ALT + + Schriftgröße anpassen
ALT + / Kontrast anpassen
ALT + M Hauptnavigation
ALT + Y Socials
ALT + W Studiengang wählen
ALT + K Homenavigation
ALT + G Bildwechsel
ALT + S Übersicht
ALT + P Funktionsleiste
ALT + O Suche
ALT + N Linke Navigation
ALT + C Inhalt
ALT + Q Quicklinks
ESC Alles zurücksetzen
A - keyboard accessible X
12.05.2016 | Exkursionen

Luxury on the Wrist

An excursion to the metropolises of German watchmaking: Glashütte and Schramberg

Prof. Dr. Harald Augustin, Svenja Freyberg

With the technical, social and cultural development of mankind, the clock has evolved over centuries from the elementary clock to the high-precision atomic clock and shows us the fourth dimension, time. If the clock originated in Glashütte in Saxony or Schramberg in the Black Forest, it was manufactured in places that are world-famous for their clock-making art.

The group of industrial engineering students headed by Professor Dr. Harald Augustin has set itself the task of exploring the manufacturing process and the traditional craft associated with it on a second excursion after 2014 to watch manufacturers in Glashütte and Schramberg.

Glashütte: a sleepy place in the Erzgebirge?

Originally a mining town, Glashütte is impoverished after silver finds in the Ore Mountains dry up and is faced with the challenge of achieving industrial conversion. With the skill and entrepreneurial dexterity of capable master watchmakers such as Ferdinand Adolph Lange, Julius Assmann, Moritz Grossmann and Adolf Schneider, this conversion to the watch industry was successful: In 1845 they laid the foundation for the glamour that the name Glashütte in Saxony has today. Today, more than ever before, the town with its chequered history stands for artistic precision, craftsmanship and quality. In order to maintain this reputation, 50 percent of the added value of a watch must be created in town.

Dealer with its own watch manufactory: WEMPE Glashütte i/SA

The culturally and historically interesting Dresden is the base station of the excursion group. From there, the first visit leads about 30 km further to Glashütte and the renowned international company Wempe. The family-owned company is one of the most important trading partners of major watch brands in the luxury industry. But Wempe has also had a long tradition of manufacturing maritime precision instruments and nautical time systems since 1905. Since 2005, Wempe has been producing high-quality watches in its own manufactory and has settled in Glashütte for their manufacture. With great attention to detail, the old observatory high above Glashütte was renovated. Originally built to provide watch manufacturers with a binding time signal.

During the tour through all areas and production steps, it becomes clear with what precision and concentration the watchmakers carry out their work in order to have a masterpiece in front of them at the end. Further insights into traditional craftsmanship are gained in the assembly of the Zeitmeister clocks developed in-house and the production of precision pendulum clocks. Finally, we are allowed to take a look at the independent chronometer test centre, which is operated in cooperation with the Thuringian State Office for Consumer Protection (TLV) and the State Office for Metrology and Verification (SME) Saxony. In contrast to the Swiss chronometer test, here the completely assembled watch and not just the movement is tested for 15 days at different temperatures according to the German standard DIN 8319 and certified if the standard is met.

The returnee: TUTIMA Uhrenfabrik GmbH Ndl. Glashütte

On the same day, the doors of the Tutima watch manufactory, whose roots lie in the companies Uhren-Rohwerke-Fabrik Glashütte AG, UROFA, and Uhrenfabrik Glashütte AG, UFAG, founded in 1926, open to the excursion group. Shortly before the factory was bombed and destroyed by the Russian army, the managing director Ernst Kurtz fled with his employees to the West, to return to his old home town of Glashütte in 2008. The watch manufactory is known for its NATO chronograph, which is still the official service watch of the pilots of the German armed forces. In Glashütte, Tutima presents itself as a new watch manufactory that also produces mechanical movements that it has developed and custom-made. During this visit, it becomes clear what dramatic cuts the war and GDR times brought with them, with destruction, expropriation and the founding of state-owned enterprises (VEB) for the companies in Glashütte.

