Made in Germany was kinda trade mark before Trias, Elysee, Aeromatic 1912, Tauchmeister1937, Glashaus Hamburg, Olivier Witteaux, Steinhausen appeared and conquered the market (online preferably). But they started up their business knowing that there is a strong demand for products made in Germany all over the world. Most of them don´t even run a shop or are represented at reputable watch shops here in Germany, most of them are selling online only (500 Trias currently on ebay.de). Nothing wrong with that but it´s already a hint what the business is about.
Some Trias watches are sold at so called "auction houses" here in Germany for 49, 69, 109 Euro. There´s hardly a german component with it !
"Made in Germany" always stood for outstanding quality, state of the art components combined with eye catching appearance (quote from german-watches).
Nowadays watches are offered to be "made in Germany" with prestigious names and history (which in some cases is a fairy tale). Due to the fact that there is no legal term a TRIAS watch is "Made in Germany". Despite the fact that the production of major components of these "products" – many times even engineering, assembly and testing – is performed in countries with cheap labor in order to reduce cost as much as possible. That´s why a watch "made in Germany" can be offered for 200 bucks or even less.
Most of the watch brands like TRIAS do not have any watchmaking history or tradition, aren´t skilled and have not seen a watchmakers school from the inside. Most of these brands are just a one-man-show, a trader and wholesaler jumping on the train to "big cash".
And please note: I am far away from discriminating (which others could interprete when reading your post) these watches. But I´ll stick to state: They don´t deserve to be "made in Germany" but due to the lack of legal term(s) they are. As I always say: You´ll get what you paid for.
Sothis, Schauer and Temption, Limes, Glashütte, Union, Mühle, Nomos, Tutima, Sinn, Damasko, Aristo and all the major brands I´ve forgotten to mention here tried to stick to what "made in Germany" should be about. TRIAS doesn´t.
There still is a difference what "made in Germany" should be and currently is about. And please keep in mind that a base Unitas of a TRIAS differs a lot from a Unitas equipped in a Panerai, it´s not even close.
Just my two cents.
The term "Made in Germany" has strong meanings for German manufacturing. Back in the early days of manufacturing in the 19th century, significant advances in the quality of goods were made via industrialization. England took the lead here and was the major industrial supplier to the world, largely. In the process of German unification towards the end of the 19th century, there was a conscious effort to use "Made in Germany" as a marketing tool for products of German industrial production: this was largely successful and continues to be a major, major marketing tool for German manufacturers.
Now, as you point out elsewhere, the Swiss have rather stronger requirements for calling something "Made in Switzerland" than the Germans have for someone using "Made in Germany".
The problem is that the German watch-making industry, while not quite as extensively as was the case in the US, was devestated by Japanese quartz watches in the 1960s and 1970s. Many watch manufacturers were driven out of business, and indeed there are only a few survivors that actually make their own caliber movements, such as Lange & Söhne, Mühle, etc. This is partially due to the fact that these companies were protected in Eastern Germany from foreign competition, which was not the case in western Germany. After the collapse of the east German state, western money restarted the watchmaking tradition with a vengeance, and they have been extremely successful.
The problem faced by the German watch industry is that many made their own calibers, as did the Swiss back then as well (we're talking the 1950s and 1960s here). The Swiss industry was saved by Swatch and the decision to consolidate and standardize their movements: hence the predominance of ETA today. This was a deliberate decision by the Swiss.
In Germany, anti-trust regulations did not permit the German government to bring about a unification of the industry: it was left to the market. The problem, however, was that German manufacturers were largely too small to survive. The bigger players (Kienzle, Junghans, Stowa and others) viewed any co-operation with distinct distaste and utterly failed to cooperate. Coupled with serious management errors about what sort of watches to produce, these companies failed to adjust to market demand and ended up drastically reduced if not gone altogether.
Some have survived. Junghans is Germany's largest maker of watches, but they are largely commodity pieces with very little high-end, despite having developed truly amazing technology, such as quartz watches that use radio signals based on cesium time pieces to regulate themselves every single day for extremely high accuracy. Kienzle is but a shadow if itself, making largely quartz retro designs for advertising gifts (subscribe to this magazine and we'll give you a watch!), and the vast majority of German manufacturers can no longer use domestically developed movements, since there are hardly any left.
