German watches enjoy a sterling reputation. They represent reliability, precision, and German engineering. Select German watches are among the most complicated, expensive, and exquisite in the world.
After Switzerland, Germany is one of the most important watch-producing countries in the world. Over 100 manufacturers are spread out across the entire country. The small town of Glashütte in southeastern Germany is the center of the German watch industry. There, multiple world-famous brands produce timepieces of the highest quality, including A. Lange & Söhne, NOMOS Glashütte, and Glashütte Original.
Luxury watches from A. Lange & Söhne are among the best and most exquisite the world has to offer. Industry experts often group this company with the "big three" of the Swiss watch industry: Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Vacheron Constantin. A. Lange & Söhne's most famous timepiece is the Lange 1 with an off-center dial and outsize date. Complicated watches with a perpetual calendar, tourbillon, and rattrapante chronograph are also in this German manufacturer's repertoire.
The Black Forest in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg is another important region for the German watch industry. The so-called "German Clock Road" snakes for 200 miles (320 km) through a large portion of the forest and passes through the area's watchmaking centers, showcasing the region's long watchmaking tradition.
Junghans is easily the most famous manufacturer from Germany's southwest region. Founded in 1861, this company from the small town of Schramberg was the world's largest watch manufacturer in the early 20th century. At that time, around 3,000 employees were producing over 3 million watches per year. One of the company's most famous wristwatches is the Max Bill. This timepiece debuted in 1961 and is named after its designer, a Swiss architect and artist who studied at the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany in the late 1920s. The Bauhaus was a short-lived, but highly influential school of art in Germany between World Wars One and Two. Its impact continues to be felt in art, architecture, and design to this day. In keeping with Bauhaus teachings, the watch's design is functional, linear, and reduced to the essentials. This watch manufacturer's catalog also includes state-of-the-art radio clocks with solar-powered quartz movements.
|A. Lange & Söhne||Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar||247,000 USD||41.9 mm||Perpetual calendar, tourbillon|
|A. Lange & Söhne||Lange 1||27,000 USD||38.5 mm||Outsize date|
|Glashütte Original||Senator Excellence||13,000 USD||40 mm||Automatic|
|NOMOS Glashütte||Tangente Neomatik 41 Update||3,100 USD||40.5 mm||Automatic, date|
|NOMOS Glashütte||Metro||2,700 USD||37 mm||Power reserve, date|
|Sinn Spezialuhren||UX GSG 9||2,300 USD||44 mm||Date|
|Junghans||Meister Pilot||1,900 USD||43 mm||Automatic, chronograph|
|Sinn Spezialuhren||103 St||1,800 USD||41 mm||Chronograph, day-date, automatic|
|Junghans||Max Bill||850 USD||38 mm||Automatic, date|
Glashütte, Germany has a long tradition of watchmaking to look back on. Ferdinand Adolph Lange laid the groundwork for the town's current success all the way back in 1845 by founding a watch industry based on the Swiss model. People have prized Glashütte watches for their accuracy and reliability for over 150 years, and for good reason: Only those who produce at least 50% of a movement's value in the town itself can put the "Glashütte" name on their dials. Brands like A. Lange & Söhne, Moritz Grossmann, Glashütte Original, and NOMOS go above and beyond this benchmark. In fact, NOMOS boasts vertical integration of up to 95%.
Watches from Glashütte cover a wide range of prices. For a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a quartz timepiece from Bruno Söhnle. NOMOS watches with mechanical in-house calibers begin around 1,100 USD with a manual movement and 2,000 USD with an automatic movement. At the other end of the price range, you'll find exquisite luxury watches from A. Lange & Söhne. Their platinum Zeitwerk Minute Repeater with a numeric time display demands over 340,000 USD, and the Grand Complication has a list price of around 2.1 million USD, making it one of the world's most expensive wristwatches.
That being said, owning a watch from A. Lange & Söhne doesn't have to require an investment of several hundred thousand dollars. The Lange 1 is markedly more affordable and has been this manufacturer's most famous model since its release in 1994. The perfect arrangement of its off-center time display and outsize date make this watch unmistakeable. With Roman numerals, a round gold or platinum case, and a fine leather strap, the Lange 1 makes the ideal dress watch. Each watch contains an intricately refined in-house movement. A pink gold timepiece costs around 37,000 USD in mint condition and about 23,500 USD pre-owned.
