Welcome to Glashütte, the eastern German village overrun with world-class watchmakers
▶ Glashütte’s watchmakers prosper as Switzerland retrenches ▶ “We’re a very well-kept secret, almost like stealth wealth”
The eastern German village of Glashütte doesn’t look like much: just a handful of streets stretching up and down a narrow valley from a bare station platform, where trains depart once an hour for the 45-minute trip to Dresden. Look more closely, though, and you’ll find
that the town of 7,000 is home to the greatest concentration of world-class watchmakers outside Switzerland—with a business that’s growing even as Swiss producers retrench. The town produced more than 32,000 watches last year, with a total retail value of at least €500 million ($565 million), according to analyst estimates. These aren’t Timexes. Glashütte’s 10 watchmakers tend toward the high end, and the priciest local producer, A. La Lange & Söhne, has b built a repu utation that compares favorably with those of giants Patek Philippe and Audemars
Piguet. Some ofo its watches topto €1.9 million, and the brand carriescarri an average price of roughly €50,000.€50,0 “Our customers like that not everyone knows what they have around their wrist,” says Wilhelm Schmid, chief executive officer of Lange, whose products have been spotted on the arms of Brad Pitt and Clint Eastwood. “We’re a very well-kept secret, almost like stealth wealth.”
The German industry, though far smaller than Switzerland’s, is less dependent on sales to China, where the watch business has been hammered by an anticorruption effort that has reduced gift- giving. And with most expenses in euros, producers have been able to keep costs in check, unlike Swiss rivals that have to deal with the rising franc. Switzerland’s
Richemont said in February it may cut as many as 350 jobs in the country, but the two main brands in Glashütte say they’re hiring. German watch exports last year jumped 14 percent as Switzerland’s fell 3.3 percent, government data show.
Still, the Germans may soon face the problems that have hit the Swiss, cautions René Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel in Zurich. Europe’s
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, $498,000 It can strike different tones hourly and at 10and 1-minute intervals.