Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!
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  1. #1
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    Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    (…or alternatively: do you consider today’s German watches with ETA movements more German or Swiss?!)

    Traditionally, Germany has been one of the main countries that produced high-quality watches. These might have “manufacture” movements of outstanding or just solidly good quality, or they might be equipped with a variety of “ebauches” – but even most of these would be German.

    If most people were today asked about what watchmaking or “ebaucherie” companies there were around about 40-50 years ago in Germany, most would come up with at least some if not all of the following:


    GUB (Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb), Glashütte – watchmaker using own movements

    Junghans, Schramberg – watchmaker using mainly own movements

    Hanhart, Diessenhofen – watchmaker, using mainly own movements of varying quality grades

    Kienzle, Schwenningen – watchmaker, using mainly own pin pallet movements

    Laco (Lacher & Co.), Pforzheim – watchmaker using German or Swiss ebauches

    Stowa (Walter Storz), Pforzheim – watchmaker using mainly German ebauches

    Durowe (Deutsche Uhren Rohwerke), Pforzheim – ebaucherie making high-quality lever movements

    PUW (Pforzheimer Uhrwerke), Pforzheim – ebaucherie making high-quality lever movements

    Ruhla/UMF, Ruhla – ebaucherie making cheap pin-pallet movements


    Why would people name these? Probably because they are either still in existence (GUB is the forerunner of Glashütte Original) or they produced so much that their products still abound on eBay and flea markets. But I wonder whether many of the buyers and fans of modern watches made in Germany using ETA movements really realise just what variety of truly German movements there was widely available before the quartz crisis? Who here has heard of even a half dozen of the following:


    AHO (August Hohl), Pforzheim – Swiss lever movements

    AHS (Alfred Hirsch), Schwenningen – pin pallet movements

    Bifora (Josef Bidlingmaier Formuhren), Schwäbisch Gmünd – watchmaker, using own high-quality lever movements

    Drusus (Paul Drusenbaum), Pforzheim – Swiss lever movements

    Emes (Müller-Schlenker), Schwenningen – Swiss lever movements

    Eppler – pin pallet movements

    Förster (Bernhard Förster), Pforzheim – Swiss lever movements

    HB (Hermann Becker), Pforzheim – Swiss lever movements

    HPP (Henzi & Pfaff Pforzheim) – Swiss lever movements

    Intex – Swiss lever movements

    Jäckle – pin-pallet movements

    Kasper, Pforzheim – Swiss lever movements

    Mauthe, Schwenningen – Swiss lever movements

    OSCO (Otto Schlund), Schwenningen – Swiss lever movements

    Otero (Otto Epple), Königsbach – Swiss lever movements

    Thiel, Ruhla – pin-pallet movements

    UROFA (Uhren Rohwerke Fabrik), Glashütte – Swiss lever movements

    UWERSI (Uhrenwerk Ersingen), Ersingen – pin-pallet movements


    The above grading is open to debate – particularly if a maker was selling ebauches, the end user could determine whether he was going to put in a Swiss lever or a pin pallet lever. Thus you might get a cheap looking movement which still has full jewelling and a Swiss lever. In my general experience, however, of the above, Förster, Otero, Kasper and HB always made high-quality movements while companies like Thiel made cheap movements of plate-and-pillar construction which may be used either way.

    So, the big question now is once again: would you consider a watch to be German if it was merely made in Germany? Or does it have to have a German movement (even just a cheap pin-pallet movement) as well?! For my money, it would definitely have to be the latter. This is the main reason why modern German watches don’t appeal to me very much (and why I don’t hang around on this forum as much as I might!): to me, they are simply Swiss watches in disguise. Don’t get me wrong – I am not criticising the likes of Rainer Brand and Jörg Schauer; the only option they have is to use ETA movements (which is what they do), develop their own (too expensive a prospect in the short or medium term) or shut down altogether (which is no help to anyone except the Swiss!). Still, as a German, I weep when I remember the days when Germany had such a strong, autonomous watch industry. Considering the interest in mechanical watches in Germany these days and the roaring success of Lange & Söhne after their reintroduction, not least due to the fact that they didn’t bring out a single watch until they had their own movements rather than use some high-grade LeCoultre calibres, wouldn’t it be nice to have some more affordable, “real” German watches?!

    Hartmut Richter

  2. #2
    Member Micha's Avatar
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    Re: Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    This answer is probably going to get me banned from the German watches forum, but here's my take
    I couldn't care less whether a watch is German, Swiss, Japanese or Icelandic (). I buy a watch because it should appeal to me. The brand is (very) important to me too. I buy a Sinn, Damasko or Stowa because I love their designs and their philosophy. Do I regard them less, because they use Swiss movements? Certainly not, especially because they will honestly say what movements they use. (Unlike brands like for instance Breitling of Tag Heuer who use ETA movement, but give them their own cal. numbers ). I love watches by Glashütte Original or Lange & Söhne too, but I would also like them if they were French
    That being said, I do think it's sad that a lot of low end German manufacturers disappeared. It would be nice to have some alternatives for ETA
    Mr Rick and RSDA like this.
    Cheers,
    Micha

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    There are a few left

    In my opinion, the heart and soul of a watch is the movement. For me to consider a watch truly German, it must have a German movement. I know that really limits the true German watches in my eyes, but that doesn't mean I won't buy anything else - I buy what I like.

