November 30, 2015
by Ariel Adams
Germans make some of the best tool watches in the world, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why that is recently, as well as during my review of the Mühle-Glashütte Marinus GMT watch. Based in Glashütte, Germany, Mühle is a relatively new brand (from the 1990s, I believe) but one that very much makes products in the traditional scope of what a good, functional instrument should be. While most Mühle-Glashütte products are timepieces, the company also produces a range of both mechanical and electronic nautical clocks for boats that are certainly intended to be useful tools as opposed to lifestyle items.
Nautical watches are certainly where a brand like Mühle-Glashütte excels, and there are a range of “marine” and diving watches currently produced by them. The Marinus as well as this Mühle-Glashütte Marinus GMT are just two of many options. Unfortunately, Mühle-Glashütte doesn’t really offer a lot of information to customers on which watches to choose – more or less leaving it up to your personal taste and preferences.
Is that the best approach? I think tool watch brands, especially those like Mühle need to be a bit more consultative with consumers and explain to them how to buy from the brand. What Mühle shares in common with most German tool watch brands is a general assumption that their customers are sophisticated enough to know exactly what they want to buy. In a sense, that is part of the charm you’ll find in companies like this. They are very much set up like instrument manufacturing companies and the whole “luxury” and “lifestyle” side of selling mechanical watches is lost of them.
Those qualities often mean lower prices, much less pretentiousness, as well as an overall dedication to function over form. With that said, the brands also suffer from poor marketing communication and an ability to work with customers in helping them choose the best watches for their needs. Mühle is joined by other German tool watch brands such as Tutima, Sinn, Damasko, and others who, despite a variety of prices, all fit within this group of companies that I am referring to.
Take, for example, this statement on the brand’s website that attempts to explain the Mühle-Glashütte Marinus GMT: “Fans of extreme sports will love our Marinus, because this robust outdoor watch can take anything you throw at it.” That sounds impressive, but how does that statement not apply to so many other watches? Or, for that matter, even those produced by Mühle-Glashütte? It sounds like this watch is as good for diving as it is for skateboarding, base jumping, as well as many other things. I truly believe Mühle-Glashütte designed the Marinus with this in mind, but does that really tell you anything about the watch itself?
One of the most interesting design elements of Mühle-Glashütte watches is the windmill logo which you’ll find on the crown. That comes from the “Mühle” family name and actually has nothing to do with rugged nature of their timepieces. This small indication that the brand is very much a family company is important to those people who want a more personal touch in a company – and, of course, something that, if mentioned on their website, is hard to find.
So, even if Mühle themselves don’t offer a personal explanation of the Mühle-Glashütte Marinus GMT, I will do my best to position this quite capable sport watch in the scope of other similar German sport watches. First, let’s talk about the movement, because here is one area where Mühle, like some competitors, adds value. While the movement inside the Mühle-Glashütte Marinus GMT is a Swiss ETA 2893-2 automatic, it isn’t just a stock movement. In addition to being regulated by Mühle, they remove the stock fine regulation system and add their own “woodpecker neck regulation” system (similar to a swan neck regulation). Mühle also includes their own rotor, and the movement is nicely visible through the rear of the case, even though it is a 300-meter diver.
At 44mm wide, the case is 12.2mm thick but doesn’t feel as thick as it is given the wide proportions. Actually, for watches of this nature, that is rather thin overall. The steel case is given a mixture of brushed and sandblasted finishing that works well with the overall feel. Have no doubt that, while elegant, this is a very modern watch in both style and design. This is how Germans do a “dude watch,” and what I like about Mühle-Glashütte is that even though they do produce tool watches, they very much attempt to give their various models unique personalities. This means that in addition to cold, hard, utility, there is a more fun element to the design if you both like and understand the aesthetic they are going for. In that sense, the Mühle-Glashütte Marinus GMT is not at all designed to be an “everyman” dive watch, but rather something for those people who connect with how it looks and feels on the wrist.
With AR-coated sapphire crystals and a chunky case that has 30 bars of water resistance, the Mühle-Glashütte Marinus GMT feels very solid, and the bi-directional rotating bezel clicks with secure, tight movements. There is a little “bounce” to the bezel, but it does not wobble. Over the bezel is an aluminum insert that is slightly domed. I’ve gotten so used to ceramic these days that when I see aluminum, it feels very old school.