If you'd like to call the Lange 1 Time Zone with a world time function your own, be sure to set aside around 38,000 USD for a mint-condition white gold watch. Pre-owned, the same watch costs just under 36,500 USD. The most expensive model is the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, which demands some 247,000 USD new.
The Zeitwerk is another extraordinary timepiece. It was the first mechanical A. Lange & Söhne wristwatch to feature a numeric display. Instead of using two hands, this luxury watch shows the hours and minutes with jumping numerals, while the seconds are found on a small seconds dial with a hand. The beautifully refined in-house caliber L043.1 provides this timepiece with its 36-hour power reserve. Both the pink and white gold versions cost over 56,500 USD new and around 54,500 USD pre-owned.
The Tangente is usually the first thing people think of when they hear the word "NOMOS." No other watch is as closely associated with this Glashütte-based manufacturer as the Bauhaus-inspired timepiece. A flat, round case, angled lugs, a small seconds dial at 6 o'clock, and delicate hands define the look of this understated watch. The dial features alternating Arabic numerals and narrow indices. Small lines also make up the minute scale around the dial's edge. This unmistakable design has made the NOMOS Tangente a modern icon.
There are both manual and automatic Tangente models. The collection's highlight is the 41-mm Tangente Neomatik 41 Update from 2018. Despite having an automatic caliber, it's only 7.9 mm thick. Two red dots frame the current date on the edge of the dial. The manufacturer outfits this timepiece with the caliber DUW 6101. This movement features the NOMOS Swing System – the company's own escapement system, which debuted in 2014. The Swing System also serves as a statement of independence to the rest of the industry as very few brands are capable of building their own swing and escapement systems. A mint-condition Tangente Neomatik 41 Update demands around 3,100 USD. Pre-owned, this timepiece changes hands for about 2,600 USD.
The classic Tangente premiered in 1992, two years after the company's foundation. It is 35 mm in diameter and powered by the manual Alpha caliber. At 6.2 mm thick, it's the perfect watch to wear to the office. Prices for this timepiece range from under 1,100 USD pre-owned to around 1,400 USD new, making the Tangente one of the most affordable watches made in Glashütte.
The Metro is yet another award-winning NOMOS watch. Berlin-based designer Mark Braun is responsible for this timepiece's chic appearance. Dots for the hours and minutes, a small seconds dial at 6 o'clock, and tapered hands shaped like the Empire State Building define this watch's design.
The original NOMOS Metro was also the first timepiece to feature their Swing System when it came to market in 2014. The original model has a disc-shaped power reserve indicator on the upper half of the dial and a date at 6 o'clock. Be sure to have at least 2,700 USD on hand to call a new Metro your own. Pre-owned pieces often cost a few hundred dollars less, but you'll need 100 USD more to purchase the 35-mm Neomatik version.
The Senator luxury watch collection from Glashütte Original pairs classic design with modern in-house calibers. These movements often have intricate finishes and are on par with those from A. Lange & Söhne. Defining features of this timepiece include tempered blue pear-shaped hands, Roman numerals, and a railway minute scale around the edge of the dial. The Grande Cosmopolite Tourbillon is this collection's top model and a wonderful example of haute horlogerie with its perpetual calendar, tourbillon, and world time function. Plan to spend around 369,000 USD for this complicated luxury watch.
Simple three-hand watches with automatic calibers are markedly less expensive. At 7,300 USD new and 6,400 USD pre-owned, the stainless steel Senator Excellence is relatively affordable. On the other hand, the red gold model sells for between 11,500 and 13,500 USD.
If you're looking for a functional wristwatch with a sporty yet elegant design, you may enjoy the Senator Chronograph Panorama Date. The stainless steel edition with glow-in-the-dark hands and indices and Roman numerals at 6 and 12 o'clock is this collection's sportiest model. The in-house caliber 37-01 provides this timepiece with its flyback chronograph, power reserve display, and large panorama date. In stainless steel, this chronograph costs around 11,400 USD new and 10,000 USD pre-owned. The version in 18-karat red gold demands about 21,500 USD in mint condition and 18,000 USD pre-owned.
