Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture Special aBlogtoWatch Content For Glashütte Original

Glashütte Original is one of only a handful of true watch manufactures in modern watchmaking, boasting the capacity and dedication not only to design, produce, decorate, and assemble its watches in-house, but also to craft its dials, make its own manufacturing tools, and train the next generation of watchmakers.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

First, let us note that we will discuss at length the fascinating history of Glashütte Original and Saxon watchmaking in an upcoming feature article. For now, we'll just cover the basics by saying that the latest chapter of Glashütte Original's history began after Germany's reunification when, first, GUB was renamed Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe GmbH in 1990, and then in 1994, the brand name Glashütte Original was registered. Finally, since October 2000, the company has been a part of the Swatch Group, and with the affiliation of the group, a new era of Glashütte Original began.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture
The main entrance of the Glashütte Original Manufacture – home to a staff of 750 tool- and watchmakers, engineers, designers, historians, teachers, and students.

Some 40 minutes out of Dresden, after passing green meadows and grazing cows, one might not expect to find the German center of watchmaking. Coming from silver mining, the little town of Glashütte in the Ore Mountains, in East Germany, today is home to 9 different watch manufactures in total who produce their watches in Glashütte – virtually all of them are next door neighbors, each helping to extend the watchmaking history of the town into the 21st century. With its 750 employees and ultra-modern, four-story building, Glashütte Original is one of the largest watch manufactures not just in the city, but in Germany as well.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

What renders Glashütte Original unique is not just the level of its vertical integration – more on that in a moment – but the extent of its transparency. Glashütte Original offers free public tours of the facility where visitors are invited to walk along what the brand likes to call the "Learning Path."

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture
Visitors on the public tours of the manufacture can look into almost all departments on every floor of the manufacture through glass walls.

Visitors can, thanks to the huge glass walls, have a unique look into every major department on every floor of the manufacture, screens with educational and insightful videos explaining the duties of said departments, as well as windows of manufacturing samples to help illustrate the work performed in the respective department.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

The Design and Prototype Department is one of the very few rooms that lack such glass walls – as fascinating as it could very well be, products to be debuted up to several years from now are under in-house development here and hence are and shall remain safely guarded secrets until their official premiere.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

All Glashütte Original timepieces are designed and developed exclusively and fully in-house, a process that includes the conception of the manufacture movement with every single function and component, the dial, the shape and material of the case, and even the strap. This process itself is already highly integrated in the sense that the respective departments are closely involved in the development process from the get-go.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture
Further above: the recently refined Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar; Above: the one and only PanoMatic Counter.

As such, the Glashütte Original design language has been consistent since the brand's 21st-century revival: a highly functional, "less is more" approach finds expression in the brand's tirelessly refined combination of innovative, yet useful functions and distinct, yet puristic design. Connoisseurs love the Saxon manufacture’s timepieces for its aesthetic clarity and ease of operability. A case in point: the recently introduced Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar (more details here), or, for a more unique but highly useful complication, the PanoMatic Counter.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

A Tour Of The Manufacture – Toolmaking

The tour begins on the ground floor where all the heavy machinery can be seen and, once entering the thick-walled and well-insulated rooms, heard in operation. Something that started as a necessity during GDR times has become a tradition carried on into the present. Today, Glashütte Original has one of the finest toolmaking divisions in the German watchmaking world.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

The toolmaking department currently employs 17 people, a mix of workers from the “old days” as well as the younger generation who has joined the brand after graduating from its training program. In this unique division, specialists work together to create the various individual support devices, plates, components, and tools needed to craft all those specialized parts that will make up a fine watch. When we say "tools," of course, we are not only referring to screwdrivers and wrenches but also the specialized parts that are fitted to the machines to help manufacture parts.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

