Laco began life as Lacher & Co. in 1925 in Pforzheim, where they are still based today. They are most famously known for being one of the five brands contracted to produce flieger watches (such as the Beobachtungsuhr) for pilots in the German Luftwaffe ― alongside A. Lange & Söhne, Stowa, and Wempe.
The Laco of today continues to be popular for its flieger watches. And unlike IWC and Stowa, Laco doesn’t shy away from using Japanese movements so that it can offer its flieger watches at more affordable prices. For more discerning fans, Laco also has a range of higher-end flieger watches that feature Swiss movements and artificially weathered cases and dials. Not wanting to be boxed in to just making fliegers, Laco also has a range of dive and dressy vintage-inspired watches.
Steinhart was founded by Günter Steinhart at the start of the current millennium and has grown rapidly to become one of the largest microbrands today. Though it operates mainly through its website, Steinhart can now count on a network of distributors that span the globe from Finland and Poland, to faraway places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea. For better or worse, the company is most famous for its homage watches, which draw heavily from the design of vintage Rolexes.
The Ocean collection of dive watches that pay homage to Rolex’s Submariners is arguably the company’s most well-known. And following the rise in interest in Paul Newman Daytonas, Steinhart promptly released its strangely named Ocean One Vintage Chronograph – a Paul Newman Daytona homage that’s powered by an ETA-2824 with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module. Today, the company is making attempts to forge new grounds by introducing original designs with models like the Triton, Apollon, and Lemans GT.
Founded in 1927, the name Stowa is a portmanteau of its founder, Walter Storza. Today, the company is run by Jörg Schauer, a watchmaker who acquired the brand in 1996 from Werner Storz, Walter’s son. The brand was most prolific in the late Thirties and Forties. During this period, the brand produced its first Bauhaus-style watches, and it was later contracted to produce pilot watches for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) to be used in the Second World War.
The modern Stowa operates almost exclusively online and it is most famous for its Flieger and Antea collection of watches. The Flieger collection houses modern interpretations of the classic Beobachtungsuhr as well as versions that are more faithful to the original. The Antea collection, on the other hand, continues Stowa’s history of making Bauhaus style watches with designs that pay homage to the past, but with modern twists.
Damasko was founded in 1994 by Konrad Damasko, who realized that the high-performance materials that he developed for aerospace applications would be ideal for highly durable watches. In fact, up until 2002, Damasko was a supplier of hardened watch cases to Sinn. Today, Damasko continues the tradition of making tough watches. For example, its dive watches are made out of submarine steel and are bead-blasted and surface hardened to give them an enhanced Vickers rating that exceeds typical 316L stainless steel watches.
Like most young watch brands, Damasko is focused on developing its own movements. It has even developed its own silicon balance spring, called the EPS spiral, and silicon escape wheel. But as competent as Damasko’s in-house movements are, it’s most well-known models are arguably the DA38 series of flieger-inspired watches, which are powered by ETA movements are their equivalents. These feature the brand’s signature hardened cases and dials that are inspired by fliegers of old.
Junghans got its start in 1861 when it was founded by Erhard Junghans. In the company’s earliest years, it was focused on producing clocks. In 1903, with an annual production of over three million clocks, it was the largest clock manufacturer in the world. It was only in the Thirties ― some 70 years after its founding ― that Junghans made its first watch.
The modern Junghans is known for its association with Swiss designer Max Bill. A disciple of the Bauhaus style, Max designed clocks and watches for Junghans that became horological icons. Today, Junghans still produces watches inspired by Max Bill’s original designs in its Max Bill collection. These are classically-styled watches that adhere to the mantra of form follows function and have proved to be resolutely timeless.