    I just consider the ones made in Germany but using a Swiss movement to be "Swerman". Not that there's anything wrong with that. They just don't fit MY very narrow definition of German.

    I do own a couple mass-produced Swerman watches, a few hand-made German watches, and a few manufacture Swiss watches. And I like them all.

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    Member thodgins's Avatar
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    Re: There are a few left

    What German watches do you own? There is always Nomos, A Lange and Glashütte Original, the latter 2 coming at a greater cost than Nomos.

    It would be nice if there was a German movement maker that could produce a 2824 or Unitas 6498 type movement and be just as inexpensive as those movements. Quite frankly someone should look into they Seiko business model and try to emulate them because they do it all and keep their movments in house. Just food for thought.

    I know that Sellita and Mühle Glashütte have set up a joint venture in Glashütte called GUROFA. This gives Mühle the capability to manufacture movements and parts. I guess that is step in the right direction.
    ToddH

    "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein




  6. #5
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    Smile Re: Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    Very well put, Micha. My thoughts too.
    Regards to All:
    Richard

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    Re: Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    It would be nice if there was a German movement maker that could produce a 2824 or Unitas 6498 type movement and be just as inexpensive as those movements. Quite frankly someone should look into they Seiko business model and try to emulate them because they do it all and keep their movments in house. Just food for thought.
    Could be that the pending unavailability of ETA movements to companies outside Swatch Group is just the incentive German watch companies need to start seriously considering producing movements in-house, or forming joint ventures with other German companies to do so. I realize that this requires a large investment, but in a wealthy country with highly advanced technical and manufacturing expertise and well developed capital markets, it certainly should be doable.

    I 'd think that there would be a large market for high quality watches at a price point somewhere between Nomos and GO or Lange. Mid-priced ($2,000- $5,000) German made watches with German movements would sell extremely well, I believe.

    I, for one, would jump at the chance (and think lots of others would too) to buy, say a Damasko, Sinn, Muhle, or Stowa with a German movememt.

  8. #7
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    Re: Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    Hi -

    Micha, where did you see Icelandic watches? Bring them to the get-together on Saturday! At least one!



    JohnF
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  9. #8
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    Re: Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    Many thanks for all your replies and sentiments! It's nice to know that the interest in Germany watch history isn't entirely dead yet.

    I guess when I wrote that post, my intentions were twofold. First of all, it was to get all the frustrations at the present state of German watchmaking off my chest - IMO that general state is good but not as good as it was and, more importantly, not as good as it might be (at least IMO). Yes, I know, I am a muckstirrer who revels in poking hornet nests and seeing what comes up - I was mildly expecting the post to be too provocative to be tolerated on the forum without a healthy kick up the rear end and a shutting of the door behind me! (and all that just before the Rhein-Main meeting, too.....). But then, someone has to be that.

    The second, more important intended purpose was to sound out the German watch fan community about their feelings in the matter. I also believe that the intention of ETA to discontinue the supplies of movements or at least "ebauches" (raw movements or kits) to non-Swatch group members is both a problem but also a chance for the watch community. And especially so in Germany. One of the main cost issues in making new movements is the development factor. I believe that there are plenty of good German movements of the early seventies which might be rejuvenated. The Durowe 7420/7520 (manual/automatic) series, although between half and one millimetre thicker than the ETA 2824 and related calibres, is rugged and has almost everything you expect from a modern three-hand-plus-date movement: central second hand, versions with date and day-of-the-week, rapid date change, quick date setting - the only thing missing is a hack feature. The PUW 1560 is even a little slimmer and also has manual, date and day-date versions. Plus a version with digital indication of the time (although if you can do without the jumping hours bit, you can do that with almost any movement, I suppose). I think that one or both could be resurrected as the basis of a post-quartz crisis German watch industry - only the machinery is needed, no development. The rights to Durowe are with Jörg Schauer, maybe someone with the necessary cash and interest in watches ought to invest there and maybe he should accept the offer. Who knows, maybe he would, if someone offered?! Maybe the people with the necessary cash just need to be convinced that the market is just waiting for this? I still believe that the public reception of the Lange & Söhne revival proves that point.

    Many thanks for reading this and keep the replies (pros or cons) plugging!

    Hartmut Richter

  10. #9
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    Re: Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    Any news about the proposed Gematic all German movement? I think up till now they have been just decorating/improving Chinese movements, but had plans to shortly have a full in house movement available...

  11. #10
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    Re: Whatever happened to the "real" German watch?!

    I would love to see this Durowe 7440 movement used in watches. Like you already pointed out, Jörg would need the necessary backing to make it happen.


    Pic from the Durowe site. The project has been put on hold to use this in a watch according to the site.

    I think Mühle is headed in the right direction with GUROFA. It would be cool if someone invested the money and means into Durowe and if someone would also look into developing German made movements that are inexpensive to mid-level. There is a real potential but someone with the money and capital needs to make it happen.
    ToddH

    "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein




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