The German football team gave us a master class of clinical excellence at this summer’s World Cup finals. As for German cars, no matter what the competition throws at them, they always seem to remain at the top of their class. Germany’s economy seems to laugh at the rest of Europe, and I was reading recently how cool Berlin is as a place to live. To top it all, their beer tastes pretty good too.
But when it comes to watches, the Swiss have a lot of ground on them, though there are some very good German brands that should not be overlooked. A. Lange & Söhne is the most talked-about name, operating at the highest end of the industry and competing for customers with the mighty Patek Philippe. But at such high entry points, this only represents a small percentage of the watch buying and collecting community.
So, for the rest of us who fancy a quality watch that is not manufactured in Switzerland and is relatively well priced, to whom do we turn? Glashütte, that’s who. This brand tends to live in the shadow of Lange, but that is slightly unfair. Glashütte Original grew out of the 1994 privatisation of the East German Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, which in 1951 had nationalised the watch companies that had been based in Glashütte since the mid 1850s. The brand therefore draws on a long history of watchmaking. More importantly, its state-of-the art manufacturing facility, which produces fully in-house models, is on a par with some of the well-known Swiss brands — and at a competitive price, considering the level of detail that goes into every aspect of the production process.
“While the Swiss have a lot of ground on them, there are some very good German watch brands that should not be overlooked”
In the past I have tended to find some German watches a bit too clinical. This might be good when it comes to overall quality, but means they can lack certain soul and emotion. However there are watches that are slowly changing my opinion on this. The Glashütte Seventies Chronograph Panorama Date  (Dhs66,000) was my pick of the last Baselworld exhibition. The square face instantly makes it different to most of the chronographs I would consider wearing. For those who don’t know, I am a die-hard Patek Philippe fan and for some reason the blue faced version reminds me of the Patek Nautilus. Maybe it’s the combination of blue face and stainless steel that has me thinking this way. If it reminds me of one the most classic watch designs, it’s a good starting point. But there’s more to it than that. At first glance the dial seems quite plain, but on closer inspection you will see that it is actually very detailed, but in a very subtle way. The layout has been executed beautifully and the dial is easy to read, with the big date being a nice touch. When you turn it over, you will see that they have not taken any short cuts when it comes to the finishing of the movement.
There are a few versions of this model, but the other one that caught my eye was the full stainless version. This is my favourite from the range and has the soul and emotion that is necessary for me to part with my cash. If you want a chronograph that’s a bit different from the rest, this is really well worth considering.
Next up is the Senator Chronograph Panorama Date (Dhs225,000, right). This one is in the higher price range and I have picked the platinum version (rose gold is also available at Dhs127,500). The silver dial with blue hands is just such a good, crisp, clean combination. This watch has a huge power reserve of 70 hours, which is down to its new fully in-house movement. A really nice touch is the location of the power reserve indicator, set just inside one of the sub registers. Its 42mm size is bang on the money and will suit most wrists. It’s a classic-looking chronograph and, as with the Seventies model, this watch has an instant charm, while ensuring that clinical quality remains paramount.
These watches show that it’s not just Switzerland that has brands with a proud history and some serious technical skill. The story of Glashütte and German watchmaking is really interesting and well worth a reading up on — as you can do in this month’s Esquire Big Watch Book.
Sam Truman is Esquire’s resident watch expert, read his column every month in the monthly issue of Esquire Middle East.
Find his blog at http://dailybeater.com/