High-tech from suppliers: Sächsische Uhrentechnologie GmbH Glashütte (SUG)

In addition to the watch manufacturers, the Sächsische Uhrentechnologie GmbH Glashütte (SUG) also found its headquarters in the Müglitz Valley in 1998. The company develops and manufactures complete wristwatch cases in exclusive design in small series on the basis of its own developments or those worked out with the customer. While most watch enthusiasts focus on the filigree movement, we learn here that the wristwatch case is also a high-precision and technologically advanced assembly with extremely filigree details: drill holes and whirled threads with diameters the size of a human hair. Company founder Dr. Ronald Boldt shows us which detailed technical solutions and ultra-modern manufacturing processes are required to produce the high-quality watch cases in steel, gold and platinum. In particular, the finishing, i. e. the application of grinding patterns, is still a manual and very complex process that requires the highest degree of sensitivity on the part of the employees.

The rising star: Nomos Glashütte/SA Roland Schwertner KG

We then accepted the invitation of NOMOS, founded in 1990 by Roland Schwertner, the fastest growing company in Glashütte with currently 240 employees. In 2014, Nomos is the first company to break the monopoly of the Swiss company Nivarox (Swatch Group) for the development and production of the assortment (Reglage). In a research project with the Technical University of Dresden, which has been running since 2009, this watch heart, i. e. the control unit, consisting of balance, hairspring, escape wheel, and anchor, will be developed and installed for the first time in the new Metro model in 2014. Nomos Glashütte is known for the production of its own calibers, the clear lines of its models and its special watch design in the Werkbund style. The vertical range of manufacture at Nomos is 97% for some models and thus in the highest possible range that can be found in Glashütte - an ideal typical manufactory. Due to the extremely high vertical range of manufacture, we gain an insight into all production steps and technologies used in watchmaking: Milling, turning, thread cutting, wire eroding, small automatic machines for setting stones, oil metering machines, finishing and assembly.

High-end in perfection: Grossmann Uhren GmbH

If you are in the higher price segment of watches, a visit to Grossmann Uhren GmbH, founded in 2008, is a must. From its manufactory building you have a magnificent view of Glashütte. Grossmann also has a very high vertical range of manufacture in both parts production and assembly. A focal point of our visit is the precision workstations, which allow us to experience the production of ultra-fine and elegant parts. A special highlight is the pointer production: The skill required to carve the profile of a hand from a flat blank and then grind it into shape shows us the complex manual work of watchmaking. The tempering of the hands over an open fire, which at Moritz Grossmann are not blue - as is customary in the watchmaking industry - but rather brown-violet or brown in colour, is also a challenge for the watchmakers.

Quartz and mechanics combined: Bruno Söhnle GmbH Uhrenatelier Glashütte/Sa.

The Bruno Söhnle Glashütte company has made it its business to combine beauty with functionality and to sell watches at affordable prices. In three product lines, fine quartz watches, high-quality hand-wound watches and classic automatic watches are manufactured. In order to be able to provide the watch with the Glashütte designation of origin, Bruno Söhnle produces and refines base plates, automatic bridges, gear train bridges, anchor bridges and winding bridges as well as balance cocks. Watchmakers with steady hands demonstrated these works to us. As a result, some of us ourselves were able to put our hands to the task of final assembly of quartz watches and hand assembly. As a result, our respect for the dexterity and precision of the watchmakers is even greater.

Schramberg: The newcomer Lehmann precision watches

In the south of Germany, Markus Lehmann, Managing Director of Lehmann Präzision GmbH, gives us an insight into his company, which has been developing and building high-precision turning, milling and engraving machines for the watch industry, among other things, for more than 18 years. His love for watches prompted him to found Lehmann Präzisionsuhren in 2011. His in-house expertise in machine tool development and the manufacture of individual parts for the watch industry makes him largely independent of suppliers, as Lehmann manufactures all mechanical parts (including the watch case!) except for the gear train and the oscillation system itself. The design of Lehmann watches with their crown recessed in the case and elegant and technically sophisticated cases, e. g. free-form surfaces, is very impressive.

Luxury: What is it?

While for some people the watch is a mere article of daily use, we experienced in Glashütte and in Schramberg why for others the watch is a luxury or collector's item. The time, dexterity, patience and concentration that the watchmakers put into making each watch makes each one a masterpiece with its own unique character and charm. No matter how much luxury we use to measure time, we all have one thing in common in the end: „Man possesses nothing more noble and precious than time. „ (Ludwig van Beethoven)

We would like to thank all the companies we visited, who took a lot of time for us and took us into the wonderful world of the watch manufacturers and inspired us.