Having such an extensive and heavily investment-reliant department gives Glashütte Original a unique freedom and flexibility to produce small quantities of precision tools quickly and independently of external suppliers. In practice, what this freedom results in is a manufacture that can, first, dare think of bold, new, and innovative features; second, produce the unique components to realize such ideas; and, third, make watches exactly the way it wants them to be. Relying on specialized suppliers largely hinders this process as turnaround times and fine-tuning of such special orders are more often than not impossible to work with on a regular basis.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture
Smaller, more filigreed parts are cut from a single plate of metal using spark erosion.
In-House Production Of Individual Components

While small, filigreed parts such as the typical swan-neck spring, certain levers, or the tourbillon cage are made by “spark erosion,” the bigger individual parts such as the base plates and bridges are made with CNC machines. The latter are highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art machines that step by step select one tool after another from a tool spindle, selecting and utilizing the correct one from up to 90 available tools.

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

Visiting The Glashütte Original Manufacture: From Watch Design, Through Production, To Final Assembly Inside the Manufacture

While the CNC machines perform their tasks in a completely automated way, operator interventions and fine-tuning are frequently necessitated. On a base plate of average complexity, up to 80 parameters are checked with micron-accuracy. To give you an idea of the accuracy required, the drilled holes that will hold the jewels to secure fragile pinions and shafts have to be manufactured with a tolerance of no more than 5 microns. That is 0.005 millimeters or 0.00019 inches.

  • SuperStrapper

    Very interesting thaybthey use a spark erosion process. That is a fairly new engineering/manufacturing development, and I didn’t knowing was a refined enough to be applicable to something like this with such tight tolerances.

  • Phil leavell

    I found it incredibly interesting. Opportunities to see what goes into building a watch also interest me

  • John Stevens

    Fantastic, thank you so much for that tour of GO, thoroughly enjoyed it, its stories like this that bring high end watch making to the general public and also go some way to explain the premium charged for these hand crafted pieces, congratulations to GO for having their facility open for everyone to see.

  • Brent P.

    Fascinating. I’ve long been interested in adding a GO to my collection, and this article provides further motivation. Thank you.

  • BNABOD

    thanks for sharing. next time take me with you.

    • Simon_Hell

      Hope you do understand that nobody went anywhere, and nobody’s sharing, just selling.

  • Rollin Crittendon

    This is the best Sponsored Post I can recall. The fact GO is going to have at least one other post to accompany this is awesome. What a great brand, the product, the values!

  • ??????

    I highly appreciate the level of craftsmanship involved in making GO timepieces. However, I think that the rotors in their automatic watches look just awful. Okay, the design is a matter of personal preferences, but why cannot they make some strong beveling of the edges? And shapes of their cases are somewhat uninspiring compared to premium Swiss and GS watches IMO. Otherwise – impressive manufacture from any side.

  • Simon_Hell

    If social injustice came to an end in this world, companies like this would be the first to go. Im not a communist, just sayin.

    By the way, gotta feel sorry even for the slaves assembling these watches. Looking through the monocular x hours a day…what does that do to the person’s brain. And his life. The sad part is it could just as well be assembled by a machine. But it is the employing of a super expensive German or Swiss slave that gives them the ability to charge ridiculous money for their product.

    • Pistol Pete

      Man, who peed in your Cheerios?

      • Sheez Gagoo

        Thierry Nataf

    • IanE

      I’m puzzled – are they slaves or paid too much; and would you rather they were unemployed? p.s. Your real surname isn’t Corbyn by any chance?

    • Marius
      • Raymond Wilkie

        Un…………believable. I don’t know where to start.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Un……………….believable. I don’t know where to start.

      • Simon_Hell

        I rendered the forum’s blabbermouth speechless…how about that

        • Raymond Wilkie

          That’s nothing to boast about.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        At least you could try.

        • Raymond Wilkie

          What Mark 1884 said.

