Sixties Iconic: Glashütte Original’s Richly Multicolored Homage To Vintage East German Style
Back at Baselworld 2007, Glashütte Original veered off into a slightly different direction than it had been following since its relaunch in 1994. To that point, the collection had mainly concentrated on offering connoisseurs of German watchmaking beautifully finished manufacture movements, which were housed in traditional cases topped off by dials classically befitting the high level of workmanship plainly in evidence through the transparent case back.
In 2007, something a little lighter entered the collection: a watch called the Senator Sixties, which could be even classified as fun. And it might well have been aimed at enticing a younger clientele into the brand’s luxury timepieces – but without scaring off the traditionally minded collectors that had come to know and love the Glashütte Original watches as they were.
I, too, fully embraced the Senator Sixties, which was a re-design of a compilation of several timepieces the brand introduced in the 1960s, during the era of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
The Senator Sixties captured the feel of watch design during the1960s, without forgetting the taste and style of today’s connoisseurs. Its flat case was set off by domed sapphire crystals on the front and back, which not only allowed a view of beautiful automatic manufacture Caliber 39-52, but also a side view of the rotor’s skeletonized 21-karat gold oscillating weight.
The Senator Sixties, which is still available with a cornflower blue or white dial and with or without date and even chronograph, is water-resistant to a depth of 3 ATM (30 meters).
Back in the 1960s
The design traits we think of from the 1960s hold a special place in the history of design, so much is clear. We think of big patterns, bright colors, and psychedelics. This was even true of design in former East Germany, though the colors were a tad more muted.
The look of the new Glashütte Original Sixties Iconic collection features historic visuals created using the actual stamps dial supplier Th. Müller utilized in the 1960s.
VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb (GUB for short) was not only the conglomerate combine (a socialist industrial enterprise formed by combining several different enterprises, in this case through the process of expropriation) from which Glashütte Original sprang, it was also the sole manufacturer of wristwatches and other micro-technology throughout East Germany, supplying timepieces of every size and shape to the whole East Bloc.
While it seems improbable after such an acrimonious split of the country, GUB maintained export relations with foreign countries such as the Federal Republic of Germany (then West Germany), its direct neighbor.
By the same token, GUB also purchased components from West German suppliers. One of these was Th. Müller, GUB’s dial maker located in Pforzheim. Reinhard Reichel, curator of the German Museum of Watchmaking in Glashütte, explained that there has never been a dial maker in Glashütte, not even historically, and that dials have always been supplied by specialists in Switzerland and other parts of Germany.
GUB began working with Th. Müller in 1956. The two companies came into contact thanks to the Leipzig Messe, which was an important commercial event not only for East German companies to find export and supplier partners, but also for divided families to illicitly see each other.
Th. Müller, which changed its name to DZM some years later, has continued to work with GUB until the present day. It is now called GZM and it now officially belongs to Glashütte Original (GUB). Both Glashütte Original and GZM are part of the Swatch Group.
On September 30, 2015, Glashütte Original introduced the latest iterations of the delightful Sixties collection against the backdrop of the museum’s special exhibition “Glashütte in the GDR era”– a perfect setting, and not one that was arbitrarily chosen.
And while this new collection of five timepieces called Sixties Red, Sixties Golden, Sixties Aqua, Sixties Brown, and Sixties Grey might just look like an extension of the original Senator Sixties, it is a little more than that.
That little bit more is rooted in history I just recounted as well as the fact that the dial maker came across some 40-year-old stamping tools, which the team at Glashütte Original decided to use for the dials of a couple of the models in the new collection of Sixties models.
These colorful new dials, domed like a pie pan, were created using the treasure trove of stamping tools and a complicated galvanic process that also involves several layers of lacquering by hand to create the graduated dégradé effect.
It is the work completed by hand that makes each one of the dials just a little bit different from the next.
The sapphire crystals on both the front and the back follow this same shape, which adds another interesting visual layer.
While the original containing the Spezimatik movement cost about 200 East German marks in the 1960s and 1970s, you can expect to pay a bit more for these modern homages. But you will be hard-pressed to find quite as much fun and solid high-end watchmaking in many other places for the same money.
For more information, please visit www.glashuette-original.com.
Case: 39 x 9.4 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic manufacture Caliber 39-52 with Glashütte three-quarter plate and very fine finishing, 40 hours of power reserve
Dial: available in red, gold, blue, brown, and grey with dégradé effect and stamping from vintage stamp tool
Functions: hours, minutes, sweep seconds
Distribution: sold only through Glashütte Original boutiques and some Tourbillon boutiques
Price: €6,300 / $7,500