Glashütte: The Spirit of a Place, a Time, a Luxury Timepiece

Glashütte: The Spirit of a Place, a Time, a Luxury Timepiece
Yann Gamard, CEO of Glashütte Original/Swatch Group. (Matthias Kehrein/Epoch Times)
Emel Akan

Being a German luxury watchmaker among many Swiss luxury watchmakers at Baselworld, the largest fine watch and jewelry show in the world, is not the least bit daunting for Glashütte Original. The German luxury watch brand that takes its name from the town where its timepieces are made, is owned by Swatch Group, yet it encapsulates a decidedly German know-how and style.

At Baselworld this spring, Glashütte Original unveiled its new Calibre 36 timepiece, with an innovative movement, which sets a new standard in precision, running time, and stability.

The brand has also introduced its most recent edition of the Senator Chronometer, which offers certified precision with a distinctive dark blue dial. The watch unites high-level performance with a timeless elegance.

At Baselworld in Switzerland earlier this year, Epoch Times own Pamela Tsai spoke with Yann Gamard, CEO of Glashütte Original. 

Epoch Times: Can you please describe the value of the brand?

Yann Gamard: First of all, it’s not a Swiss brand it’s a German brand. The Swiss watch industry is a big part of this industry and they do beautiful watches. It is an honor for us to be able to race with them and to be part of the scenery. They recognize that we are a good alternative in high-end watchmaking.

(Courtesy of Glashütte Original)
(Courtesy of Glashütte Original)

Secondly, in order to compete with Swiss brands, we have to be very good at precision, accuracy, and quality. And since we are a German brand, we are very good at those.

We also have our own sense of elegance and beauty. It is usually very sleek. We’re very much focused on what the consumer will see. We put all the complications on the inside of the watch. And on the outside, we try to make it as readable and as elegant as possible.

Innovation in Watchmaking

Epoch Times: Customers have evolving tastes and preferences. How do you overcome that challenge?

Mr. Gamard: In our company, we have a lot of young people. We don’t just have elderly guys like me. We have more than 170 years of history and we’re also very innovative in how we make watches. We are the innovation in the Glashütte area.

We get young people involved in the manufacturing. When you are a manufacturer, you have the chance to have every profession making a watch in the same place, so they can talk to each other. If you don’t have this vertical integration, you don’t have the same chance. That is why we are able to produce these beautiful watches. When the market comes up with a fancy thing like a smartwatch, then we also produce a smartwatch.

Epoch Times: Smartwatch?

Mr. Gamard: Of course, we produce a smartwatch. There are 37 time zones in the world. This watch [Senator Cosmopolite] manages the 37 time zones. Summer time, winter time, day and night are on one crown. So if you’re going to Los Angeles, you use IATA codes, you take the code LAX. And if you’re in summer you take DLAX, daylight saving time and the watch automatically sets itself for the time over there.

New Senator Chronometer with dark blue dial. (Courtesy of Glashütte Original)
New Senator Chronometer with dark blue dial. (Courtesy of Glashütte Original)

It’s a program that does that, not software. The program is based on these wheels and pinions. There are two problems with this watch, though. It is not a good smartwatch because first you never have to charge this watch. It functions all the time on your wrist, 24/7. And secondly, this watch will appreciate in the future. You don’t have to change the software every two years. So that’s why it’s not really a smartwatch.

Epoch Times: What’s the price point?

Mr. Gamard: Thirty-six thousand, five hundred euros in red gold, and 38,000 euros in white gold.

The New Senator Chronometer—'German, Not Swiss’

Epoch Times: Can you please explain the new Senator Chronometer?

Mr. Gamard: We have one of the most complicated but at the same time, simple chronometers. The work that is done inside the movement is fantastic. We launched a blue chronometer. This chronometer is certified at a very high level, with lots of duress tests.

It’s a German chronometer norm, not a Swiss chronometer. We tested the watch and the movement. It is a beautiful piece. It synchronizes the hours and the seconds.

Epoch Times: You are overseeing the brand globally. Which markets are the fastest growing markets?

Mr. Gamard: Our fastest growing market is China. China is a little bit impatient right now because it only grows some 10 percent per year. In the past the Chinese market grew 25 to 40 percent per year. But it is still a very good growth. 

Epoch Times: And what about your experience with Chinese customers?

Mr. Gamard: Chinese people are very curious, they function with knowledge. The population is not superficial. They put a lot of depth into things.

I keep saying this to everyone: America has 300 years of history, Europe has 2,000 years and the Chinese have 5,000 years of history.

So they understand history. We often do events in China. I invite, for instance, a painter, or a poet-reader, because there are lots of similarities. Their taste for art is very deep. Their taste for balance in life is really something that people don’t fully understand.

Lady Serenade. (Courtesy of Glashütte Original)
Lady Serenade. (Courtesy of Glashütte Original)

Every watch will come with a certificate that explains the life of the watch. And if you go on the website, you can even have the graphics of the life balance of the watch, in the six positions of a chronometer.

And this is why we’re actually doing quite alright in China. Because when they are informed, they see that the watch has a great value. We organize VIP manufacture visits. They fly over to Europe. They come and visit us, and then we walk them through the individual process of watchmaking.

We have a museum where we explain to them the 170 years of history. And we have a school as well. So all these are integrated and they realize the depth. We receive 7,000 requests for visits every year from all around the world and a lot of requests come from China. 

We have several boutiques in China. We take China very seriously. It works quite well for us. I think Chinese consumers like the brand. 

Epoch Times: We’re seeing a huge number of Chinese tourists that are buying watches and luxury brands outside of China, for example, in London, Paris, New York, Frankfurt, and Sydney. How do you respond to that trend?

Mr. Gamard: We communicate to them primarily in China. Also like other tourists, we are happy to see Chinese when they are abroad and on vacation. They have more willingness to spend than they have at home. We also have tourists from America who come to Europe and shop here, and tourists from Europe who go to America, Dubai, or Asia to shop there.

When a person travels for leisure, then he or she tends to be a bit more ready for shopping. And we keep everything the same, it’s the same product, the same brand, and the same store, all around the world. There is a consistency and when a traveler sees us, he or she sees us in the same way no matter where they are.

We have a boutique in Dresden, we have a boutique in Paris, we have a boutique in Tokyo, we have a boutique in Madrid, we have different boutiques all around the world. We have boutiques also in China, Hong Kong, and Macau—they all present the same values and brand experience. 

Epoch Times: How often do you travel to visit the boutiques?

Mr. Gamard: I go to every boutique at least two or three times a year.

Like a Phoenix Rising From the Ashes

Epoch Times: Are you doing watches specifically for Chinese customers?

Mr. Gamard: No, because the Chinese customers want watches from East Germany. They want our watches. They want Glashütte.

In the last 170 years, the town Glashütte experienced several economic and political crises including two world wars. It’s been through four political regimes, forced to believe in different ideologies, and then forced to not believe in a religion at all.

So the people in Glashütte needed some kind of a “religion” to survive. And their religion became the art of watchmaking. They really put their hearts into this technique, technology, elegance, precision, and high quality, and they have passed on their passion, generation after generation.

The watchmaking industry in Glashütte nearly died every time there was one of those crisis moments and was reborn again, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

The last moment of rebirth was one when the wall came down in 1989. So it’s a continuous cycle. It is the art of survival.

That’s what happens to people who have to go through different life cycles and different types of cycles. You become stronger and you adapt to changes.

Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
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