    • b-spain

      No offense, but why are you anywhere near this blog?
      This is the worst and most typical type of hypocrisy that rears its end periodically.
      Have you ever known an introverted individual? That loupe and this job is paradise for them. As for health related effects, why do you think watchmakers carry on working until they are in their deathbeds at 85? It doesn’t damage the eyes or other parts at all.
      Feel sorry for the slaves who produced your $10 shirt or your phone!!!
      Can’t find value in watches? What other product can possibly be heirloom these days?
      Please take your sorrow and hypocrisy and vent it somewhere else.

      • Simon_Hell

        You’re clearly confusing an introvert with someone autistic or retarded. Hypocrisy..hey, no doubt. I’m an introvert, hypocritical douche bag, I would never claim otherwise. You should see my watch collection.

        Even so.

        • Garrett Hu

          Then let’s see your watch collection. I have never seen anyone with a respectable watch collection say “You should see my watch collection” Sigh….only an empty bucket makes all the noise….

      • Sheez Gagoo

        It`s like hand rolled havannas. Everybody wants to smoke them, but nobody wants to roll them for the rest of his life.

    • IG

      If you are not a communist then you are just simply retarded.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        Please. There`s some room for different opinions.

        • IG

          Of course, I didn’t mean to suppress them. I’m always keen to hear communists’/retards’ opinions.

    • Yan Fin

      Are these aliens here, in the room? Can you see them?

    • Mark1884

      Wow….. Did not expect to hear something like that here. I cannot over emphasize how diametrically opposed to your view, that I am.
      Your demented opinion of watch manufacture is puzzling ? I have to assume that this post is an attempt to provide controversy or agitate posters here.

      You do sound like a douche bag communist…… or someone that feels cheated that they did not achieve enough in life. The fact that you made this statement, and still continue to purchase and collect watches, tells me you are self contradictory – a trait of an Narcissist. You should probably get checked out.

      As far as the sponsored posts goes, this is one of the best reads so far. I not only admire the person skilled enough to manufacture a watch, I applaud them for their dedication and skill.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        It`s a huge difference to be a watch afficionado or a watchmaker. I`m a watch lover like you are, I appreciate skill and quality, that`s why I`m on this blog. And believe me, I`m not a communist I`m probably one of three persons in my country who read Atlas Shrugged. But the reason why I agree with Simons post is, this is show! An average watchmaker here spends his time (in front of a TV because she/he is probably unemployed) assembling (mostly movements aren`t even assembled by watchakers but by unskilled foreigners, crossing the boarder to Switzerland each day) or repairing watches. Dufours and Journes are a minority. And after 3-4 years of apprenticeship you know how a chrono/tourbi/quantième perpetuel works and you know how to repair them. And when you repaired your 10 000 chrono/tourbi/qp in a quiet environment you could ask yourself questions, in particular in times of crisis. Doesn`t matter how fancy your atelier is. And after a while it could become annoying to be the a tourist zoo animal (I was once in a lifestyle magazine called “Wiener”, it was a huge discrepance between content and truth). In fact, after a few years, I asked myself these questions from the post above. Do I really want to spend the rest of my life like this? then I went to university to enlargen my mind and not to become a kind of cage mouse. I`ve seen, what this kind of work can do to people. It`s not that bad, just a small amount becomes crazy but a huge amount becomes really narrow minded, that`s why the current crisis for them is a personal insult and a mistake and not an economical fact. The kind of distance I found in my studies helped me regain my passion for watches, and not for the industry itself. We live in times, where you can buy a decent tourbi for a 1000 bucks with seven years of warranty and a ten-day repair guarantee. And a cheap one for $250. So where is the super skill? It`s all about show. It`s Hollywood in Switzerland. Of course, a Journe and a Dufour are highly skilled artists. But most are Lemmings. Do you have the impression, that the Swiss watch industry cared about afficionados like you in the recent years? No, they cared about the 1percenter and people who want to be like them. If it`s about skill you buy a Dufour/Journe. If it`s about quality, you could buy a Seiko. If it`s about prestige and ostentative behaviour, you buy Swiss. I repeat, I`m not a communist, I`m realist and watchmaker and I share the same passion like most in this blog. It`s not about art, it`s about business and to impress people on this blog which this sponsored post obviously did. There is room for a post like Simons in this blog. Isn`t the US about free speech? I`m thankfull to the industry, I did and do a good job, but the industry became more and more a caricature of itself and the business perspective is also very different. Look at Breitling.