ETA has been too effective here: they dominate the upper-end of the watch segment, providing extremely good calibers at a price that no one else can touch if they were to develop their own. Not every one likes the Valjoux 7750 movement, not the least because it seems to be in virtually every watch sold nowadays, but it is a damned good movement that lets a maker sell a watch for a price that people will buy enough of them so that the rent is paid.
That's the truth of the modern watch industry: no one can compete with ETA, not even the Japanese. The Chinese *may* give ETA a run for the money, but not with their current quality control.
So what does all this have to do with Trias and Co.?
There are only a few German manufacturers who design their own cases, make them in Germany, create watch faces using German designers steeped in German design tradition - Bauhaus and instrument design - and use German watchmakers to manufacture the watches. You must understand that to become a German watchmaker, let alone a master watchmaker, you need to apprentice to a German watchmaking company for no less than three full years, during which you make only minimum wage (actually less, since there is none in Germany) and besides working have to learn the trade as well. There is a German tradition of this, and the industry lives and dies based on the number of people who choose this career. To become a master watchmaker means not only having a number of years working as a watchmaker, you must pass a rigorous series of technical and business tests before you achieve the title.
I went to one today, and he is technically magnificent: he regulated a Zim Pobeda within 20 seconds that is now running from 4 minutes slow to within a minute. He looked at the watch for 15 seconds and knew within that time frame exactly how much the watch had to be regulated. He didn't know that from being a watch freak and years and years of experience, but rather it was part of his training. He took apart a Gruen precision automatic that was running - 5 minutes a day not to figure out what the problem was, but rather because he already knew what the problem was (the minute and the second gears needed to have old oil that had lacquered over the surface of the gear and increased the movement friction had to be removed and the old laquered oil had to be ground off). These guys really, really know their stuff.
The problem with Trias et al is that they do not support the industrial base for watchmaking in Germany: they are legally allowed to put "Made in Germany" on their watches, but they don't make their watches in Germany: they are, effectively, OEMs that order the watches made and place their name on them with "Made in Germany", exploiting legal loopholes to make higher profits despite lower prices. Their watches aren't designed by professional watch makers in Germany, but are rather put together by industrial designers from design schools. Good industrial designers do their own original work: bad industrial designers do derivative works, copying from others.
Contrast this with a company like Sinn or Damasko: they come from a tradition of making instrument watches. Sinn even has an actual live materials physicist on their payroll doing original research work on materials for their watches (they've got one which doesn't need any lubrication, for instance).
So for fans of German watches you've got some problems: one the one hand you've got an industry which lives and dies on the basis of its technical expertise and design ability: on the other hand, the costs of making such watches is such that these makers need to sell the watches starting at the upper mid range (from €700 upwards) to even start to make money.
In other words, you've got great manufacturing ability, fantastic design and technical expertise, but costing more than most people would be willing to pay for a watch.
On the other hand, if you make a derivative work, stealing design elements from here and there, give the actual manufacturing work to a chinese conglomerate who can price below manufacturing costs in order to get market share (talk to me sometime about Chinese accounting practices...), and then sell those watches at the lower mid range (from €200 to €500), then these people are riding on the coattails of those who have created the market for them.
I'm not going to denigrate Trias et al as being ...... watches: they're not. But they also aren't representatives of German watch making, which of course is what they indeed claim to be.
If you like the design, hey! But it's not really "Made in Germany", regardless of what the law allows.
People *do* get emotional about it: German watchmaking has a grand and proud tradition that is facing some very, very, serious challenges. They have seen what has happened to the US watch industry - I collect Gruens, I know - and are trying to fight back based on what their competitive advantages are: design, materials and manufacturing excellence for cases. Nobody in Europe outside of the very high-end can compete with ETA and no one does: but having an ETA or Unitas in your watch doesn't mean that it isn't "Made In Germany".