Glashütte is home to a handful of other watch manufacturers, including Mühle Glashütte, Union Glashütte, Wempe Glashütte, and Tutima. Tutima is best known for their pilot's watches, both past and present. They were already producing a pilot's chronograph with a flyback function – known as the Tempostopp – all the way back in the 1940s. Today, their Grand Flieger Classic watches resemble historic pilot's watches thanks to their fluted bezels and pear-shaped hands. You can purchase a new Grand Flieger Classic Chronograph for about 3,800 USD. Prices for pre-owned pieces begin around 2,300 USD. Watches from the 1940s are highly coveted among collectors and cost between 4,500 and 10,500 USD.
The Tutima Military Chronograph is yet another beloved military watch from this Glashütte-based manufacturer. Developed in the mid-1980s, this wristwatch remains the official chronograph of the German Air Force. Rounded edges, integrated push-pieces, a 24-hour display, and a central minute counter define this military timepiece. You can purchase a pre-owned chronograph for as little as 1,800 USD. The current version of the Air Force chronograph – the Tutima M2 – demands around 4,600 USD in mint condition.
Wempe Glashütte's top model is a barrel-shaped platinum watch, the Chronometerwerke Tourbillon, which is limited to a run of 25 pieces. The German watch manufacturer developed this watch's movement in collaboration with NOMOS. This gem of a watch has a list price of 49,500 euros (approx. 56,500 USD). Watches from the Zeitmeister collection are much more affordable. You can purchase the chronograph with a calendar and moon phase indicator for about 4,000 USD. The Zeitmeister World Time costs even less at around 2,200 USD.
The German watch brand Mühle Glashütte has a reputation for producing high-quality functional wristwatches meant for use at sea, underwater, or in an airplane. For example, this family-owned company developed their S.A.R. collection specifically for maritime search and rescue services and pilots. You can purchase the large S.A.R. Flieger Chronograph (pilot's chronograph) with its crown and push pieces on the left-hand side for around 2,300 USD pre-owned. Prices for never-worn watches begin around 3,200 USD. At 1,300 to 1,600 USD, the three-hand S.A.R. Rescue Time is even more affordable.
One of the most popular Union Glashütte collections is the Belisar, which is composed of pilot's and racing watches. The sporty and elegant Belisar Chronograph Moon Phase with a calendar function is a particularly interesting model. New, this timepiece sells for just over 2,600 USD, while pre-owned models cost about 340 USD less. There's also the limited edition Belisar Sachsen Classic 2018, a retro chronograph limited to a run of 300 watches. It has a particularly fashion-forward design and demands around 2,800 USD new. The Belisar Pilot Power Reserve received the coveted "Watch of the Year" award from the German trade magazine Armbanduhren in 2016. If you'd like to call this award-winning watch your own, be sure to set aside 2,000 USD for a never-worn timepiece and 1,900 USD for a pre-owned one.
Junghans is one of the most famous German watch manufacturers outside of Glashütte. This company is based in the southwestern town of Schramberg and can trace its watchmaking tradition back over 150 years, making it one of the oldest German watch brands. In fact, in the 1950s, Junghans was Germany's largest manufacturer of chronometers and the third largest producer in the world. They also provided troops in the newly formed West German military with their first pilot's chronographs in the 1950s.
The Max Bill is perhaps the most famous Junghans watch. The eponymous artist, architect, and designer studied at the Bauhaus school of art in the German city of Dessau and was also one of the founders of the Ulm School of Design. Like the Bauhaus, this design school managed to have a lasting influence on modern design despite its short existence. In the early 1950s, Bill worked with his students to design a functional, easy-to-read wall clock for Junghans. This everyday object went on to serve as his inspiration for the Max Bill wristwatch; the design has changed very little over the decades. Narrow hands and indices, hour indices that stretch well into the dial, and small luminous dots at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o'clock characterize this timepiece. In fact, two of these dots sit on either side of the hour marker at 12. Some models feature shorter hour indices to make room for a set of Arabic numerals.
Inside the Junghans Max Bill, you'll find either a mechanical or battery-powered ETA caliber. Both have been on the market for a long time and are, therefore, proven to be reliable. Models with precise quartz movements are especially affordable at around 450 USD. The Max Bill MEGA costs about 230 USD more and uses a radio-controlled quartz movement. If you're looking for a manually-wound mechanical Max Bill, plan to spend around 620 USD. The automatic version sells for some 850 USD. Prices for a new Max Bill Chronoscope with a chronograph function sit at just under 1,500 USD.