        • b-spain

          Talk about ostentation, trying to enforce your remarks by saying you attended higher education and read A Book! Be on point and talk sense – that’ll help people decide in your favor if they care about what you are saying.
          What if I told you that the production of every single item you have used this past week was built by tens of millions of people sitting next to conveyor belts or at desks, doing incomparably more monotonous work for incomparably less with living conditions you clearly cannot even fathom. So stop this “I’m not communist” nonsense and please drop over to techcrunch and theverge and 9to5mac and start commenting there under which conditions any of those things were produced.
          Last time I checked watch manufactures did NOT have nets to catch people when they decide (at work!) to jump into their deaths. Watchmakers are very, and I do mean very well off among manufacturing workers so stop this whining and look at the greater scheme of things. A 5-min drive over a country’s border to make double-triple money than go back home every night is a scenario available to 0.0000001% of manufacturing workers but all would give an arm and a leg to be treated like watchmakers.
          I do agree with the “prestige and ostentatious” buying motive is linked to the biggest Swiss brands – but excellent timing mentioning that under a GO post.

          • Simon_Hell

            I bet you a goat shepperd in Tanzania making 30 cents a month has a better and happier life than these human CNC machines. I’d take the goats any day.

          • Mark1884

            STFU

          • Garrett Hu

            I’m sure the guy in Tanzania is very happy, I’m a working class guy and I’m happy, the guy driving a $1.2 million dollar super car is probably happy too. We are all happy making X living in Y so I fail to see you point. Next time you talk to a watchmaker, ask them if they would rather be a goat shepperd.

          • b-spain

            Are you living in a fairy tale or have just accidentally seen random 15 seconds from a documentary? Teary-eyed comparing goat shepherds to watchmakers, where do you think you are, still in the final of a beauty pageant? Do you want world peace as well? Next time you’re in Tanzania please be sure to give away all your watches to those in need and free yourself from these dirty, dirty reminders of your immoral past.

          • Raymond Wilkie

            You’r not getting anywhere with this guy.

          • b-spain

            Just because you and your friends blurp something out and ((expectedly)) cannot respond anything meaningful when you get called out on it, doesn’t mean others need to join in.

          • Mark1884

            What are you talking about. The douche bag communist said something really stupid, because he wanted to start a controversy. He/them/you are probably one of our regulars hiding behind a second name.
            He/them/you got what they wanted. We are still talking about the stupid nonsense comment.

            We only told them how stupid they are. Whats the prob??

            Is there not room for my opinion????

          • Sheez Gagoo

            I accept your arguments.

        • Garrett Hu

          Well, that is exactly it isn’t it. You’ve made the wrong career choice but no one forced you to. The way I read this is you chose a career, did it for a few years, didn’t like it anymore then decided to change careers. People on average have 3-4 career changes in their lifetime….so no different here.

          And BTW, University was invented by who? all the rich guys that want their workers to be smarter….lol so you’re paid more for it but you’re still working for somebody else.

          It’s a business first and foremost, it’s what puts food on the table for many. Is there corporate greed? Of course there is, it’s what keeps us all going…in any business.

          • Sheez Gagoo

            Wouldn`t call it wrong career choice. It was good as long as it was good. It became wrong/boring later. I don`t blame the industry. It`s sad what happens to it right now. And most watchmakers (there are exceptions) do the job just for a few years and ten do other stuff in or out the industry.

