The watch industry is full of stories that speak of courage, but most of them start long before anyone alive can actually recall. But the rebirth of the watchmaking town of Glashütte is a far more relatable story of the human spirit, beginning as it did in the 1990s. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the little Saxon town has reestablished itself as the beating heart of traditional German watchmaking. Residents such as A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte Original and Nomos Glashütte are now lodged among today’s top tier watch houses, each with their own remarkable post-Soviet story to tell.
Even more recent than those is the story of Moritz Grossmann, named after a 19th century watchmaker credited as one of the co-founders of Glashütte’s watchmaking industry. It was revived by Christine Hutter, a former Lange watchmaker who boldly bought the name 10 years ago and has been steadily growing it ever since, releasing her first watch in 2010.
These last few years, the company has started making a marked impact on the watchmaking scene, building its own facility on one of the steeped banks that rises above the town below in the process (looming over Lange and Nomos, in fact). It claims to be making around 500 watches a year, with ambitions to double that in short order. Few of these are what you might call shouty watches – they’re modest aesthetically, until that is you delve beneath the initial and find exquisite detailing and decoration. Owners pick up low-volume, high-end pieces with a dial name that needs some explaining over a drink, perhaps even to experienced collectors.
The brand is in the headlines at the moment because it’s just begun an extraordinary auction of 24 piece unique watches created to mark its tenth anniversary. All 24 are being sold through Christie’s (where Dubai Watch Week held the inaugural London Horology Forum earlier this autumn). To give you an idea of the significance of the auction.
“Christie’s says it’s never entertained such a large capsule collection of new, one-off pieces before”
The 24 pieces cover a spectrum, starting with a set that includes an original Moritz Grossman ladies’ pocket watch made in circa 1875 and a 37mm Atum wristwatch created in homage to it. Most of the pieces are time only. Among the standouts are the Benu No 1, the only one of the first 100 watches made by the company not yet offered for sale; the Atum Backpage Platinum, which flips the movement over so that what would traditionally be the reverse is visible dial-side up; and the series of coloured Benu Tourbillon models, each of which has a flying three-minute tourbillon and non-coaxial – or regulator – hands. There’s also a piece with a butterfly motif Grand Feu enamel dial created by German artist Harriet Oberlaender, who was herself born in East Germany.
The auction is live now (as sale number 16375 ) and runs until December 10. Most lots carry estimates of between US$5,000 and $20,000, which strike us as entirely reasonable. Bids can be placed online, while for those whose engagement will naturally be limited to the romantic, Moritz Grossmann has also created a 24-day advent calendar that reveals the watches one by one, and only in date order. So no peeking at number 24 until you’ve seen the first 23. Question is, is this flurry of activity the door opening to Moritz Grossmann’s future?