The Junghans Meister is yet another simple wristwatch collection from this Schramberg-based company. Tidy dials with dauphine hands and narrow indices or Arabic numerals define this series. The retro Meister Pilot watch resembles German military chronographs from the 1950s thanks to its black dial and twelve-sided bezel. However, with a diameter of 43 mm, this new model is much larger than its historic predecessor. The Junghans caliber J880.4, based on the ETA 2824, powers this timepiece. It has a chronograph module, can measure periods of time up to 30 minutes, and offers a power reserve of 38 hours. The final watch offers great value for money, with never-worn examples costing around 1,900 USD. Depending on its condition, a vintage model from the 50s can cost anywhere between 1,500 and 4,600 USD.
Sinn Spezialuhren is a relatively young German watch manufacturer located in Frankfurt am Main. The pilot, flight instructor, and rally car driver Helmut Sinn founded the business in 1961 with a focus on creating functional watches at affordable prices. This philosophy still drives the company to this day. This is why Sinn's catalog includes easy-to-read pilot's and diving watches, as well as so-called "mission timers" used by search and rescue personnel and special forces.
For example, the diving watch UX GSG 9 is used on dives by the maritime division of the GSG 9, the elite tactical unit of Germany's federal police. This quartz watch is made of submarine steel and functions without issue in depths of up to 5,000 m (500 bar, 16,404 ft). It has a peak water resistance of 12,000 m (1,200 bar, 39,370 ft). A mint-condition example of this robust wristwatch demands around 2,300 USD. Pre-owned, you can purchase this timepiece for about 1,600 USD.
The Sinn 103 St is a classic German pilot's watch. Features of this chronograph include a black dial, bidirectional bezel with a 60-minute scale, day-date display at 3 o'clock, and subdials at 6, 9, and 12 o'clock. Impact-resistant acrylic glass protects the dial of the standard edition. Its stainless steel case is water resistant to 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft), making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Sinn outfits this timepiece with the time-tested Valjoux 7750 caliber. At around 1,800 USD new, the 103 St is an affordable chronograph.
Germany is home to countless watch manufacturers. Companies dot the landscape from east to west, north to south, in big cities and small towns. The two main centers, however, remain Glashütte in southeastern Germany's Ore Mountains and the Black Forest – particularly the city of Pforzheim – in the country's southwest. Brands like Archimede, Benzinger, Laco, and Stowa reside in or around the bigger cities. Laco is especially well-known for their pilot's watches.
In Ismaning near the southern German city of Munich, you will find POINT tec Electronic GmbH. A series of brands known for their affordable yet high-quality watches, including Junkers, Zeppelin, Iron Annie, and Maximilian, all belong to this larger company. Other brands located in Munich include UTS München and Erwin Sattler.
The most notable watch manufacturer in Berlin, Germany's capital, is Askania. Founded in 2004, this company uses precision and optical equipment from the now-defunct Askania Werke AG, which also called Berlin home. Film cameras and projectors were among Askania Werke AG's most famous products.
The Berlin-based manufacturer Lilienthal is one of the industry's young start-ups. Their approachable wristwatches are all made in Germany with sleek modern designs. Swiss movements power these timepieces. Most feature a quartz Ronda movement, though they also recently released their first automatic watch with a Sellita caliber. On the other hand, each dial and band comes straight from Germany.
Back in western Germany, you'll find the brand Meistersinger. Located in the northwestern city of Münster, this manufacturer specializes in one-hand watches, which they've been producing since 2001. While the company may be rather new, one-hand watches have a long established history. Single-hand tower clocks were a widespread phenomenon back in the Middle Ages. The brand's name also has historic origins: Back in the 15th and 16th centuries, poets and singers often came together to form guilds. Their members were known as "Meistersinger" or "master signers." Famed German composer Richard Wagner even wrote an opera about this guild, titled "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" or "The Master Singers of Nuremberg."
The one-hand design has a notable advantage: It slows everything down. This is also represented in the brand's logo, an upside down fermata or pause as used in music. Meistersinger's catalog ranges from classic round dress watches and timelessly simple Bauhaus-inspired pieces all the way to sports watches with 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft) of water resistance. Prices for their distinct one-hand watches begin around 570 USD for a quartz watch and go all the way up to about 17,000 USD for a limited edition in gold. However, prices for the vast majority of their mechanical timepieces fall between 1,100 and 2,300 USD.