Glashütte is a small town tucked away between forests and hills, south of Berlin and near Dresden, located in the eastern Ore Mountains of Saxony, where watchmaking is a tradition. The timepieces made here are world-famous, and the watchmakers also count among the very best of their kind.
Watchmaking in Saxony began as a way of providing work for the inhabitants of this impoverished German region. Silver mining, which had supported the local economy for four centuries, had mostly died out by the late 17th century. Help eventually came from the regional capital, Dresden. In 1845, the Interior Ministry of the Kingdom of Saxony granted the master watchmaker Ferdinand Adolph Lange a loan to create jobs in the Saxon Ore Mountains. Lange introduced watchmaking to Glashütte with a teaching workshop, 15 apprentices, and a factory. That was how former miners, straw weavers, and other artisans started to learn a new trade.
This new industry flourished in Glashütte over the second half of the 19th and early 20th century, with the town’s name becoming synonymous with high-quality mechanical timepieces. But then history intervened: World War II and the founding of the East German state, two events that had a massive influence on the Glashütte watchmaking industry. The only company allowed to operate during GDR times was the state-run Glashütte Uhrenbetriebe (GUB), which focused on making low quality, mass-produced timepieces. The advent of the quartz-powered watch in the 1970s meant that knowledge of how to build mechanical watches was almost lost— but luckily, it survived in the homes of old watchmaking families, where it was conserved and passed on over the generations.
After 1990 and the reunification of Germany, a new beginning saw the light under challenging conditions. Roland Schwertner, the founder of NOMOS Glashütte, was one of the first to recognize the potential to revive fine mechanical watchmaking in Glashütte. NOMOS was founded on January 10, 1990, and as early as 1992, the production of mechanical watches resumed in Glashütte. Tangente, Orion, Tetra, and Ludwig were the first four models issued by NOMOS Glashütte, and continue to be bestsellers today.
Tangente is the iconic NOMOS timepiece—also known as the face of the brand. Its angular typography and straightforward lines make it instantly recognizable, and its modern design has been delighting watch fans since the early 1990s. The latest iteration, Tangente Update, features a unique ring date around the dial. This innovative mechanism is thanks to the caliber within, DUW 6101; like all NOMOS calibers, designed and built in-house in Glashütte.
The square watch model from NOMOS Glashütte, Tetra, is uncompromisingly angular. From the case to the typography, straight lines and right angles are what define this timepiece. It is also one of the original NOMOS models and now renowned for its wide range of colorful dials. Like all models from the brand, Tetra’s design is inherently unisex—although it does tend to be a particular favorite among women.
Ludwig is a traditional timepiece, updated for the modern era. The Roman numerals are balanced with indexes to give the dial a clean finish, while the subtly rounded case is reminiscent of a vintage pocket watch. It is a dress watch through and through, with a slender profile and elegant overall aesthetic. This year, NOMOS Glashütte released new versions of this original model—featuring a white enamel dial for the very first time.
The Orion model from NOMOS Glashütte is the epitome of “less is more,” combining elegance with minimalism. Using only indexes and slender hands to tell the time, Orion reduces the design down to the essentials. The result is a refined aesthetic that is classic yet modern and as fresh as the day it was released. Truly a timepiece for life!
Other companies also emerged from the state-owned company’s ruins, and the watchmaking town experienced a renaissance. Today, thirty years since German reunification, there are twelve watchmaking companies in the town and three that have concentrated on producing in-house calibers. NOMOS Glashütte, Glashütte Original, and A. Lange & Söhne are three leading companies still promoting the skills of fine mechanical watchmaking, two hundred years after Lange started the industry in Glashütte, Germany. And like the founder who began the Glashütte’s watchmaking tradition, NOMOS Glashütte is also an innovative force—for example, introducing its own in-house escapement in 2014.
Currently, Nomos has a total of thirteen watch collections: Ahoi, Autobahn, Club, Lambda, Ludwig, Lux, Metro, Minimatik, Orion, Tangenete, Tangomat, Tetra, and Zurich. With NOMOS Glashütte and all the other companies working in Glashütte, this German town’s watchmaking future looks brighter than ever in the 21st century.
About the Author
Susanne Samuelsson is from Sweden but has lived in Switzerland for most of her life. She has spent the last 20 years working for luxury watch publications in sales and marketing. She has worked for Europa Star, Revolution, Elite Traveler,Quintessentially and The Rake. She loves wearing men’s timepieces and since she started The Watch Pages has a list as long as your arm of new watches she would love to buy!