"Made in Germany" used to be the gold standard of manufacturing up until it all went a bit pear-shaped with that Volkswagen scandal. Fancy lying about emissions, eh? Pffft. You can fool us tree-hugging hippies only some of the time. Anyway, I'm not one to take an isolated incident and damn an entire country's manufacturing output with it. That said, though, I can't see me buying a German car in the near future, and not just because I can't drive. German watches, on the other hand, are still wunderbar in our eyes, so this week we'll look at three brands doing their best to win back German pride.
We'll start with Junghans, a brand I have loved for years but never really talked about before, probably for no other reason than I got distracted by something shiny and Swiss. Based in Baden-Wurttemberg, in southwest Germany, Junghans has been around for more than a century but the brand hit its aesthetic groove in the 1960s and '70s, when it started working with Swiss industrial designer Max Bill. Steeped in the design traditions of the Bauhaus movement, Bill created a series of watches for Junghans that perfected the clean, spartan dial design that the company is famous for. Those early designs, thankfully, haven't been tinkered with too much, and my favourite from the "new" collection is the Max Bill Chronoscope. Sized at 40mm and coming in a steel case, the Chronoscope is all about its looks - the clean, numberless dial, the subdials at the 12 and six o'clock positions and the flat-head pushers at the side. There is a date indication, which, to be honest, does ruin the symmetry a little, but that's a small gripe. The other beautiful and retro design touch is the domed glass, which gives the watch depth and, nowadays, makes it stand out, too. Inside is the Junghans J880.2 movement, which isn't spectacular but gets the job done. The HK$19,580 price tag means the watch is an absolute steal.
Nomos is another German brand that aspires to make watches that are as aesthetically minimalist as possible. Based in the centre of German watchmaking, the small Saxon town of Glashütte, Nomos is a comparatively new watchmaker, having been founded in only 1990. In the 26 years since, Nomos has carved a niche for itself among watch aficionados as a maker of beautifully designed watches with incredibly impressive in-house movements at prices that leave you wondering how it does it. The Minimatik, which recently won an iF Gold Award, the most prestigious industrial design award in the world, is the perfect distillation of Nomos' philosophy of less is more. The 35.5mm steel case looks bigger than it actually is but is also a nice echo of the time when watches weren't wrist-hugging monstrosities. The in-house DUW 3001 movement is a real standout and features 42 hours of power reserve. Features are kept simple, with only a small seconds dial at the six o'clock position, and the watch comes with a lovely cordovan leather strap. What's more, you can get all this for a snip at HK$29,800.
Finally, we have one of the German watch industry's heavier hitters: Glashütte Original. As the name tells you, the brand is one of the keystones of watchmaking in Glashütte and being part of the Swatch Group means it's been able to take German watchmaking around the globe. For Baselworld, Glashütte Original released a slew of wonderful new pieces; one that stood out for us was the Senator Chronometer, an artful representation of the luxury end of German watchmaking. Coming in a 42mm white-gold case, the watch features the stunning in-house 58-01 movement, which provides about 45 hours of power reserve. The dial is a deep blue and, with the Roman numerals, the design cues are certainly from the classic period. Topping off the luxury is the deep-blue alligator leather strap. Prices for the Senator Chronometer will be released soon.