Swiss vs. German Watches

Feb 24, 2022
Glashütte Original
Introducing Glashütte Original Watches

Exciting news that the first shipment of Glashütte Original watches will soon arrive in Nashville. They’re manufactured in Glashütte, a German town with a long watchmaking history that’s also home to A. Lange & Söhne. Glashütte is just south of Dresden near the Czech Republic border and until the German reunification in 1990, was part of East Germany. It is roughly 1,000 kilometers from Geneva, the heart of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Besides distance, there is a lot more that separates the great brands on each side of the Swiss/German border.

Swiss Watches

It’s hard to be neutral about Swiss watches. They have a reputation for quality, accuracy and style. Switzerland has a centuries-long heritage of creating beautiful timepieces that range from simple three-handers to grand complications that stretch the boundaries of watchmaking. It is the birthplace of countless innovations and most of the standards that define horology are linked directly to the Swiss.

Even though Switzerland is less than half the size of Tennessee, it is the center of the world’s fine watchmaking industry with more skilled watchmakers, artisans and technical resources there than anywhere else in the world. Production is centralized in the “Watch Valley” of western Switzerland. There, more than 20 million watches are produced each year, including an estimated 95% of watches retailing above $1,000. Most of what King Jewelers sells is Swiss. With the exception of Seiko, actually, every new watch in the cases is currently Swiss — Breuget, Jaeger LeCoultre, Girard-Perregaux, TAG Heuer, IWC, Jacquet Droz, Hublot, H. Moser, Carl F. Burcherer, Tudor, Chopard, Longines, Mido, Norqain, Hamilton, Bell & Ross. A good 95% of what’s in the pre-owned cases is also Swiss – pre-owned Rolex, Patek Philippe, Blancpain, Roger Dubuis, FP Journe and lots more.

Jaquet Droz J003525540_1

While watches from Breguet and some pre-owned Rolexes are 100% manufactured in Switzerland, most brands source some components from outside of the country. They are still allowed to place the familiar “Swiss Made” marker on their dials and cases provided they meet certain standards under Swiss law.

Rolex M278384RBR_2

The criteria include:
• Using a Swiss movement – that means the movement’s design and final inspection must occur in Switzerland and that at least 80% of the costs of production are Swiss for mechanical calibers or 60% for quartz.
• Final casing must happen in Switzerland
• 60% of the total cost of goods must be Swiss.

German Watches

German watches are generally considered to be very high quality, precision instruments that are well designed, accurate and technically innovative. Styles tend toward Bauhaus form-follows-function designs that are elegant and minimalist. On the high end, brands like Glashütte Original and A. Lange & Söhne produce beautifully decorated movements and take advantage of Germany’s legendary metalsmithing prowess to create flawless cases and components. Instead of brass, movements produced in Germany are often crafted from German silver, which is an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel.

German watchmaking traces its origins back to clockmakers in the mid 1700s but Adolph Lange’s decision to set up shop in Glashütte in 1845 is considered the industry’s pivotal event. Lange was inspired by the Vallée de Joux region of Switzerland where agricultural workers split their time between the fields and making watches, especially during the winter. The result was the creation of a skilled workforce that could produce components and fully cased watches. Lange wanted to develop the same resources in Glashütte to build an industry that could compete with the Swiss. That is why the small German town became home to several watch brands and component manufacturers. Like “Swiss Made,” watches made in Glashütte carried the marker “Glashütte Original” to signify origin.

Glashütte Original Senator Cosmopolite 1-89-02-01-05-30

After the second World War, Glashütte, along with the brands located there, fell into socialist hands under the German Democratic Republic. With East Germany sealed off from the West, the German watch industry basically disappeared. The East Germans consolidated Glashütte’s watchmaking industry into a single company called VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB), which existed until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. A year later, the German watchmaking industry was reborn as King’s newest line Glashütte Original rose from the ashes of GUB.

Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar 1-90-02-23-35-30

There’s no better way to appreciate the differences between Swiss and German watches than strapping them on your wrist. Several Glashütte Original watches will be in the store soon but in the meantime, you can experience the ultimate in German luxury with any of the pre-owned A. Lange & Söhne watches in the case. The Lange 1 Time Zone is a personal favorite. New and pre-owned Swiss options are plentiful in every price range.

About the Author

Bobby Frank is a freelance writer and musician based in Nashville. He’s been an avid watch collector since discovering a sample case full of early digital watches at his father’s office in the late 1970s. Current favorites include the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight, Zenith Chronomaster and Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet One. A timekeeper to his core, Bobby plays the drums in several bands that perform across the Southeast including Tennessee Dead, a Grateful Dead tribute band.

Swiss vs. German Watches


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