Hailing from and taking its name from the former East German city, Glashütte Original is one of the arrows in the Swatch Group’s quiver to offer variety and great watchmaking to her customers. We caught up with Dieter Pachner, VP Sales of Glashütte Original over lunch, and discussed divers subjects that affect our industry and the company.
Glashütte Original – a bit of history
Glashütte Original’s story is not one of rising from ashes like the other famous Glashütte watchmaker A Lange & Söhne. GO claims its origins in 1845 to F. A Lange, and the company has been in existance with continuous production of watches as Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb (GUB) ever since. After the Second World War, as Glashütte fell within the governance of the Soviets, it quickly was sealed behind the Iron Curtain. The Soviets establish the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in what is generally known as East Germany. The GDR government, being communist seinzed all private property and consolidated all watchmaking companies under the state owned GUB.
GUB continued to make watches under the GUB brand name under the GDR regime. As East Germany was isolated from the rest of the world and only have access to Soviet bloc technology, she had established herself to be independent, and totally self sufficient. She continued to operate in this manner from 1949 till the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 when Germany was reunited. The company was re-formed as GUB GmbH in 1990 under a capitalist funding from Heinz Pfeiffer (a West German industrialist) and was subsequently acquired by The Swatch Group in 2000.
In conversation: Dieter Pachner, VP Sales of Glashütte Original
Our discussion began at the beautiful restaurant of Salt Grill at level 55 of Ion Orchard, surrounded by 360 degree views of the city. The conversation was free flowing, and we jumped from one topic to another. Here are some snippets, paraphrased to allow our readers an eavesdrop.
Of markets and consumers
The subject with the VP of Sales naturally would fall on where they are selling their watches. The current collection is now organized into 4 lines viz the Art & Teknik, the Quintessentials, the Vintage and the Ladies. Dieter revealed that they seem to be doing almost equally well in all the collection. Sales have been on an all time high, he says, and although the biggest consumers are the Chinese, the largest market is still Germany.
The distinction between markets and consumers is an interesting one. It is perhaps common knowledge that the Chinese are the largest population base and therefore the largest consumer market in the world. This goes especially for luxury products, where most, if not all high end luxury brands do well in China. And increasingly so, as the Chinese increase their travel abroad, they are making their consumerism impact outside of China. For example, it is not uncommon these days to find Chinese speaking staff in the Grand Magasins in Paris. A shift from the 1990s when the Asian language of choice was Japanese.
For GO, although Germany is the best market, only 50% are domestic customers, and broadly the other 50% are mainly Chinese visitors. We are also seeing this phenomena across other luxury brands ranging from Louis Vuitton to Hermes and Vacheron Constantin to Rolex and from Leica to Vertu.
Of the Caliber 37 Chronograph and the rise of the accessible chronograph
As Dieter was wearing a prototype of the Vintage Collection’s Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date, our discussion steered towards the watch on his wrist.
He whipped it off his wrist and showed the movement. This was a model which was introduced in BaselWorld 2014. We covered the same chronograph movement in a Senator case here. The Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date has been in existance for a while before the new Caliber 37 movement is used in it. In its earlier incarnations, it had a Dubuis Depraz chronograph within. Although GO has some very beautiful chronographs, when they began the Seventies collection, they had to use a movement from Dubuis Depraz for cost reasons.
The new Caliber 37 was developed to meet a lower price point. Dieter was careful to select his words, and avoided “entry level”, even though we suggested that term during our discussion. He said that the watch was designed to make a classical column wheel chronograph more accessible. And encased in a stainless steel case, the price is rather remarkable at approximately €13,000. For this, GO delivers an in-house developed and manufactured chronograph with a modern vertical clutch and column wheel. Nicely finished in the traditional Glashütte style.
All components except for the strap and the balance wheel/hairspring assembly (made by Nivarox, a Swatch Group sister company) is made by GO. The dial, appliques and hands are manufactured in-house in the GO dial making facility Pforzheim.
Of Independents and their role in the industry
As I had on me the review sample of the Cabestan Winch Tourbillon Verticale, the discussion wandered to Independent Watchmakers. The discussion was quite interesting but very varied, as such open ended discussions often tend to be. But we concluded with a general agreement that although the Independents are serving a customer base which is different from those of the big Groups (like Swatch, Richemont, LVMH, Kering et al) both are essential to the other for the good health of the industry.
It was an interesting discussion and all to soon, lunch was over, we had espressos and parted. We were both veterans in this industry. I started as a collector some 25 years ago, and now run this online publication. Dieter started as a watchmaker, and has some 30 years under his belt in the industry. With these 55 years collective experience, it is no surprise that the conversation was invigorating. As we covered many subjects, often jumping from one to the other, I have found Dieter to be very engaging, and enjoyed the discussion. Till the next time. Tschüß!