spacings, parallels) is then performed using a video measurement device. To this end the individual parts are placed in a kind of template (e.g. for 18 blanks) which is then adjusted in the video measurement device. Once the computer program has started, the surface coordinates of each of the components placed on the template are examined automatically. For the base plates this means, for example, that on the gear-train bridge side some 60 to 80 measurements must be performed, and on the dial side between 20 and 30. To measure the radius of a drilled hole, for example, measurements are taken at four points; mathematically speaking three are necessary; the fourth is taken to ensure accuracy.
Examinations of drill hole and milling depths are performed manually using a dedicated measurement device (dial gauge).
The heat treatment of steel components takes place in the heat treatment shop, in an inert gas hardening furnace at temperatures up to ca. 900° Celsius. On the one hand, the turned components of a mechanical watch must be resistant to wear, and on the other hand it is necessary to render springs flexible (required to move a chronograph lever, for example).
Operations take place under inert gas to prevent binding with atmospheric oxygen and the resultant scaling. After hardening the parts are cooled rapidly (in oil) and subsequently heat-treated once again (“tempered” up to ca. 300° Celsius) in order to reduce internal material tension, improve the structure of the material and thus render the parts robust.
Hardness is determined using the Vickers test, whereby a diamond pyramid is pressed into the hardened component. The diagonal dimensions of the imprint are then measured, which serves to indicate the degree of hardness.
Stability, hardness and flexibilityManual dexterity and considerable sensitivity are needed to remove burrs from components.
A knife is used to remove tiny „irregularities“ from drill holes and countersinks (recesses). This is the only way to assure that pivots and pins can be inserted perfectly. Such precision is the important prerequisite for the subsequent fixing of bridges and cocks on the main plate.
Glashütte Original has its own galvanics shop. In this department watch components are coated by means of electrolysis with nickel, gold or rhodium. The frame components, gears or balance wheels are first cleaned, then placed in the relevant bath and coated, and finally dried.
The coating must be applied in the same thickness at all points, which is particularly challenging with very small components.
The edges of the movement components are beveled to a 45 degree angle and polished to a high gloss. The angled edges must have the same width at all points.
This finishing compacts the material along its outer edges.
Full-surface high-gloss polish - Along with the edges the functional surfaces are given a high-gloss polish.
In order to achieve an especially flat and lustrous surface, parts such as the swan-neck spring, regulator, or screw heads, which are particularly easy to view through the sapphire glass case back, are enhanced using the traditional but at the same time very labour-intensive process of tin flat-polishing.
In this process, diamantine (a polishing paste) is applied to a flat tin file, which the operator uses to file the surface of the part until it is completely even and gleaming. The process can take several hours and is checked continuously with the aid of a loupe. Polishing of a swan-neck spring (including the perimeters and angled edges) takes around 1 hour; to polish a sound spring such as that found in the “Pocket Watch No. 1” can take from 4 to 7 hours.
Tin flat-polishing has a technical as well a visual purpose. The surface of the material is enhanced and offers greater protection against damage by moisture in the air and oxidation.
More than simply decoration: Following their production in the in-house turning shop and subsequent hardening, the tiny screws are screwed into a tin plate. With much patience and sensitivity they are manually polished to a high gloss finish. The screw heads are only 0.4 mm in diameter. A common needle head is around ten times as big.
In a subsequent step the polished screws are tempered. As a result of this heating they turn first yellow, then brown, red and purple. At around 290° the screws take on the desired permanent deep blue colour, which is also a protective anti-oxidation layer.
Aside from serving as decorative elements, the blued screws are also used to fix the gold chatons and swan neck springs.
A crowning decoration
Selected balance cocks, balance bridges, cocks and skeletonized Glashütte Original movement components are enhanced by hand made engravings.
The art of the matter is to engrave a pattern without the use of a stencil. The engraver may only apply so much pressure and remove so much material as to ensure that no damage results and that the technical functionality of the component is not compromised. Talent, passion and years of experience must come together in this ambitious craft.
Each piece is unique - Traditional circular graining gains its fascination from the overlapping pearl-shaped circular finishing.
Years of experience and a great deal of sensitivity are required to mount the wheel blanks and decorate them using a rotating rubber stylus and special diamond dust. Depth and spacing of the “pearls” must be judged solely by the artisan’s eye and hand (fingertips); there are no tools for this task. While circular graining was once used to eliminate irregularities, this individual process is used today to give decorative expression to the ambitions of the Manufactory.