    • Sheez Gagoo

      Well, what can I say? I think you’re right but you gonna hit some shit storm, that’s for sure. This is a tourist attraction. And being a watchmaker is really a kind of camouflage. And yes, this kind of work, in particular during the boom period, made a lot of this loupe watching men and women ignorant and arrogant, thinking, they are the center of the world. I love watches, but the business became sick and fat. Now, a lot of watchmakers have been fired and most of them really have no sense for the fact, that the party is over. They suffer from a lack of realism because they lived in their golden cage with their brands. Like an old fat cat that has to learn mousing again. It’s not chinese sweat shop sick, it’s first world sick. I truly understand your thoughts, you’re not a communist but the industry became the pigs of animal farm. Enjoy your shit storm.

    • Garrett Hu

      Seems like you live a life of “IF”, but on the flip side it provides an unlimited amount of engagement…what if there was world peace, what if there was an end to social injustice and inequality…sounds awfully like that homeless guy that just talks and yells at his imaginary friend in downtown San Francisco.

      THIS, is how the world works and this is the word we live in. Go with it or become obsolete but it sounds like you prefer the latter.

      You also don’t seem to believe there are people who actually love their jobs, you also fail to recognize that these watchmakers chose to become watchmakers/toolmakers on their own free from duress and it takes a lot of effort, dedication and years to graduate with the skills required. There is not a sign on the front door that say “Watchmaker
      or Dishwasher needed $10.50/Hour, start today”

      You have a very grim outlook on life and perhaps the world hasn’t been good to you, for that I apologize but you’ve probably made some bad choices in life. If you can turn that around I’m sure things will start looking up buddy.

  • Pistol Pete

    Amazing article. Just amazing.

  • Nifty! A really fun read.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Good read, nothing i didn’t know , but reminded me of my failings in life. In some other dimension this is exactly what i am doing all day long. I have plenty of drawings of the kind of watch i would like. Academically i didn’t hit the mark ( at that point in life i didn’t know what i wanted to do so went to train as a chef ) To have a working model of an R Wilkie is just a dream.

    • Simon_Hell

      Something tells me you would just love the in-flight magazines

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Something tells me you’r a dick.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Something tells me your a dick.

      • Sheez Gagoo

        Oh dear…You’re a firecracker in a chicken stable.

    • Spangles

      Ariel, we need more Sponsored Posts that remind Raymond of his failings in life.

      • 100% Genuine Aviation Heritage

        brutally funny

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Thanks , but that is not needed ,…….am reminded every day. . Nor are my posts expressing my disdain for another blogger needing deleted. .

        • Spangles

          You don’t understand! This could be the bold new direction ABtW needs!

          (Btw, just posting in good fun, no bad intentions!)

  • Asad Abbas Awan

    what beautiful watches..great post..love the GO..thanks for sharing the details of the manufacturing proicesses

  • Yan Fin

    This sponsored post sounds much more informative and neutral then most of independent reviews. Thanks, really good write-up

  • HectorAsuipe

    Yay for GO and German discipline and all things that are engineered and executed correctly. Say what you may about the designs, but the watches from GO are quality.

  • TrevorXM

    As much as the design work is fascinating, it’s always enjoyable to see people who love doing high tech, high precision watch assembly. It’s the type of work that would drive me crazy, but for certain personality types, they are in heaven. And they get to go to work in such a lovely setting, work in a pristine high tech lab, and are making very good money, too.

    • Simon_Hell

      Pretty condescending to assume that a shitty, monotonous, robotic job that you personally concede would drive you crazy, is giving joy to someone else. There are some pretty universal standards of shittiness, and I would say this work checks most boxes. I mean, on a hypothetical level perhaps there are 8 year olds finding heaven even in a Bangladeshi Nike sweatshop. It just isn’t very likely.

      Also, don’t confuse a hobby or casual interest with labor. Just because my grandma likes to grow tomatoes on her balcony, doesn’t mean she would enjoy working 160 hours a week on a farm. Even if it was a tomato farm.

