German Watchmaking History 1-3 parts

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German Watchmaking History 1-3 parts

Post by koimaster » February 2nd 2022, 12:25pm

Germany is synonymous with precise engineering and utilitarian design. Their economy is the fourth biggest in the world, and the biggest in Europe. Neither of these statements will come as a surprise to most of you, however, considering what they’ve been through in the last 100 years, it’s incredible that they’ve been able to maintain this position in the world. As a parallel to Germany’s geopolitical and economic timeline, their watchmaking industry has shared similar ups and downs. In part one of this series, I will cover the German watch industry – with a specific focus on Pforzheim and Glashütte – leading up to WWII, and during the war. It’s not meant to cover every last detail, but it should serve as an excellent primer for moving into the post-war years and onto today.

There’s a solid fifteen to twenty year period leading up to the war where the wristwatch industry boomed in Germany. The cities of Pforzheim and Glashütte became known for quality watchmaking, something that has thankfully been restored to some degree today. Although one might wonder what the watchmaking industries in each city would look like today had they gone uninterrupted, there’s still plenty of history to talk about. ... ry-part-i/

Part 1 -

Picking up where we left off in Part I, the Allied countries defeated the Axis powers, and much of Europe was in rough shape. Cities across Germany would feel the effects of war for decades, both financially and in terms of physical infrastructure. At a more granular level, Germany’s watchmakers felt that pain immensely. Pforzheim and Glashütte were direct casualties of the war, but due to their respective locations within Germany, how they came out on the other side was very different. For the sake of keeping this from turning into a veritable novel, we’ll stick to Pforzheim, and save Glashütte for the next installment.

As mentioned in Part I, Pforzheim’s watchmakers were forced to produce fuses for Nazi weaponry, which made them a major strategic target for the Allies. In early 1945, the Allies practically destroyed Pforzheim. Both Stowa and Laco would have to start from scratch if they wanted to make another watch. Although it took several years, the determination to get back on their feet proved strong enough for both watchmakers. Laco, with it’s sister company, Durowe, would re-start production in 1949, and then Stowa just two years later. Much of this revitalization can be owed to the Marshall Plan, which afforded war-torn European cities money to rebuild. ... y-part-ii/

Part 3 -

At this point (if you’ve been reading), you know that WWII was absolutely devastating for German watchmaking industry, and it was a herculean effort to get it back on track. The majority of German watchmakers relied on the Marshall Plan and other governmental incentives, but it was a completely different story in Glashütte.

While West Germany was getting its scheiβe back together, East Germany was now under Soviet rule according to the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences. Lange and other Glashütte watchmakers would have likely shared the same post-war successes as Stowa and Laco in Pforzheim, but they unfortunately had to live under a communist economy. It didn’t take long before the Soviets brought together essentially all watchmaking capabilities of Glashütte into a publicly owned (read: state owned) company. What had formerly been known as A. Lange und Söhne, Glashütte S.A., R. Mühle und Sohn, and others – purveyors of precision timepieces in one of the watchmaking capitals of the world – was now a behemoth of government-run assembly lines. Due to the trade climate at the time, East Germany (or the DDR) was mostly self-reliant, which was a primary driver of the watchmaking consolidation. ... g-history/


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