One thing you learn when you transition from an enthusiast to a professional in the world of watches is that there are a lot, and I mean a lot, of watches out there. It seems like almost every day six different brands pop up, and every other day one of the established players in the market is releasing something new. Now, this is by no means a problem for many of us. It is, in fact, the fuel that drives our passions for horology: to see where the industry and the styles are going, to view from afar the trends that rise and fall over time. But for all the wonder and excitement attached to being a reader, wearer, writer, dealer, manufacturer, or whomever — operating as a professional in the industry discourages one from being too vocal about favorite brands, pieces, or styles. To self-aggrandize for a moment, I simply know too much, and am too specific in my taste in watches, to have an unbiased opinion, and so I often try to operate more as a reporter than a pundit when speaking with all of you. It’s the curse of knowledge and the gift of self-awareness, I suppose.
With that said, I find Glashütte Original to be a fantastic brand, and the Sixties Iconic Square to be a fantastic watch. Released only a few months ago, Glashütte Original set out to produce a fascinating homage piece to the classic square Spezimatic watches produced by the brand’s state-owned forbear, Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB). These vintage Spezimatics were incredibly interesting watches, often embodying what was thought of as funky western ‘60s and ‘70s styles and colors, but produced and worn in Soviet-occupied East Germany. They came in all sorts of color schemes, materials, complications, shapes, and sizes, and you might remember when the brand released its first tribute piece to these watches, the circular Sixties Iconic, in 2015 (picture below). This year, Glashütte Original has once again returned to this collection, with a limited edition of 25 pieces in five dial colors (125 total watches), but this time making them with period-appropriate Spezimatic-square cases and also adding a modern chronograph function.
Available in five different dial-color options, each Sixties Iconic Square comes in at 41.35 mm by 41.35 mm in a cushion-shaped steel case. This case uses simple, thick lugs to attach the brown or black alligator leather strap, features two chronograph pushers in an unusual, more horizontally oriented position than most other chronographs, and has a sapphire caseback showcasing the expertly finished movement (photo below via Hodinkee).
On the dial — the color options are dubbed Forest, Ocean, Graphite, Tangerine, and Fire (which are green, blue, gray with a dégradé effect, orange, and red, respectively), there are applied hour markers in the Glashütte Original style; Arabic numerals at 12 and 6 o’clock; two large subdials; and Super-LumiNova-inlaid white gold hands. Powering the piece is the automatic in-house Caliber 39-34, which stores an approximately 40-hour power reserve, and features a beautifully adorned gold oscillating weight. Currently, these pieces are priced at $9,700 and are available for purchase at Glashütte Original boutiques and other third-party vendors around the globe.
I should clarify that the Sixties Iconic Square isn’t a completely new watch; in fact Glashütte Original has been producing these square chronographs for years under the name “Sixties Square Chronograph.” However, the main difference between the Sixties Iconic Chronograph and these watches is the color scheme paying homage to the era. While the in-production models maintain many of the Spezimatic traits, like the square cushion case and the unique numerals, the overall watch tends to be more conservative in its dial-color choices compared to those of the new Sixties Iconic Squares.
Relative to the Spezimatics of the past, the Sixties Iconic Square pays an obvious tribute while still distinguishing itself as modern in a few very key ways. Of the similarities, you’ll notice first the square shape of the case; this style was one of the most distinctive features of vintage Spezimatics, so it was a logical choice for Glashütte Original to follow up the original, round-cased Sixties Iconic watches with something even more, dare I say, iconic. Also of note are the style of the numerals and dial color, both of which are directly inspired by the vintage series. However, as you likely have already guessed, while the dial’s style and colors are inspired by vintage Spezimatics, and while these historical pieces did have very funky colors in their own right, the Sixties Iconic Square elevates these styles, colors, and textures to a new level. Each of the five dials use complicated staining and layering practices that far supersede the born-to-fade dials on the vintage pieces, with all of them having a unique property to completely change color depending on the light and viewing angle. In my opinion, one of the most interesting examples of this is seen in the “Graphite” dial, which seems to have an almost “wet and dripping” effect that is unlike any other watch dial currently on the market.
Other notable differences— besides the elevated refinement in finishing between a modern luxury watch and its state-mandated, state-produced vintage counterpart— are evident in the addition of the chronograph feature, as well as in the slight changes to the case. The chronograph, while a nice touch and one the brand has executed quite well on this tribute piece, was not a feature available from GUB on the historical Spezimatics (although the GUB did produce a few very interesting non-Spezimatic chronographs in its heyday). Also, while the vintage and modern cases are very similar, the modern one is much more curved and cushion-shaped than the more rigid version of the past. Finally, as with many modern tribute pieces, the caseback is now sapphire as opposed to solid, a change that few but the most ardent purists would protest.
I like Glashütte Original not only because it’s a modern brand that pays homage to its history, nor only because it produces beautiful and unique watches in a class of their own, but because it’s a brand with a real history, and one that has actively improved itself every year since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end to its state ownership. The Sixties Iconic Square is, in my mind, another iteration of this growth and improvement; it’s a small collection of watches that both honors the past and moves forward, one that accentuates the eccentric styles of the era, but also combines them with modernity and luxury. For perspective, the brand’s GUB watches were cheap — even today you can still find them online in great condition, often for only a few hundred dollars. I like to imagine that, with these modern pieces, Glashütte Original is trying to show us what it could’ve been doing all along if given the opportunities all those years ago, and even if I’m wrong about that, they’re still fantastic pieces.
For our most recent article, in which I look at the historical lineage of the Vacheron Constantin Overseas, click here.
Caleb Anderson is a freelance writer with a primary focus on vintage watches. Since first learning about horology, he has garnered extensive knowledge in the field, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions among other writers, collectors, and dealers. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on many topics, and a casual runner.