Glashütte is a very small town in Germany, between Dresden and the Czech border, with just a population of just 7,000. The name has become synonymous with quality German watchmaking, with 1,200 people employed in the sector here, from a total of 3,000 in the whole of Germany. Brands located here include Glashütte Original, A. Lange & Söhne, Mühle-Glashütte, Nomos Glashütte, and others. Today we are talking to Yann Gamard, CEO of Glashütte Original, and looking at some of the brand’s highlights presented at Baselworld, in March 2014.
Glashütte Original is one of the few watch brands to use its own in-house movements. This is where Yann Gamard began.
“Every brand in the watch business claims to be a manufacture, in other words a company in which at least 80% of the watchmaking processes are situated under one roof, but many of them simply assemble components made by subcontractors. For us, the fact that we are a manufacture is important. We have three production facilities, two in Glashütte, and one in Pforzheim for dials. In addition, in the same building in Pforzheim, we work with another company specializing in cases and jewel-setting. All together, these enable us to attain the essence of our products, with intricate movements and finely-finished dials and cases. The exterior is the face of the watch, and the movement is its soul, the part that all watch designers long to reveal – I soon discovered that if there was a hard, non-scratch Plexiglas, they would use it for the case so that they could reveal more of the movement! But consumers like to see a beautiful watch, so a fine movement is placed in a beautiful case, with a beautiful dial. Having a manufacture means that we can control all of this.”
The Senator Chronograph Panorama Date is the perfect example. Its inner beauty takes the form of the new calibre 37-01, and its functions include a flyback chronograph, Panorama date (big date) display, and a very neat indicator within the small seconds subdial for the 70-hour power reserve. The beauty of the watch’s soul can be seen through the transparent caseback, and the dial is a masterpiece of clarity, simplicity and elegance. It is particularly beautiful in the platinum-case version.
“The dial is in solid gold, which is engraved, painted and cleaned, then a solution of silver powder is brushed on by the craftsman, who then rubs it carefully to initiate a chemical mechanism that binds the silver to the gold. The technique, that we call silver-plating by friction, was used in the 19th century for the dials of pendulum clocks, at a time when there were no machine tools for this sort of finish. We wanted to preserve this art. It gives the dial a special finish and a unique colour, and it makes every watch slightly different.”
The Senator Chronograph Panorama Date is the classical man’s watch in its 42-millimetre case, but Glashütte Original has a long heritage of watches for women.
“The Pavonina is a design based on a historical watch; in its history, Glashütte Original and the forerunning company has made more women’s watches than men’s. Contrary to many women’s watches that are just downsized men’s watches, we wanted to make a watch just for women, and it was designed by women, for women, around women. The case is in three parts, with a slight curve for absolute comfort on the wrist. The quartz movement was developed with our partner company Eta, and we manufacture it ourselves, giving it the customary fine finish. The case of the version that has been introduced this year is set with 308 brilliant-cut diamonds, with another in the crown, 12 as hour-indices on the dial, and another 118 creating the cushion-shaped motif at the centre. A special feature is the fact that the strap can be changed directly by its owner.”
The rounded-square shape of the Pavonina can also be found in a men’s watch, the Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date, with its sporty dial, stainless steel case, and a chronograph arrangement in which the hours are totalled on a numerical display. The new calibre, 37-02, is similar to the 37-01, with the column wheel in view, and likewise the skeletonized rotor with a weight in 21-carat gold. Variants have different dial finishes, blue, ruthenium and silver.
But Yann Gamard was wearing another watch, the PanoMaticInverse, very unusual with its dial with vertical Glashütte stripe finish, and the duplex swan-neck in full view. “I love this watch, and I think that it is the epitome of Glashütte Original. It’s discreet, elegant, with a new in-house Calibre 91-02 movement, and very aesthetic looks.” Its originality is based on the idea that the dial resembles what you usually see through the transparent caseback, with blued steel screws and rubies providing extra decorative highlights, though they are also functional. The time indications and Panorama date are offset to give space to the superb balance wheel, with double swan-necked adjustment, which adds depth to the dial. The finish is superb, and always reminds me of treble clefs on a music stave.
Glashütte Original is in fact a partner of the Dresden Music Festival, an annual event which opened this year on 22 May 2014. Perhaps this is why Yann Gamard used a musical metaphor to answer a question on his career in the watch business and his work at Glashütte. “I am the conductor, but I am not interesting: the important part is played by the musicians. When I was asked to take on the role of CEO at Glashütte Original, I accepted immediately, because it’s like a conductor who arrives to lead a great orchestra. He lifts his baton and knows that they are going to be in tune.”
Not only do they play in tune, their production is increasing while maintaining highest levels of quality. “We are not Swiss, we are German. If we want to be successful, we have to be as good as the Swiss, so high quality is essential. Our watches are only released if they are perfect. We now have 550 employees, 200 of whom are youngsters. Four years ago we had a six-month backlog, and today we still have the same backlog, but we have doubled the business.”