      • TrevorXM

        Actually, you are the one who is a condescending troll. You somehow believe that your opinions are of value and that you are the arbitrator of what is suitable and fulfilling occupations for other people, based entirely on your own navel-gazing. Simply because I can’t comprehend how somebody would gain pleasure from doing micro-engraving on a watch and polishing every little edge until it’s a mirror on watch after watch, or fitting precision part after precision part doesn’t mean there are not people who love to do it for a living. I would hate playing mindless games of basketball and going to practices, but there are people out there who would love to do that for a living. Human nature is not a cookie-cutter fit all.

        You’re not very bright, that’s obvious, but somehow you have gotten through life blustering your way through and forcing your left-fascist fantasies about human nature on others when you can. There is no comparison between a third-world sweatshop employee and these people. None. Only in your fevered little brain. Now you’re going to tell us all how rich you are and what a big watch collection you have. You’re just a typical idiot and very predictable as are they all.

        Move on, little troll. You will have no more engagement from me.

      • Garrett Hu

        There are many jobs that I say to myself “that would drive me crazy”…Accountants, Programmers, Chefs, Watchmakers, the guys that can paint a perfectly straight line across the side of an entire car,,,,I don’t use the mentality of Whoa! instead it’s a big WOW! Because I’m a positive kind of guy, you read that as negative because well…you probably need some B12.

  • SVK

    GO is easily one of my favorite manufacturers and this is some fascinating insight, but I must admit my disappointment in that I have had major issues with two brand-new GO pieces – a Senator Excellence (one of the manual winding wheels is somewhat loose and makes contact with the mainplate, actually having carved a noticeable groove) and a PanoReserve (after just a week or two of wear, the PR indicator stopped returning to empty even after the watch had stopped running). I would certainly expect better and hope my experience is simply an outlier.

  • Garrett Hu

    Thanks for the interesting read. G.O. is also one of my favorite brands in the haute (er) horologerie category, I emphasize (er) because for some, it’s not a ALS or Patek but for me I hold them in high regard. Indeed it’s also one of the high value brands like JLC where they produce world class heirloom worthy timepieces that are reasonably accessible. I currently have a Senator Hand Date, a Navigator and the PML being my favorite piece in my collection. I honestly wasn’t hooked until I just really wanted to see what G.O. was all about so I ended up with the black dialed Senator Hand Date because of the bi-compax dial layout and at that time happened to be the lowest price point for G.O.at $5700 which was a huge catalyst. Anyways the AD then gave me a great price so I came home with it, then the rest is history adding the Navigator a year later then the PML right after that.

    They say Grand Seiko is stealth luxury, G.O. is somewhat like that too so if you’re not confident enough to buy what you like then this brand might not be for you.

  • TresGut

    Great article. I’m hoping to buy one of these one day…..when the kids have grown up and left home and I have a bit more disposable income! Back in 1999 I was in Dresden airport and came across the GO shop. Having never seen one before I was fascinated by the quality and heft of the watches on display, and the lady working there did her best to try and sell me one. From my vague recollection the prices weren’t too high and she was bending over backwards to offer me a great deal. I left there, head held high, safe in the knowledge that my mid-sized Tag 6000 would see me through the rest of my days. I was wrong. Said Tag now sits in a box in my garage.

  • mandimemike

    Thank you David for sharing your trip with us, accompanied by your excellent photography. Can’t wait for the following articles! I recently received a copy of their first book, and the story of Glashutte’s triumph, grit, and talent is absolutely heartwarming. Qualities that are tangible in their products, from tooling to watches. (The funnest part for me was slipping on my PanoReserve while reading this article!)

  • cluedog12

    Toured GO in 2010 when I had a conference to attend in Germany. It was a lot like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For every watch nut on the tour, there was a significant other or friend who could care less about watches.

  • JLG

    The observer is back on GO website :)))