The Tutima Hommage Minute Repeater Chimes ‘Happy To Be Home’
You may already know Tutima as a brand that makes sporty, pilot-style watches. If you do, then you probably also know that these have quite a history. But what you may not know is that Tutima, which has been at home in the northern part of what was formerly West Germany since about 1951, has inextricable roots in Glashütte.
Let’s take a brief look at the important points in Tutima’s history before we head to the main event: the Hommage Minute Repeater, which is the first minute repeater to be fully conceived, designed, manufactured and produced on German soil.
Tutima’s roots extend back 87 years to 1927. This was a period in which Glashütte and its Präzisions-Uhrenfabrik GmbH, the predominant movement maker in terms of volume, were plagued with economic troubles.
Dr. Ernst Kurtz was hired to help alleviate the difficulties caused by the era’s economics and the flood of Swiss wristwatches dominating the German and European markets. A jurist originally from northern Germany’s harbor city Hamburg, in 1927 Kurtz created the Glashütte watch factories Urofa (Uhren-Rohwerke-Fabrik Glashütte AG) and Ufag (Uhrenfabrik Glashütte AG) from the bankrupt Präzisions-Uhrenfabrik.
Kurtz focused on wristwatches instead of the pocket watches that Glashütte had predominately been manufacturing (the city was a little late to that game). The economic upswing of the 1930s helped the two factories establish themselves in an international market made ever more competitive by trendy Swiss wristwatches.
Urofa concentrated on manufacturing ébauches (blank movement kits). Ufag, on the other hand, produced finished watches. And its top-quality brand was called Tutima.
Tutima soon became famous for its pilot’s watches thanks to the fact that the government integrated the two factories into the armament industry at the end of 1938 – as it did with other German manufacturers including A. Lange & Söhne, Wempe in Hamburg, and Laco and Stowa (both in Pforzheim).
By 1940, Tutima was no longer manufacturing civilian wristwatches – an obligation that brought forth one of the most legendary pilot’s watches of all time: the Reich’s air force watch. As this isn’t our topic for today, we’ll come back to more details on this at a later date.
East meets west
On May 8, 1945, just scant hours before the official end of World War II, Glashütte was bombed one final time. Kurtz left for the western part of Germany just days before, seemly anticipating the socialist years in store for eastern Germany in addition to the final bombing.
As both Urofa and Ufag had been dismantled by the Russians, Kurtz had to start over. Around 1951, he finally settled near Bremen in northern Germany. In 1960 Dieter Delecate, a close confidant of Kurtz and the man in charge of Tutima’s distribution and sales, took over the company’s production as well.
Delecate reconfigured the company, now Tutima Uhren GmbH (a limited company). Though the 1960s and ’70s were not easy, he continually modified structural and model policies, all the while never forgetting the original enthusiasm that led him to acquire the factory in the first place.
Delecate saw to it that Tutima thrived well past the quartz crisis to become a driving force in Germany during the mechanical renaissance.
Return to Glashütte
May 12, 2011 was a banner day for Tutima: after an absence of 65 years, Tutima finally returned home to Glashütte.
You may ask why this took 22 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But if you know the Delecate family – Dieter runs the family-owned business together with his two oldest children, Jörg and Ute – you know that these northerners are quite conservative when it comes to strategy. A big decision like acquiring property and setting up a factory in Glashütte would not be completed overnight.
Delecate bought the property formerly housing the area’s railroad maintenance crew in 2005 and began renovations of the building, which were only completed in 2008.
Tutima is now a direct neighbor to Nomos, whose headquarters are in the former train station. The state-of-the-art factory is also only steps away from both Glashütte Original and A. Lange & Söhne.
A “kitty corner” of high-end German watchmaking, so to speak.
From 2008 through 2011, Tutima’s technicians and Rolf Lang – father of Marco Lang of Lang & Heyne – created a highly complicated, limited edition timepiece to honor the return to Glashütte: the Tutima Hommage is the very first minute repeater to come out of Glashütte that was fully conceived, designed and produced in the German Mecca for fine watchmaking.
