Glashütte Original, now owned by Swatch Group, can trace its history back over 170 years. It is one of Germany’s greatest watchmakers, creating timepieces every bit as sophisticated, precise and stylish as its peers over the border in Switzerland. Its watches are almost entirely German, with only 5% of components coming from other Swatch companies, an achievement of which CEO Thomas Meier is particularly proud, as he explains in this interview with WatchPro.
WatchPro: How has the history of German watchmaking influenced your current business?
Thomas Meier: Our manufactory looks back on a watchmaking history of more than 170 years. The traditions have been handed over from one generation to the next, from the father to the son. Without any doubt, the knowledge, the experiences and the skills that we obtained in our long and rich history are an essential part of our today’s business. The high degree of activities done by hand in our manufactory and the traditionally finished movements in our watches are just two examples.
WatchPro: What are the opportunities and challenges to being a German watchmaker compared to operating out of Switzerland or elsewhere?
Thomas Meier: German watches and Swiss watches are both characterised by an excellent quality and precision. The labels “Made in Germany” and “Swiss Made” can be seen as two of the strongest labels in the world. Therefore, our challenge is not in the competition with the Swiss watch industry but in meeting the taste of our customers and connoisseurs. Our watches present a very pure and classic design, which distinguishes us from other manufacturers and give our timepieces a unique appearance.
WatchPro: Do German watchmakers work particularly effectively with the Swiss?
Thomas Meier: We are very proud to be a member of the Swatch Group as the biggest watch manufacturer in the world – based in Switzerland. Nevertheless, we produce most of our watch components in-house, with a production depth of more than 95 per cent. Thanks to the excellent cooperation, the remaining components come from our sister companies within the Swatch Group.
WatchPro: How strong is the training and education of watchmakers in Germany?
Thomas Meier: In the year 2001 we initiated an own apprenticeship program for watchmakers at our manufactory. One year later, our own “Alfred Helwig” School of Watchmaking has been founded. At the school we offer excellent opportunities for the education of upcoming watchmakers and toolmakers in courses of three or three and a half years respectively.
After graduation, all apprentices who finish their course with at least good results have a job guarantee within our company. For their further career, Glashütte Original offers diverse perspectives within the manufactory and within the Swatch Group.
WatchPro: Are there characteristics that you feel identify your watches as being German, and are key selling points?
Thomas Meier: Our customers love the clear design of our watches, associated with the high precision and the beautiful finish of our watch movements. In comparison to our competitors, Glashütte Original offers the best value for money.
WatchPro: Does ‘Made in Germany’ help you attract the best retailers that your brand targets around the world?
Thomas Meier: Besides our excellent quality and beautiful design, the label “Made in Germany” helps a lot for marketing our products. It stands for a consistent high quality and excellence in all manufacturing processes. That is exactly what we represent with our products and our methods.
WatchPro: Can you describe your business in the UK – which retailers do you work with? What works well in the UK? How has business been in the past few years? Do you have any new ideas or plans concerning the UK in the coming 12 months?
Thomas Meier: It is always our aim to extend our existing worldwide distribution network. These thoughts have to be combined with more information about our brand and products – especially in markets where our brand naturally could be known better.