Christine Hutter is the Founder & CEO of independent watchmaker Moritz Grossmann in Glashütte, Germany. Before she secured the rights to the Grossmann brand (Grossmann, March 27, 1826- January 23, 1885, was, among many things, the founder of the German watchmaking school in Glashütte), the trained watchmaker and entrepreneur had worked for Wempe, Maurice Lacroix, Glashütte Original, and A. Lange & Söhne. I sat down with her to talk about German watchmaking, her career, and what distinguishes the Moritz Grossmann brand.
WT: Being one of the industry’s few female CEOs, what attracted you to start your career in the watch industry in the first place?
CH: A mechanical movement consists of so many tiny parts and works at the same time highly precisely. This makes it for me a piece of art and is at the same time very fascinating. Additionally, friends inspired me to enter into watchmaking.
WT: You launched Moritz Grossmann in 2008, why didn’t you go with your own name instead?
CH: Moritz Grossmann has historical importance not only for Glashütte, but also for the art of watchmaking worldwide. We have adopted Grossmann’s credo, which is emblematic of a simple yet mechanically perfect watch. Under this brand core, extended by new design approaches and technical innovations as well as the highest standard in finishing, we have built Grossmann Uhren step by step.
WT: By doing so, you also became responsible for Moritz Grossmann’s legacy. How many watches, documents, books etc. have you been able to collect in the last years?
CH: Over the last years we have collected old pocketwatches and historical books and have built up further general knowledge about Moritz Grossmann. Visitors to our manufactory can admire some watches and historical books in our showroom and library.
WT: In your opinion, what was Grossmann’s biggest contribution/impact on (German) watchmaking?
CH: Moritz Grossmann was one of the most eminent watchmakers of the Glashütte watch industry in the 19th century. The ingenious watchmaker created many pocketwatches, various chronometers and some precision pendulum clocks in Glashütte. He also initiated the German Watchmaking School in Glashütte in 1878. He was a great simplifier who wanted to pass on complex watchmaking knowledge and spread it throughout the world.
WT: What can “Swiss Made” (meaning the Swiss luxury watch industry) learn from “Made in Glashütte”?
CH: German watches are famous for their robust and stable movements. Functionality is also at the forefront of the development. After the reunification of Germany, the name Glashütte has seen a revival and stands today worldwide for the highest quality in watchmaking. This is expressed, for example, in stability, technical innovations and classic design.
WT: Looking back the last 13 years, what was the biggest challenge in establishing a new manufacture from scratch?
CH: After his death in 1885, the name Moritz Grossmann almost completely disappeared from people’s minds and was known only to a few watch connoisseurs at the beginning of the 21st century. The greatest challenge therefore was to bring the name of Moritz Grossmann to the world and to make people aware of its outstanding historical and horological significance. Together with my wonderful team, we have built from scratch a production and are proud to say that over 85% of the added value is manufactured in-house. This includes our own hands production.
WT: How difficult is it to be both the CEO and a watchmaker?
CH: It is not difficult to combine both sides. As a trained watchmaker, I bring a deep understanding of processes and the production itself. In marketing and sales, it is extremely important to convey the emotions and enthusiasm for the products. As a watchmaker I think I have a good feeling for design, the material and the movements. To really feel and understand the watchmaking artistry is already a big advantage.
WT: Today, Moritz Grossmann only produces a couple hundred watches a year. What are your main markets, and what are the most popular models?
CH: Our main markets are Asia, Japan, the Middle East and North America. Surprisingly, less Europe. In terms of models, there are many popular pieces, for example, the Hamatic as the first self-winding watch from Moritz Grossmann. The Central Second is our first model with a second hand in the center of the dial. Also our ladies’ collection is enjoying increasing demand.
WT: Do you have a favorite model?
CH: I really don’t have a favorite model, I just like all our watches and the exceptional constructions, finish and designs. I am very proud of my team and the high quality that goes into each of our timepieces. Personally I like to wear my Backpage in rose gold. The special feature about this watch is its mirrored movement. Normally you have to turn a watch over to see the movement because it is hidden by the dial and only visible through the sapphire crystal on the back. With the Backpage, we brought the back of the movement to the front and mirrored it. In this way, you can admire the beautiful, highly finished movement from the front, and from the back you can see the highly finished movement side, which is normally hidden by the dial. The Backpage is one of my favorite watches. I wear it almost every day.
WT: What is your favorite complication?
CH: We have many different, great complications. As a particular example, I can mention the Hamatic. It is the first self-winding watch from Moritz Grossmann. The self-winding hammer system with pendulum weight reveals a peek of the intricate mechanics and converts even the smallest movement into impressive winding power.
WT: Watch brands like to talk about the DNA of their watches. In your case, however, there appears to be an actual piece of you in one of your watches, doesn’t it?
CH: In our flying Tourbillon, the tourbillon cage with only two triangular pillars rotates once around its own axis in three minutes. For the balance to stop smoothly, it is important that the stop mechanism moves past the triangular frame pillars. We have found out that the most gentle and reliable way to stop the balance is to use an elastic brush made of human hair. The idea came from the team and was further developed during a visit to my hairdresser and then put into practice. A small bundle of my hair was tested for the second stop and worked perfectly. Thus, a new, unique idea was born. As an independent manufactory we also offer customized pieces to our clients. For example you can use your own hair for the second stop in the Tourbillon.
WT: What was Grossmann’s first watch?
CH: The first watch we developed at Moritz Grossmann was the Benu. This first model took us about two years to develop and implement. The Benu was produced in rose gold with 100, in white gold with 50 and in platinum 25 pieces. We were very pleased with the positive response and the high demand. The watches were sold out in a short time.
WT: Why should someone become a watchmaker today?
CH: Watchmaking is a very skilled profession that goes back to an old tradition. You need a lot of intuition and at the same time a strong understanding of mechanics. All this together makes the profession very exciting and challenging. You have the opportunity to develop new things and create true works of art.
WT: What’s next for Moritz Grossmann and Christine Hutter?
CH: We are in the process of expanding our exclusive distribution network worldwide. Despite the pandemic, we face the challenge of maintaining and intensifying personal customer contact. We compensate this with personal conversations, targeted digital communication and high quality pictures and videos of our watches. Also in the coming year we are planning new movements, which are not yet available on the market.