A tribute to Glashütte
Glashütte had never produced a full minute repeater without Swiss help. Ferdinand Adolph Lange patented a simple quarter repeater in 1866, and in 1873 his son Richard began producing a version with an updated mechanical design utilizing a separate spring barrel and stabilized by a typical Glashütte three-quarter plate. A. Lange & Söhne made about 700 of these up to 1940 (most before 1914).
All other repeaters made in Glashütte were based on ébauches supplied by Audemars Piguet or LeCoultre, which the Le Sentier-based company made especially for Glashütte entrepreneurs (among them A. Lange & Söhne, Julius Assmann, and Dürrstein). These ébauches were described in LeCoultre’s sales catalogues as the “genre allemande” (the German type).
The Hommage is a three-handed minute repeater conceived by Tutima from the ground up. The hand-wound Caliber 800 measures 32 mm in diameter and comprises 550 individual components; it beats at a frequency of 3 Hz/21,600 vph.
With a traditional matte, frosted, rose-gold-plated finish and a Glashütte three-quarter plate, this exceptional movement is directly identifiable as a product of its geographical location.
The steel repeater parts – every single one of which has been manufactured and tin-polished to perfection in Glashütte – culminate in the two gongs attached to the case for better resonance.
The chimes’ resonance was a subject of great consideration for Tutima’s Glashütte-based team. While Kurtz had his apprentices learn musical instruments to improve dexterity, Tutima chose to address the pitch and resonance of the repeater by turning to the acoustic labs of the TU Dresden and its Institut für Musikinstrumentenbau (the institute for making musical instruments at Dresden’s technical university) for selection and analysis.
The two notes of the repeating gongs (the ding and the dong) are thus in a major third interval, so as to emit a “joyful” sound.
Housed in a 43 mm case of solid pink gold or platinum, with the choice of a classic or skeletonized dial, this masterpiece is strictly limited to 25 pieces. “Our Hommage will remain just that,” Dieter Delecate said on May 12, 2011. “An homage.”
A word on the fine finishing
Tutima’s Hommage minute repeater is a high horology timepiece based on traditional Glashütte values, with particular emphasis on stability and exquisite finishing as dictated by the city’s horological founders.
Jörg Delectate explained to me that Kurtz also had a penchant for complicated watches, despite the fact that he can well be considered Saxony’s father of serial industrial manufacture.
Thus, the lion’s share of the new Tutima factory’s employees can be found in the finishing department, where the artisans grind, polish and file to achieve a most traditional Glashütte look for the Hommage’s movement.
The Hommage’s look does not involve later decoration techniques like Glashütte ribbing – which is basically côtes de Genève at a different angle – or perlage. Caliber 800 is polished and then matte rose-gold-plated for a frosted finish.
The finished movement looks vaguely English, and this is no accident: early Glashütte watchmaking was what we might consider very English in looks. All engravings on this movement, including the obvious clef note on the balance cock, are done by hand with no pre-cutting done by laser. The balance cock is engraved in relief (as opposed to flat engraving) as traditional Glashütte values dictate.
The movement’s levers, bridges, and cocks, and all springs outside of the balance spring, are manufactured in-house. The hairspring comes from Precision Engineering, which is now part of the MELB group along with sister company Moser & Cie, though it may not be recognizable as such since its terminal curve is bent in-house to turn it into a Breguet-style hairspring.
The matching balance wheel is manufactured in Saxony and the weighted balance screws come from another Saxon supplier.
And, finally, in case you thought it might be a typo, the word homage with a double m used in the name of this watch is the German spelling, a foreign word taken directly from the French.
For more information, please visit www.tutima.com.
Quick Facts Tutima Hommage
Case: 43 mm, pink gold or platinum
Movement: manually wound Caliber 800
Functions: hours, minute, subsidiary seconds; hour, quarter-hour and minute repeater
Limitation: 25 pieces