Parma is famous for its ham, Northampton for leather shoes and Grasse for perfumes. Europe is full of tiny, nondescript towns that also happen to be global capitals for one type of product or another. In Germany, there's Herzogenaurach (population 24,000 but the birthplace of Adidas and Puma) and the tiny Saxon town of Glashutte, which has been making watches since the mid-19th century and gone through something of a renaissance in the past 20 years.
The big beast of all the Glashutte watchmakers is, of course, A Lange & Söhne. Tracing its history back to 1845, its revival can be dated to 1990, following the collapse of the East German communist regime. These days, A Lange & Söhne's reputation owes much to the calibre of watches such as the 1815 Up/Down (right). The name refers to the birth year of Ferdinand A. Lange, the founder of the company, and the timepiece is a worthy tribute that features one of the brand's enduring innovations: the up/down power-reserve indicators based on patents from 1879.
The case measures a classic 39mm and in this iteration comes in pink gold (it's also available in yellow and white gold) with a brown alligator leather strap. On the dial, things are kept relatively simple with a small seconds counter at the four o'clock position and power-reserve indicator at the eight o'clock position. Inside is an A Lange & Söhne Calibre L051.2 movement that gives the watch an impressive 72 hours of power when fully wound.
The pink-gold version of the A Lange & Söhne 1815 Up/Down is priced at HK$212,000.
Nomos is one of the newer and lesser-known Glashutte watchmakers. It emerged two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, with its first collection ready before Germany was reunified, in October 1990. Nomos has created for itself a modernist niche among Glashutte watchmakers, with clean, minimalist, almost Scandinavian-looking timepieces.
The Nomos Tetra 27 Karat (bottom left) is another minimal treat and comes in a square case measuring 27.5mm by 27.5mm. A great dress watch, it comes with a stainless-steel case and a horween shell cordovan strap, which has a retro feel to it. Inside, there is a manual in-house Nomos Alpha movement. The dial design has a classic patina to it, with the off-white finish complimenting both the layout of the sparse indices and the gold-plated hands. Features are kept simple, with only a small seconds hand at the six o'clock position. The Nomos Tetra 27 Karat is priced at HK$13,600.
Finally we have the most nautical of the Glashutte watchmakers, Mühle-Glashütte. It might seem curious to have an expert marine watchmaker hailing from landlocked Saxony, but Mühle-Glashütte hasn't let geography get in the way of its pursuit of excellence, which began in 1869.
Still producing marine instruments, yacht chronographs and the like, Mühle-Glashütte these days also makes fine wristwatches such as the Bicolor Antaria Chronograph (bottom right), which debuted at Baselworld this week. Coming in a menacing red gold and black, the Antaria Chronograph is a sporty watch featuring three chronograph subdials at the six, nine and 12 o'clock positions, with a date window at the three o'clock position.
The red-gold case measures 42mm and houses an in-house MU 9408 automatic movement that can crank out 48 hours of power. The strap is black Russian leather and water resistance on the watch is 50 metres.
The Mühle-Glashütte Bicolor Antaria Chronograph is priced at HK$29,000.