It's a difficult business to be in. A buddy and I looked at getting into watch design and manufacturing, and realized that we'd need capitalization of at least 3 mio € to make it past the third year, starting from scratch, and the profit margin after retail and wholesale margins meant that for a watch selling for €1000 the profit margin for manufacturing the watch was less than €70. That's after all manufacturing and personnel costs, as well as financing costs, but before taxes. That's only 7% gross operating margin, and given the risks inherent in operating a business, the return was, for us, too small.
We'd have had to hire no less than 7 people (besides ourselves) and there would have been negative cash flow for at least two years. That's if we were to do our own design, have the blank cases manufactured to our specifications but finished by us, and all assembling by us. It meant serious design work in conjunction with two master watchmakers here, but we would have used an ETA caliber: to design our own caliber would have entailed at least three times as much money, and it probably wouldn't be any better than a bog-standard ETA movement.
But if you farm out all that, you can make a watch that you can sell retail for €500 and have the same profit margin, with less than 25% of the costs. But the design of the watch wouldn't be ours (it would be the designers' interpretation of what he thinks we want, big difference!), the watch would be made in China by who knows what sort of labor exploitation, we wouldn't bother repairing anything (cheaper to make 5500 watches instead of 5000, give anyone unhappy a new watch...happens in the OEM business all the time), and we'd be just a wannabe: we want to be German watchmakers, but didn't want to spend the years of training and investment needed.
And BMW no longer labels BMWs as being "Made in Germany": they are "Made by BMW" instead.
Sorry to have gone on for so long: I'm an economist by trade.
And I own mostly Russian waches: I'm saving up for a Sinn. I won't buy watches that try to be what they really aren't.
Doesn't the German government have any control of how the term is used? If something is marked "Made in Germany" and it's country of origin is China that is not only fraudlent, but, could cause others to, unknowingly, commit fraud. As an example, if I buy a product from you that is "Made in Germany" to sell to a US government agency and it turns out to be Made in China, I could face a huge legal/criminal problem, because, Germany is an approved trading partner and China is not. I am aware that there are many loopholes, but, if the country of orgin is one place it is fraud to say it was made in another. Loopholes aside, if they are allowed to do this then the blame should go to the Geman lawmakers. I'm still surprised that this can happen. O|
Frank Valentine responded:
Re: Doesn't the German government have any control of how
One shouldn´t forget that "Made in Germany" was never meant to be as a sign of quality but a warning against low quality! It originates in the year 1887 when Great Britain launched a law against low quality copies of english products (doesn´t remind you that of something... China , China, ...) German imports had to be marked with "Made in Germany" to warn off british customers from these cheap quality products. But the german quality grew better and better and things took a turn. Customers wanted these products for the reason they were made in Germany. The germans realized this and happily labled their products with the "warning" until today. Now it seems that things are taking a turn again. This time in favour of China, even if this still might take a few years.
Last edited by Ernie Romers; November 20th, 2006 at 09:21.
Total newb here... First of all GREAT site congrats to all involved! AND re. this forum many thanks for the info above,very helpful and interesting.
I have a wide interest in affordable auto watches but not really much knowledge but I'm working on it... so i have a question re. 'genuine' German makers in this post https://forums.watchuseek.com/showthread.php?t=3277 there is a comprehensive list, but does the brand Robert-e REALLY fit in there?? Their auto's seem way too cheap and they even a tourbillion at 1200 Euros, is this possible?
I'd be curious if anyone else has a view on these guys in particular... From my research I just see them as one of the many psuedo German makers using chinese product. I have no problem if they are, but i was surprised to see them in the 'OK' list.
Regardless of history, if the watch was made in China and is sold as Made in Germany, fraud is still fraud, isn't it? And BMW now prints Made by BMW because they have a plant in the US and another in South Africa. In addition, they have to print the percentages of the product made in the US and in Germany. No room for all that on a watch!
Protected designation of origin, quality characteristic - and why a judgement is important for the watchmaking town.