At the same time, the processing of the surfaces must be consistent to ensure that individually decorated components can be replaced: a consistent, overlapping “pearl structure” across all components is thus essential.
For more than 145 years
The sunburst is a particularly elaborate type of decoration. This polish was introduced in 1868 and serves as decoration while protecting against corrosion.
In its simple form it is usually applied to smaller wheels such as the crown wheel. In its duplex form it enhances larger wheels such as the ratchet and winding wheels.
The “Glashütte stripes” finish is a regular finishing in the form of stripes used to decorate a watch movement. It’s applied to the gear-train bridge, the winding rotor and the balance cock.
The mounting frames for the components are made in the inhouse toolmaking shop.
In the Galvanics shop rotors and balance cocks are coated using electrolysis with nickel, gold or rhodium.
The application of several layers and accurate transitions from one layer to another are extremely elaborate processes. The components are first coated with nickel and then gilded. The double-G and the recesses of the engravings are filled by hand, under a microscope, with a special protective varnish. A second coating with rhodium gives the rotor and/or balance cock its brilliant silver colour. Removal of the varnish then allows the double-G and engravings to appear in gold.
A movement from Glashütte Original is comprised of hundreds of individual parts. Even the tiniest parts are designed, manufactured and decorated in our own Manufactory.
A high-end Manufactory movement deserves an exclusive “environment”. The continuation of precision and functionality, along with security and wearer comfort, play a special role in this regard. As a result, with regard to the accessory components we privilege the philosophy of “(Hand)made in Germany” or a solution within the (Swatch) Group.
With great pride we make our own dials in Glashütte Original’s own dial factory. For our cases we have established an exclusive partnership agreement with a German manufacturer.
All fittings are produced to our own specifications and are subjected to a strict quality control in the Manufactory. Glashütte Original is certified, of course, to be compliant with ISO 9001-2008.
Many of a mechanical watch’s sub-assemblies are comprised of more individual parts than one would expect at first glance. In the sub-assembly area the ball bearing mechanism is first assembled from 11 parts.
The next step is the mounting of the Glashütte Original rotor. After the characteristic double-G has been coated with gold in the galvanics shop, the 21-carat oscillating mass is fixed in place with 4 screws. In combination with the Glashütte striping the rotor is a particular visual highlight on the back of the watch.
Extreme concentration and precision is needed for mounting jewels and studs. A microscope and a sure hand are absolutely essential.
Another form of embellishment is the setting of jewels in a bed made of 750/000 (18-karat) gold, known as the gold chaton. In the past this was important to enable easier replacement of jewels and to adjust the placement of jewels. Today it is a matter of decorative traditions.
Here the movement is put together. The relevant necessary parts are pre-sorted into assembly sets and mounted into subassemblies. A comparatively “simple” mechanism consists of up to 200 individual parts. The time required for assembly alone is around 10 to 12 hours. Complicated models, for example those with a perpetual calendar, are comprised of 300 or more parts. The assembly time increases to between 43 and 46 hours.
Rate precision and operation are checked and adjusted during the assembly phase. Following assembly a comprehensive examination of the movement, already seated in the case, is undertaken. The in-house examination oriented on the chronometer standard calls for a test in five positions, a test of the water-tight seal and tests at different temperatures (8°C, 23°C and 38°C). In conclusion the power reserve is checked. These tests take up to two weeks to complete: only when the entire cycle has been completed successfully is a Glashütte Original registered in the Manufactory’s master register and released to be sold.
In the workshop, master watchmakers devote themselves to the assembly of ambitious complications. It is here that we find the PanoMaticCounter XL, the Senator Diary and a movements with the Flying Tourbillon, and of course the most sophisticated Glashütte Original of all time: the Grande Cosmopolite Tourbillon, sold in a limited edition of only 25 pieces, worldwide.
In the workshop each watchmaker receives a set of components and must assemble the movement from the ground up. It takes the watchmakers several weeks to assemble extremely fine movements with up to more than 460 components and to perform the subsequent tests on these special models. In the prototype shop the prototypes and operational models are assembled and optimised, in close collaboration with assembly and sub-assembly area personnel.
Start your complete tour right here or choose a section directly:
Guided tours through the manufactory start again in April 2014 after finishing the structural building works.
You may certainly order the DVD with the image and manufactory film using the contact form.