Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Glashütte: The True Original

The story of how Glashütte Original earned its name and continues to present itself worthy of its grand name

Oct 11, 2023 | By Ashok Soman

Variations of the phrase, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” existed well before the 19th century. Some believe that a version of the saying was first recorded in a 1708 biography titled, The Emperor Marcus Antoninus His Conversation With Himself, where the expression is written —paraphrased — as: “You should consider that imitation is the most acceptable part of worship, and that the gods had much rather mankind should resemble, than flatter them.” The most recognized accreditation for the saying today, however, is probably ascribed to Oscar Wilde, who did certainly popularize it. But what will perhaps come as a surprise to some is the entirety of Oscar Wilde’s version, which reads, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness”.

Switching gears over from literature, we go now to the realm of horology. We make our way specifically to learn about how one of Germany’s most respected watchmaking names came to be. In the state of Saxony, just about 30 kms outside of the city of Dresden, is a town called Glashütte. It was here, in the mid 1840s that an enterprising Ferdinand Adolph Lange (F. A. Lange) sought to ride the upswing of watchmaking skills in the region and help Glashütte prosper. His intended approach was to set up a watchmaking manufacture and establish a system of apprenticeship. F. A. Lange had recently returned from Switzerland and observed that this method of watch production and training had proved highly effective there. This was important to F. A. Lange, not because he wanted to become a successful businessman. Rather, his desire was to help better the life and economy of Glashütte, which had otherwise fallen on hard times.

F. A. Lange’s lofty endeavour obliged him to seek financial aid from the local Saxon government, which he received and put to such good use that his approach saw great progress in a short period and with minimal manpower. It is also worth mentioning, that it is this season in time that also allowed for other great watchmakers to arise from Glashütte, namely: Moritz Grossman, Julius Assmann and Adolf Schneider. Along with F. A. Lange, these four gentlemen are considered the founding fathers of Glashütte’s grand watchmaking tradition. There was, however, one downside to all the success that Glashütte was experiencing. Watches made in Glashütte had grown to such a level of demand that disingenuous watchmakers from distant locales had begun adding a print to their timepieces, falsely claiming to have been produced in Glashütte. The story goes that genuine watchmakers in Glashütte, in an effort to counter these dishonest imitators, began printing the word “Original” on their timepieces as a differentiator from 1916 onward. This is precisely where the beloved present day Saxon watchmaker, Glashütte Original derived its name.

Uhrenmuseum Glashütte, Aussenaufnahme, Fotograf René Gae

Glashütte Original stands today as a prime steward and driving force for Glashütte’s more than 175 years of watchmaking traditions, having inherited the mantle of stewardship from the founding four. The importance behind this role of Glashütte Original’s, cannot be understated. Because, for collectors and connoisseurs, these are not mere traditions, they are benchmarks and identifiers against which Glashütte’s — and even all of Germany’s — watchmaking is regarded. Some of Glashütte watchmaking’s unique and desirable flourishes include: the use of a three-quarter plate, the application of the wider Glashütte stripe finish (as opposed to the narrower Geneva stripe), the lavish hand engraving of balance cocks and bridges, the use of gold chatons and much more. All — or at times a selection — of these sought-after embellishments are religiously applied across Glashütte Original’s contemporary offerings. In order to better appreciate one of the best examples of what Glashütte has to offer we need only look at a few of Glashütte Original’s current offerings (see overleaf).

Perusing the examples of Glashütte Original’s present-day offerings, it becomes abundantly clear that the manufacture has more than fulfilled its role of stewarding the more than 175 years of watchmaking traditions of the town of Glashütte. This, the watchmaker has managed by upkeeping techniques that are unique to Glashütte, establishing them as globally recognized identifiers of the horological excellence the Saxon town represents. Glashütte Original has also progressed this tradition by constantly innovating and creating fascinating new mechanical masterpieces. And it has also progressed this tradition by encouraging a vibrant watch manufacturing culture in Glashütte, which has seen the renewal and establishment of several respectable watch brands within the town. Glashütte’s original spirit of watchmaking remains very much alive in 2023 and it has been elevated to such a high level, that potential imitators need not dare try.  

Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase

At the top of Glashütte Original’s list is the Senator Collection, which for all intents and purposes, exemplifies the highest technical and artisanal offerings from the watchmaker. Take for instance the Senator Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase, which represents a middle ground between the tourbillons and the perpetual calendar within the collection. The Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase is a 40mm timepiece, offered in red gold and stainless steel, and features a moon phase indicator along with the watchmaker’s signature Panorama Date. We will set our focus on the red gold variation for now. 

Here, the elegant wristwatch’s silhouette presents a delicate demeanour with a mix of polished and brushed surfaces, which in turn make its dial appear large and proud. The dial’s details, too, are graceful with svelte laser-cut galvanic black indexes and matching railroad chapter ring. The hands used here are blued by traditional means, with pear-shaped hands used for the hour and minutes, and a filigree second hand used for the running seconds. Turning the watch over, we encounter the calibre 36-04 beating within, featuring a skeletonized rotor, the Glashütte striped three-quarter plate and, unmistakably, the superbly hand-engraved balance cock. The Excellence Panorama Date Moon Phase is delivered with an individual test certificate, which guarantees that the watch meets the highest standards in terms of stability, running time, precision and aesthetics. Glashütte Original, also expresses this guarantee with a special engraving in the form of a “Q” on the caseback. Even further, the watchmaker has developed an exclusive online portal where owners can find detailed information regarding the performance of their specific watch determined through an intensive 24-day in-house test.


