Home Watch Types Automatic Some Thoughts on Glashutte

Some Thoughts on Glashutte

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Still getting my head around the Glashutte trip I went on two weeks ago. I’m working on a story for InSync, as well, so I’ll just offer a bare bones assessment of the factory and leave the heavy lifting for the dead tree magazine.

On the whole Glashutte turns out excellent pieces. That’s not surprising. Lots of people can do that. But to see it done, all by hand, in a long trip through both time and space, was just incredible. I mean get this: they have one guy who does all the engraving. If he were to get sick or decide to join a commune, the company is in a bad way.

The new factory is actually refurbished and beautiful. Glashutte, outside of Dresden, Germany, has been a watch town since the the 1800s. The town’s name means “tin mine” or “silver mine” and for years they made beautiful pocket and wristwatches. Then the war came and they made the big crown pilot, the biggest honking watch you have ever seen.

After the war, they made all sorts of strange pieces for the Soviets and for the West. The quality fell off, but they were always a central figure in the industry, creating unique movements using very few resources thanks to rationing and the 5-year-plans foisted on them by the Commies. Now, however, they can be considered one of the top makers. In short, if they moved to Geneva, they’d get the Geneva seal. Straight up, yo.

To watch these people work is amazing. Each one is a skilled tradesman and an artist. Take, for example, the guilloche. It’s all hand-done. One woman sits there and spins the little bunisher until each of the rear plates shines line a bunch of little suns.

Then there’s this guy: he’s plugging screws into the balance wheel. I couldn’t even put a Coke can in the trash without whiffing it and this guy sits there day in and day out, putting screws into tiny holes.

Glashutte really opened my eyes as to the work that goes into a $5000+ watch. Some of these things are getting into the $10-$150K range, which is a bit nuts, but we are at the end of an era. This kind of work doesn’t exist anymore. Not in homebuilding, not in technology, and not in anything else we use every day. Even our food is homogenized. But to think that Vladimir, the single engraver, ran his awl over the elegant bridges of each of these pieces is enough to boggle the mind.

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