Several years ago, Glashütte Original introduced a limited-edition watch called the Senator Observer, a white-gold timepiece that celebrated the memory of German watchmaker Julius Assmann and famed explorer Roald Amundsen. It was modeled on the traditional observation watches (more widely known as “deck watches”) made in the German town of Glashütte, which were used by navigators to determine a ship’s position at sea. As of 2012, there is an unlimited version in a stainless steel case with two dial options.
Assmann was one of the legendary watchmakers who established the industry in Glashütte, located in the German state of Saxony. His firm specialized in the manufacture of observation watches and marine chronometers, which were renowned for their precision and reliability, particularly under extreme weather conditions. Pioneering explorers such as Amundsen, who took several Julius Assmann observation watches with him on his legendary expedition to the South Pole in 1911, found these timepieces to be indispensable instruments for navigation. (To read more about marine chronometers from Glashütte, click here.)
The Senator Observer takes its design cues directly from those vintage observation watches made in Assmann’s Glashütte atelier, though its interior workings have at least one significant difference: in contrast to the hand-wound movements of the historical deck watches, the movement in this contemporary version, Caliber 100-14, is self-winding. (Click on photos for larger images.)
The dials of both versions — one in white and the other gray — are made with three separate layers of lacquer and boast a finely textured, grained surface. The running seconds are on a subdial at 9 o’clock, and the power-reserve display — with the German indicators “Auf” (“Up”) and Ab (“down”) at either end — is at 3 o’clock. The so-called panorama date display, a hallmark of Glashütte Original timepieces, is prominently placed at 6 o’clock. The hands are made of blued steel, the Arabic numerals are in either black (white dial) or white (gray dial) and a milled railroad chapter ring is on the periphery of the dial.
The 44-mm case is fashioned of polished and satin-brushed stainless steel and is available on either a black Louisiana alligator leather strap or a “vintage” brown calfskin strap, both equipped with a stainless steel fold-over clasp. A sapphire viewing window in the back shows off Glashutte Original’s manufacture Caliber 100-14.
The movement in the Senator Observer is exquisitely finished and provides the watch an approximately 55-hour power reserve. The finishing of automatic Caliber 100-14 provides a visual treat, with traditional Glashütte high-horology features such as the characteristic three-quarter plate with Glashütte ribbing, polished steel components and beveled edges, and a skeletonized gold rotor.
Both dial versions of the stainless steel Senator Observer are $11,800 on either of the leather straps and $12,800 on a steel bracelet, substantially less than the limited (25-piece) white-gold edition, which retails for $32,700.
Movement: Caliber 100-14, automatic; diameter = 31.15 mm; height = 6.5 mm; frequency = 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 60 jewels; 55-hour power reserve; screw balance with 16 weighted screws; beveled edges; polished and brushed steel parts; swan’s neck fine adjustment; divided three-quarter plate with Glashütte ribbed finish; skeletonized rotor with 21k gold oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, off-centered small seconds; power-reserve display; panorama date; stop-seconds function
Case and strap: Stainless steel case,; diameter = 44 mm; height = 12 mm; water-resistant to 50 meters; sapphire crystal with nonreflective coating on both sides; sapphire exhibition caseback; on Louisiana alligator strap, calfskin strap or metal bracelet
Dial and hands: Varnished silver grained or varnished gray grained dial with blued steel hands and milled railroad chapter ring
This article was originally published on August 16, 2012, and has been updated.