When we talk about top watch brands, we inevitably turn to Switzerland. But let’s break out of that mold for a moment and look at what Germany has to offer. German watch brands craft unique timepieces found nowhere else in the world. They have renowned German engineering, in-house movements and attention to detail.
1: A. Lange & Söhne
The company was found in Glashütte, Germany in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange. The watchmakers have crafted timepieces for notables such as German Emperor Wilhelm II and Alexander II of Russia. A. Lange & Söhne also produced pocket watches that were popular during the day. The company fell under Soviet control in 1948 and it wasn’t until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that A. Lange & Söhne reemerged on the international scene, debuting a line of wristwatches in 1994.
Their first big watch of the modern era was appropriately named the Lange 1, with an iconic off-center dial design that was to become their signature style to this day. Since 1994 they’ve mimicked that style with watches such as the more-elaborate Lange Datograph and minimalistic Lange 31. The watchmakers went big with the eye-popping Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna, featuring a near-surreal moon-phase display.
Formed in 1994 in Barbing, Germany, Damasko drew heavily from the past experience of its founder Konrad Damasko. He was previously the owner of Damasko Metallbearbeitung, a high-end metal processing company. Konrad brought his in-depth knowledge and vast resources in the realm of precious metals to the watch world. The result was a line of timepieces of top-notch quality at affordable prices – research, development, and outsourcing were minimal.
A notable entry in their line is the DS 30, a tool watch that can make a fair claim of indestructibility. It’s slimmer and more minimalistic than most tool watches. The understated size and profile also make it perfect for both men and women. The Damasko DC 66 is a bolder choice, adhering more to the heftier feel of traditional pilot chronographs. It has large numerals and is emboldened by a strap with industrial-style treads.
Loved for their minimalistic designs and classic style, Junghans began as Junghans and Tobler. In 1861 Erhard Junghans and his brother-in-law Jakob Zeller-Tobler started up a clock component business.Within a few years, they were producing popular clocks that everyday people could afford. Just after the turn of the century, the business had boomed into the world’s largest watchmaking factory. Junghans produced three million pieces per year. More than 150 years after its launch Junghans is still making high-end timepieces.
One of the most iconic Junghans to pick up is the Max Bill Chronoscope, a minimalist watch for purists that’s based on a design from Swiss artist and Bauhaus-devotee Max Bill. Calling this watch understated would be an understatement. The first in the Max Bill line was produced in 1961 and it got an update in 2017.
Archimede has only been a standalone watchmaker since 2003, but its roots go back to 1924. It was in that year that Karl Ickler began his watch-case manufacturing company in Pforzheim, Germany. The company was shuttered during World War II and reemerged in 1947 when Ickler’s sons took up the watchmaking trade. Today, third generation family member Thomas Ickler runs the operation that specializes in pilot watches.
Basic black is always elegant and the Archimede OutDoor Black is no exception. Their Klassik Chronograph is exactly as it sounds, a classic pilot watch with a traditional stainless steel case and steel Milanaise strap that oozes sophistication.
5: NOMOS Glashütte
Two months after the Berlin Wall fell Roland Schwertner founded NOMOS Glashütte. Like other German watchmakers, he drew minimalist influence from Bauhaus style to create clean and no-nonsense designs. The first Berlin studio has grown to include multiple operations in Glashütte, a town where acclaimed German watchmaking got its start centuries ago.
While still well within the minimalist range, the Nomos Zürich takes a slightly edgier approach with a multi-tiered dial that immediately catches the eye. The names of capital cities across the globe, including London, Rio, and Moscow, circle the dial and an innovative red triangle allows you to quickly calculate the time around the world. For a simple retro vibe, check out the NOMOS Glashütte Neomatik.
6: Glashütte Original
While it began under Soviet control in 1951 it wasn’t until German unification that Glashütte Original came into its own. Free from the East German watch conglomerate, they launched in 1994 with a factory in the watchmaking town of Glashütte.
Sticking to the minimalist scrip with a twist, the Glashütte Original PanoReserve offers a unique off-center dial that makes it one of the most popular in the line. Ready for a little funky fun? The Glashütte Original Seventies Panorama Date serves as an unapologetic nod to the 70s and is a great way to put some retro style on your wrist.
With a name that refers to German singers of the Middle Ages, MeisterSinger was formed in 2001 with an unusual design. The watches feature just one hand instead of two or three. This somewhat explains the company name, as the watches are homages to sundials and clock towers of yore.
Don’t worry that one hand won’t give you all the info you need. The MeisterSinger Perigraph displays the time and day with an open date ring. And does so in style with eye-catching dials such as Sunburst Anthracite and Sunburst Blue. Or go completely classic with a MeisterSinger No.01, an elegant watch with clean lines and traditional indexes.