Glashütte, April 2007. Glashütte is a small city in eastern Germany in which some of the world’s best watches have been built for over 160 years. Germany is the home of the Volkswagen and the Werkbund, of Leitz and Leica, Bosch and Bauhaus. Germany, the country that is known for outstanding quality, design and engineering. Made in Glashütte, Made in Germany – both are protected designations of origin with an international reputation. And both are protected, a mark of quality such as "Cognac“, "Swiss Watches“ or "Parma Ham“. It is therefore only watches in which over 50 percent of their movements’ value has been created on location that may be sold as "Glashütte Watches“.
NOMOS Glashütte was the first brand, which was able to build a mechanical watch with the protected designation of origin “Glashütte“ after 1990. Because the designation “Glashütte“ is so prized, NOMOS carries, as do the city’s other manufactories, the city’s name on its letter head: Lange’s official name is “A. Lange & Söhne Glashütte i/SA“; the watches of Glashütte Original are made in the "Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb” (Glashütte watch factory – abbreviation: GUB) and NOMOS is called "NOMOS Glashütte/SA“. Even Germany’s largest watch and jewellery dealer, the Hamburg firm Wempe, now makes watches in Glashütte together with NOMOS and is represented on site with its own company: the “Wempe Chronometerwerke Glashütte/SA“.
The Munich District Court I has just given an extra boost to Glashütte as a protected designation of origin. With its final judgment of 02.27.2007 – not yet legally binding as of early April – a competitor was prosecuted for advertising his watches with the protected designation of origin, “Glashütte“, and this because the majority of the watches’ parts were not, as required, produced in Glashütte.
The convicted manufacturer may continue to sell his watches. The protected and value increasing “Glashütte“ may not, however, be written on his watches or used to advertise them as long as the majority of the calibres’ valuable parts are not made in Glashütte. NOMOS Glashütte believes that this judgment is fair and just, for it is in the watchmaking city’s interest, as well as that of consumers who trust in quality from Glashütte, to protect the high quality standard. And in the interest of each and every watchmaker who invests in the small Saxon city’s watchmaking and precisions mechanics.
In this way the judgement has helped to create jobs, because soon everybody and anybody who works in Glashütte will be “in the watch,“ as the saying goes. And the more parts that are built on location, the more work people have to do. Everything that is built somewhere else, produced abroad for less, destroys jobs and hurts the reputation of “Made in Glashütte“ and “Made in Germany”.
(Glashütte 2007, April)
Hope this will help a bit to understand what Made in Glashütte is about.
German automakers ship their components abroad and have them assembled in their cars. They're not claiming their cars are even made in Germany. With watch manufacturers, they import their components abroad and assemble it in the country of manufacture, not the country of import. I think the question in the case of German watch companies arises when they charge very high prices for a watch that obviously doesn't appear 100% German made. They shouldn't charge a price that's out of line with what goes in the watch if it has foreign parts. In this day and age of the global economy, domestic brands are global brands. But they should be honest about it instead of passing themselves off as something they no longer are.
The German Manufacturers of high quality Watch Parts are now exhibing under the same flag. The aim of the organization is to promote the German manufacturers of Watch Parts. The main emphasis is on the high standard of finished products "MADE in GERMANY" such as cases, straps, bracelets, dials, hands and other accessories. All members have to meet the criterion expected from a product of German origin as well as values and norms laid down by the organization. http://www.vdu.org/english/default.asp
[edited by moderator: no links to commercial sites]
Last edited by stuffler,mike; July 30th, 2008 at 17:26.
Just for the record:
VDU was founded in 1998 and mainly covers watch- and part manufacturers of the Pforzheim and Black Forest region. It is far away from being a platform for Made in Germany and far away from uniting all manufacturers. If you will have a closer look into you will recognize that Glashuette brands are not represented.
BTW: WPG / Watchparts from Germany was already reported here on WUS, they also exhibit on Baselworld.
"Made in Germany" always stood for outstanding quality, state of the art components combined with eye catching appearance (quote from german-watches).
I cannot do anything else but agree with you Mike. German products always represent quality over all and are made with a great idea: built to last. German engineering is a superior example of precision and effectiveness.
P.S. I like the way you concentrate intensely on your posts .