 Rose Gold Variant of the Panomatic Lunar

Second on our list is the Pano Collection, which is possibly Glashütte Original’s most recognizable offering. This is wholly because of the collection’s extraordinary asymmetric dials. Let us thus consider the PanoMaticLunar for a deeper look. The model is offered in red gold and stainless steel, with several dial colour options in each metal. We will focus on the steel variation with the silver dial. The 40mm PanoMaticLunar is unmistakable thanks to the watch’s uniquely laid out dial. Glashütte Original states that the wristwatch’s dial requires 40 separate steps, each executed by a dedicated craftsman. The galvanic silver dial features applied silver indexes and blued hands. The overlapping sub-dials for the hour, minute and small seconds are decorated with a finish that resembles the grooves of a vinyl-record. The offset time indications aside, the timepiece also boasts a Panorama Date and moon phase display. Through the timepiece’s display caseback we find the impressive calibre 90-02. Immediately we see the movement’s Glashütte striped three-quarter plate. Interestingly, the rotor here is inset into the three-quarter plate and off centre, which is a seemingly simple task of moving elements askew, but in reality, requires great technical dexterity in order to execute and retain chronometric integrity. Of course, we cannot move on to the next watch on our list before acknowledging the beautifully hand-graved decoration on the movement’s balance bridge, which in this instance is the traversing “butterfly bridge”, another signature of Glashütte Original.

SeaQ Panorama Date

The third collection on Glashütte Original’s roster is the Spezialist, and comprises several takes on the SeaQ. The SeaQ models take a big page out of the watchmaker’s own history and its first dive watch, the Spezimatic Typ RP TS 200 from 1969. Here Glashütte Original’s watchmaking embraces unabashed utility. Our focus here will be the SeaQ Panorama Date in stainless steel, with blue details. The watchmaker does, however, offer the watch in a bi-color variation and even lavish red gold. The SeaQ Panorama Date is a robust dive watch measuring 43.2mm. The wristwatch is water-resistant to a superlative 300m, which is fortified by the fact that it features a screw-down crown as well as a screwed sapphire crystal caseback. Its unidirectional rotating bezel features a blue ceramic inlay that mimics the blue of the dial. Moving on to the galvanic blue dial, we see large applied Arabic numerals, indexes and hands. All are abundantly filled with white luminous material for uncompromised visibility, regardless of available light. And then there is the Panorama Date, with a dial produced in-house, which bears an interesting twist: a utilitarian dive watch with an elegant sunray finished dial. 

Turning the watch over reveals the calibre 36-13, which sports the Glashütte three-quarter plate with Glashütte stripe finish. According to Glashütte Original, every SeaQ Panorama Date is put through a certification process that tests the timepiece for shock resistance, resistance to salt-water corrosion, and the durability of each functional component. Next, each watch must pass the elaborate internal 24-day Glashütte Original Excellence Test. Thereafter, the watch is further examined and tested for water-resistance and airtightness at under- and overpressure before it is delivered to a point of sale. 

Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date

Next up is the Vintage Collection. Here, Glashütte Original has drawn on the nostalgia of timepieces it used to produce in the 1960s and 1970s, and offered it up to watch lovers of the 21st century. For the Vintage Collection, our focus is on the Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date with the ‘Fab Green’ dial. The 40 x 40mm, highly 1970s-toned square case offers a great look at the diverse artistic vocabulary of Glashütte Original’s design philosophy. The timepiece presents itself as a rather muscular piece with multiple facets finished with a mixture of polished and brushed surfaces. A closer look offers up the unique dégradé effect on its dial. The applied indexes for the hour markers and the hands are in black, and are filled with Super-LumiNova. As this is a flyback chronograph, the timepiece offers a central chronograph second hand, a 30-minute totalizer at 3 o’clock and a 12-hour counter at 12 o’clock, just underneath the logo. At 6 o’clock, we find the ever-familiar Panorama Date. Now, turn to the running seconds counter at 9 o’clock. Very cleverly, Glashütte Original has integrated a small aperture here that indicates the timepiece’s power reserve. The watch’s caseback reveals the column wheel-equipped calibre 37-02 with the trademark striped Glashütte three-quarter plate.

PanoMatic Luna

At last, we come to Glashütte Original’s final collection for this brief story, the Ladies Collection. Here we learn more about the manufacture’s feminine side. Here we will focus on the PanoMatic Luna, specifically the stainless-steel variation with the blue mother-of-pearl dial. At 39.4mm, the timepiece is the most diminutive offering on our list. As much as the complete bezel on the timepiece is decocted with diamonds, it is hard to take your eyes off its translucent blue mother-of-pearl dial. Here we find once more the asymmetrically placed time indications paired with framed diamond hour markers. As is Glashütte Original’s naming convention, the timepiece offers a Panorama Date display and a moon phase indication on the right half of its dial. It is important to point out that these placements are not random; they are dictated by the golden ratio, more romantically termed ‘the divine proportion.’ Unlike the classic square Panorama Date display, we see on the ladies’ PanoMatic Luna an oval window placed to frame the indication, adding a further delicate detail. Through the caseback, we are treated to an unencumbered view of calibre 90-12. Again, with the Glashütte striped three-quarter plate, off-centre rotor, and the lovingly hand-engraved balance bridge. 

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