Mühle Glashütte, founded by Robert Mühle in 1869 in the state of Saxony, holds the distinction of being the oldest family-owned watchmaking company in Germany while also being, in practice, one of the youngest, having not produced a wristwatch until 1996. The company originally made time measuring instruments for the German Watchmaking School and afterward, with the onset of the World Wars, began making speedometers for motorcycles, dashboard counters for automobiles, and onboard timers for military planes, among a host of other timing devices. At the end of World War II, and the postwar partitioning of Germany, while nearly every other German firm that made watches and clocks consolidated into a single state-owned entity, Mühle continued under family ownership, and a different corporate name, branching out its manufacturing expertise into the fields of camera equipment and temperature and pressure gauges.
In 1994, after East and West Germany finally reunited and historic watchmakers like A. Lange & Söhne began re-emerging under private ownership, Mühle Glashütte as we know it today was formed under the leadership of family scion Hans-Jürgen Mühle and his son Thilo. Kicking off the modern collection was the timepiece the duo produced at the request of the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, the S.A.R. Rescue Timer, which is still in use by the service to this day, and the other military piece that followed it, the S.A.R. Flieger Chronograph used by rescue pilots. The Muhle line has expanded from its military origins to encompass both sporty and luxurious models, and the company, now under the sole leadership of Thilo Muhle, has even dabbled in making its own in-house movements and modules. Best of all, the firm offers its products at very competitive prices compared to many of its neighbors in the watchmaking town of Glashütte.
Tutima was formed in 1927 by Dr Ernst Kurtz through the merger of two companies: Uhren-Rohwerke-Fabrik Glashütte AG and Uhrekfabrik Glashütte AG. Like other brands based in Glashütte, Tutima was affected by the Second War World. Dr Kurtz quickly moved west before the war was over and set up a small watch factory in Ganderkesee, near Bremen. It was there that Kurtz became a mentor to one Dieter Delecate, who revived the Tutima name and moved back to Glashütte.
To commemorate the move back to Glashütte, the company created the Tutima Glashütte Hommage Minute Repeater ― the first full minute repeater ever made in Glashütte, and also the first wrist minute repeater in German watchmaking history. With interest in Glashütte watchmaking at an all-time high, the company released its Patria watches in 2019. The Patria is a classic-looking watch with a hand-wound in-house movement executed with a traditional Glashütte three-quarter plate, gold chatons, and screwed balance wheel.
Sinn was founded in 1961 by Helmut Sinn as Helmut Sinn Spezialuhren. This makes it a relatively old name in German watchmaking. Unlike most of its German counterparts, Sinn was founded in Frankfurt and still operates there today. The history of the modern company really began in 1994, when it was acquired by Lothar Schmidt, an engineer who promptly renamed the company Sinn Spezialuhren. Thereafter, the company was focused on developing technologies for making sturdy tool watches.
Sinn’s most recognisable model has to be the U1 dive watch. Unlike most other dive watches, which are made of stainless steel, the U1 is unique in that it’s made out of German Submarine Steel. Additionally, the bezel has been treated with Sinn’s Tegiment technology, which increases the hardness level even further. Dive watches aside, Sinn also has watches designed for financial professionals like the 6096 Frankfurt World Time Watch that tracks time in three time zones ― after all, Sinn is based in one of the major financial centers of Europe.
Founded in 1990, just two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nomos has, in the short span of thirty years, risen to become one of the most popular brands in German watchmaking. Much of this is down to a combination of sensible pricing, classic Bauhaus design, and outstanding quality. In the past couple of years, the brand has been steadfast in its pursuit of developing in-house movements and can now count upon an arsenal of well-designed calibers to put in its watches.
Today, Nomos is renowned for its classic Bauhaus style watches. The OG Tangente 38 is a hot favorite, and it’s not difficult to see why, with its ageless look. More recently, the brand has been trying to break out of its shell with sportier watches like its Ahoi dive watches and racing-inspired Autobahn watches.
The history of Glashütte Original is complex. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union, which controlled East Germany and therefore Glashütte, consolidated all of the watch companies operating in the town under one company called the Volkseigener Betrieb Glashutter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB). This state-owned enterprise was later allowed to be privatized in 1994, which led to the Glashütte Original that we know today.
