Thomas Meier, CEO of Glashütte Original, explains the functions he prizes in his watches — and what Glashütte Original finds less important — in this interview conducted by Chronos Editor-in-Chief and Ebner Publishing International Editorial Director Rüdiger Bucher.
RB: Mr. Meier, as I walk around the Baselworld fair I see the idea of utility playing an important role for many brands. Is this true for Glashütte Original?
TM: We currently have a lot to offer in this area – beginning with the perpetual calendar, which we are currently presenting in a skeletonized version. We also have a second time zone for the frequent traveler, which you will find in our Senator Cosmopolite in steel. This watch offers so much: two day/night and power-reserve indications, a panorama date to show local time that can be adjusted forwards or backwards — and 36 time zones, of course. The moon-phase is also a very useful function, especially in markets such as China where the moon plays an important role for many people. Our moon-phase watch is so precise that – theoretically – it only needs adjustment after 122 years. Beyond that, I also include a chronograph on the list of useful functions. Our customers also look for a long power reserve. The chronograph Caliber 37 provides 70 hours of power, and the automatic Caliber 36 provides up to 100 hours.
RB: What is your position on magnetic field protection?
TM: We greatly exceed specifications set out in the DIN standard, which are 4,800 amperes/meter. We haven’t investigated the topic any deeper than that.
RB: Do you want to investigate it more deeply?
TM: Possibly. We could possibly integrate it into our new developments, but we haven’t yet investigated it thoroughly enough.
RB: What is your stance on silicon?
TM: All movements currently in development are equipped with silicon hairsprings. And the older calibers will eventually be equipped with silicone hairsprings.
RB: Only the hairsprings are made of silicon? Not the lever and escape wheel?
TM: We realize that other manufacturers do this, but in my opinion this is sensible only with high-beat calibers that can take full advantage of the lower weight. Our calibers operate at a rate of four Hertz, and that is an optimal standard for us.
RB: So you don’t take the view that a classical watch brand should only use classical materials.
TM: No. We can look back on a long and successful history because we have always been at the forefront in technical matters. We have always combined principles of classical design and and refinement with modern functions and materials.
RB: Another aspect of usefulness is scratch resistance. Is this of importance to you, with regard to ceramic bezels, for instance?
TM: This is a possibility, just not at the moment. We operate in the high-end arena and work quite a lot with 18-karat gold, so ultimately beauty is more important for us than scratch resistance.
RB: Luxury brands live primarily on emotion. How do you explain the tension that exists between utility and emotion?
TM: We define ourselves through our practicality and utility – through our technical expertise; through our history as presented in our museum; through the opportunity for individual customers to visit our manufactory and see for themselves that we make 95 percent of the components ourselves. For us, emotion is the product. We have no need to import it from anywhere else. You won’t find a function in our watches that only serves l’art pour l’art.
RB: Color can also evoke an emotional response.
TM: Our Sixties with a green dial is a star at this Baselworld. It’s the best-seller.
RB: Did that surprise you?
TM: Actually, no. Last year at the Berlinale 2017 film festival we introduced the limited Sixties Iconic Square series with five extraordinary dial colors. The green version was the first to sell out – [which was] something that no one had expected.
RB: How does Glashütte Original differ in general from other comparable Swiss luxury watch brands?
TM: First of all, we are very happy to be part of a Swiss concern. Swatch Group has helped us to build up a first-class sales network, and we could not have organized the manufacture of silicon parts by ourselves. What unifies Switzerland and Germany? Both build beautiful, highly accurate watches that are state-of-the-art. In Glashütte we have design principles that come from our own history, such as the three-quarter plate. We work in part with chatons, which are not included in Swiss movements. And then there are details like the swan’s-neck fine regulator. At Glashütte Original you also see our panorama date with no middle divider, which no other manufacturer offers. Otherwise the greatest differences are found in design.
RB: How would you characterize the differences in design?
TM: Due to the strong French influence, Swiss design is perhaps a bit more playful than our clear and straightforward German design. I am often told that our watches are neat and clearly structured, easy to read, and distinct in their stylistics. German engineering also plays an important role.
RB: How do you explain that?
TM: Studies have shown that “Made in Germany” is the mark of quality associated with the highest value, especially with regard to reliability and longevity.