Occupying a special niche in fine watchmaking, German high horology has earned a solid following with its powerful yet understated character.
It takes plenty of patience to be a watchmaker at A. Lange & Sohne. And that’s not just because it can take days to weeks to assemble the many minute parts of the German luxury brand’s watch movements, whether it’s the 368-component engine of the brand’s signature Lange 1 watch or the 867-part heart of its complex Grand Complication. It’s also because the brand adopts the unique practice of double assembly: After a movement is assembled and checked, it is taken apart and the parts cleaned and finished, and put together a second time. All, of course, in the name of utmost timekeeping excellence.
With its uncompromising focus on quality, it’s no surprise that A. Lange & Sohne tends to first come to mind when one thinks about German fine watchmaking. While it is a top-tier, almost extreme example of Teutonic horology, A. Lange & Sohne is reflective of its principles: High, yet understated, quality, in terms of both technical workings and looks.
Today, the quiet eastern town of Glashutte (population less than 7,000) is home to some of the most respected names in fine watchmaking, such as Glashutte Original. Born of the post-reunification privatisation of eight previously nationalised watch firms, the brand assembles its own movements and makes almost all of its own components.
But it’s not just the country’s priciest timepieces that have a loyal following. Across the street from Glashutte Original is the production centre of Nomos, a mid-tier brand that has earned a rabid fan base with its relatively affordable creations featuring in-house movements and minimalist Bauhaus design sensibilities.
While Glashutte might be Germany’s high-horology hub, other key pockets of watchmaking activity can be found elsewhere in the country: Frankfurt-based Sinn, for instance, is another fan favourite for its nononsense tool watches for pilots and divers. Closer to Glashutte, Dresden is home to another brand that has been making waves among collectors: Lang & Heyne. Helmed by fifth-generation watchmaker Marco Lang, the independent brand’s latest Georg timepiece has no fancy complications, just the time – but fans cannot get enough of its movement: It’s creatively but cleanly constructed, and handsomely finished, without ostentation. And, indeed, very German.