The brand is arguably most famous for its Pano collection, which can be easily identified by its asymmetrical dial – à la Lange 1. Among the collection, the most distinctive is hands down the PanoInverse, so-called because the back of the movement has been flipped to form the dial of the watch. This exposes the large movement plate with Glashütte ribbing and the intricately decorated balance cock for all to see.
MeisterSinger was founded in 2001 by Manfred Brassler. Interestingly, MeisterSinger was Brassler’s second watch brand and he had the goal of making watches that were “unmatched in simplicity and clarity.” This resulted in MeisterSinger watches having only one hand. The concept might seem unfathomable, but the truth is that the earliest clocks only had one hand.
The No. 01 is surely MeisterSinger’s most famous model. It’s a time-only watch with just one hand and large Arabic markers around the clean dial. It seems unusual at first, but its clever design means you do get the hang of reading it after a while. Recently, the brand has been introducing more complicated watches to its collection. This includes models like the Lunascope, which has a moonphase indicator, and the Astroscope, which tells the day and date. MeisterSinger has also embarked on creating in-house movements. In 2014, it debuted the MSH01, a hand-wound movement with an impressive 120-hour power reserve.
Lang & Heyne
Lang & Heyne was founded in 2001 by Marco Lang and Mirko Heyne in Dresden, which is just 30km north of Glashütte. Like Moritz Grossman just below, Lang & Heyne is one of Germany’s most exclusive watch brands, with annual production said to be only around 50 pieces. The company prides itself on ultra-traditional watchmaking, so everything is made by hand and in time-honored techniques. Apart from the usual three-quarter plate and hand-engraved balance cocks, Lang & Heyne goes further with screws that are beveled, have domed threads, and tin-polished heads. Wheels are made of solid gold and chamfered to reduce friction.
The brand’s most well-known watch is arguably also it’s most unconventional. It’s called the Georg and, rectangular case aside, its claim to fame is really its movement. Dubbed the Caliber VII, it has none of the traditional elements of German-made movements like the three-quarter plate and hand-engraved balance cock. Instead, the Caliber VII is a series of immaculately finished bridges and wheels that terminates in a large screwed balance wheel held by a large balance bridge.
Moritz Grossmann as a brand was founded in 2008 by Christine Hutter, and presented its first watch in 2010 ― just 10 years ago. The history of the name, however, goes back much further. Moritz Grossmann was born in Dresden in 1826 and, alongside Ferdinand Adolph Lange, was one of the pioneers of the watchmaking industry in Glashütte.
The brand is one of the most exclusive watchmakers in Glashütte. Because of their steadfast pursuit of the concept of “manu factum” ― meaning everything made by hand ― Moritz Grossmann’s annual production is measured in hundreds and not thousands unlike crosstown rivals like A. Lange & Söhne. The brand’s most famous model is the Benu, a classically designed watch made to exacting standards. Like most high-end watches made in Glashütte, Moritz Grossman’s watches feature traditional elements like three-quarter plates, Glashütte ribbing, and hand-engraved balance cocks.
A. Lange & Söhne
Widely regarded as the granddaddy of German watchmaking, A. Lange & Söhne was founded by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in 1845 in the sleepy village of Glashütte. It’s really a story of two brands. The original company ceased to exist after the Soviet Union took over East Germany, and the company that we know now was revived in 1990 by Walter Lange, the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, with the late and great Günter Blümlein, and help from several other Swiss manufactures including IWC and JLC.
Though the modern incarnation of A. Lange & Söhne is a mere three decades old, its contribution to watchmaking is impressive. For most, the iconic Lange 1 is the face of the brand, the importance of the Datograph cannot be overstated. After all, the Dato, as it is affectionately referred to by fans, is widely regarded as the watch that gave brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin a kick in the pants and forced them to speed up development on their own in-house, manually-wound chronograph movements. Today, the brand is venturing into new territories with the Odysseus – their take on a stainless steel sports watch.