For 2017, Glashütte Original debuts a new limited-edition collection of five different watches within the Sixties Square family. Devotees of the brand might find it interesting that these are the first Glashütte Original watches initially debuted outside of Europe – in New York City today where I am with the brand for the product release. Limited to 25 pieces per watch, this set is known as the Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic Square – each inspired by colors present on watch dials the brand produced by the brand in the 1960s. The dials of these new models are all made by Glashütte Original’s own dial maker in Pforzheim, Germany – serving to pay homage to Saxon brand’s enduring legacy of “Made in Germany” fine watch making.
This is about as funky as Glashütte, Germany-based Glashütte Original gets these days, and they do it feeling confident because as I said the brand produced similar watch dial colors (among many others) during the 1960s and 1970s. This historical fact merits a bit of attention because during this era the company was state-owned under communist-controlled East Germany (GDR). For GDR wrist watches, Glashütte made some remarkably “fun” stuff – much of which is visible at the watch museum (sponsored by Glashütte Original) in Glashütte (certainly worth a visit if you are in the area). In an otherwise “socially equal” culture, expression in the form of bright colors (in a variety of ways) was both tolerated and even promoted.
The problem with a lot of these more historic actual vintage watches with wild colors is that in many instances the colors did not last well over the years. Unless stored in very particular conditions, the natural elements (such as sunlight) would cause colors to fade or altogether disappear a lot of the time. Only in recent years with more modern technology such as sophisticated lacquering techniques, PVD, and other processes are watch dials able to more permanently receive interesting and bold colors in a way that fits the longevity requirements of a luxury timepiece.
With these limited edition models, Glashütte Original attempts to “show off” some of their technical prowess as well as embolden their own brand personality – and the result is quite beautiful. It is a good time to be a fine German watch maker as, compared to many of their Swiss counterparts, they are doing quite decently even in this challenging economy. Perhaps another conversation is merited in order to determine why it is that the Germany luxury watch industry has fared better than the Swiss one.
According to Glashütte Original, such vivid dial colors first showed up in the brand’s “Spezimatic” watches originally from the 1960s. The names of each of these Sixties Iconic Square watches is directly related to the dial color and include the Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic Square Forest (green), Sixties Iconic Square Ocean (blue) Sixties Iconic Square Graphite (gray with an imprint effect), Sixties Iconic Square Tangerine (orange), and Sixties Iconic Square Fire (red). After spending some time with these fun colors and cool watches I certainly have some favorites – though it would be hard to choose just one. I think my top picks are the red, green, and blue dials.
A technique known as dégradé is used for each of these Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic Square dials as they have a gradient effect for the colors. A manual process of applying a series of lacquer coats is used over a base galvanic coating. The dials are then oven baked to burn in the colors. The hour markers are each cut into the dial – it’s a cool effect. According to Glashütte Original, each of the dials is thus slightly unique given how they are manufactured, and of course, each is meticulously made using hand-craftsmanship.
Grasping the effort required for the artistry is a necessary element in understanding the value proposition in watches such as these. Such dials are not simply cranked out mechanically using automated techniques, but rather require skill, trial and error, and lots of patience. A close inspection of the dials reveals the organic nature of each dial, complete with personality-lending imperfections and nuances. More so, as a proud German tool they are all legible with a good ability to see the flat-polished hands and hour markers. No really serious German art watch is a decorative item before it is a functionality timepiece.
This year, in 2017, Glashütte Original celebrates 11 years of owning their dial maker that is located across the country in Pforzheim, but according to the brand has been working with suppliers in the region for many decades. Glashütte as a region is known for watch movement production, while Pforzheim – traditionally a jewelry making center – is where dials, cases, and bracelets are typically manufactured. It’s nice to know this in order to appreciate who these various skills combine together into a cohesively German product combining effort from different parts of the country.
Each of the Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic Square watches comes in a polished cushion-style square case produced from steel. Size on the wrist is 41.35mm wide by 41.35mm tall. It feels large, but is very comfortable. While thoroughly modern, it is a very specific and well-rendered emulation of a vintage style case construction. With that said the materials and finishings are far superior to any actual vintage Glashütte Original watch I’ve personally seen.
Inside each Sixties Iconic is a Glashütte Original manufacture-made Calibre 39-34 automatic 30-minute chronograph movement. Given the domed nature of the dial, the minute hand and chronograph seconds hand are bent at the tips in traditional manner. The caliber 39-34 automatic movement operates at 4Hz with 40 hours of power reserve. In typical Glashütte style, it has a 3/4 plate construction and also has a swan-neck fine regulation system for the balance wheel.
The five versions of the Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic Square watch will, as mentioned above, be limited to just 25 pieces each. Attached will be a thick-padded and comfy alligator strap in brown or black, as is best suited to the dial color. Really cool stuff for those interested in this collection and case shape but who have been looking for a more special reason to get one. Availability will be in Glashütte Original brand boutiques, as well as select third-party authorized dealers globally. Price for each is $9,700 USD. glashuette-original.com
I have to say that the Glashütte Original caliber 37 moves are among the best-kept secrets in the watch world for people who like chronographs. There’s nothing else out there quite like it, and it should really get more focus on offering as much functionality as it does in a bundle that looks very straightforward and tasteful. I’ll also note that it’s a stop seconds attribute (which means that if you pull out the crown, the moments hand stops so that you can more precisely place the time). The chronograph seems to be a mere 30-minute chronograph in the beginning, but then you notice that hours have been counted not via a dialup, but a moving disc observable under 12 o’clock. I was concerned about the legibility of some thing similar to this at first, but I learned to really love it – and actually find this system for studying a 12-hour chronograph superior to most others. Like I said, the chronograph is a flyback, and operated through a pillar wheel transmission which you are able to view from the movement when seeing it through the sapphire crystal throughout the back of the case.Finally, Glashütte Original completes the high-functionality bundle by including a discreet power reserve indicator inside the top left quadrant of the subsidiary seconds dial. It does cut out a small bit of the dial of the indicators, but that’s a very small price to cover this extra functionality that I actually enjoy. From a performance standpoint, the 37-02 movement works at 4Hz (28,800bph) using a power reserve of approximately three times.