Bauhaus Design, Utilitarian Roots: 10 Of The Best German Watch Brands

by   |  in Accessories

German watch brands often sit in the shadow of Swiss hard-hitters. However, fatherland watchmaking boasts equally as rich of a tradition and offers equally as impressive craftsmanship as their southern neighbors.

In this post, we’re showcasing the ten best German watch brands today. 

We’ve included a variety of watchmakers, from under-the-radar gems to heritage-based legends. All of these brands are still headquartered in Germany, though Glashütte Original is under the Swatch umbrella.

nomos watch up close

The German watch-making tradition is rooted in utility and attention to detail, often more aesthetically restrained than their Swiss counterparts. The simple yet artistic Bauhaus movement continues to be the root of all German design even now.

Construction-wise, German movements often use a nickel and copper alloy over rhodium-plated brass, which is more matte.

 

The 10 Best German Watch Brands

Let’s learn more about German watch-making through these excellent brands. We’ve picked our 10 favorite German watch brands to highlight.

Braun

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In 1921, Braun was founded by engineer, Max Braun, as a small engineering shop in Frankfurt. Today, the company is based in Hochtaunuskreis district in Germany and is known for grooming appliances like electric shavers and beard trimmers.

When I’m looking for a super affordable, practical timepiece, I actually love watch lines from electronics companies. Sure, these budget buys won’t disrupt the horology field, but they’re built with an engineer’s discipline.

On top of that, Braun’s German design sensibilities serve up the kind of clean-lined minimalism that pairs well with casual or dressy outfits.

This is mostly thanks to famed industrial designer, Dieter Rams, who started designing for Braun in 1955. His sterilized, functionalist aesthetic became Braun’s brand design language.

Modern-day Apple designs are 100% lifted from Rams’ and Braun’s school of thought. Their design-focused approach has even brought about watch and clock collaborations with English fashion designer Paul Smith.

Price-wise, Braun’s Prestige Chronographs are their most expensive models, though they don’t go too far beyond the $500 range. Their most affordable timepieces are less than $100, and those are their best-sellers. 

For example…

The Braun Gents BN0032 Classic

This watch is one of the brand’s most popular, and most affordable. It’s quintessentially minimalist, with interesting design touches like the inversion from the glass to the dial and its non-horned lug area. The Milanese mesh bracelet paired with its stainless steel case makes the timepiece sparkle.

The Braun Gents BN0032 Classic
$89.87

This watch is quintessentially minimalist, with interesting design touches like the inversion from the glass to the dial and its non-horned lug area. The Milanese mesh bracelet paired with its stainless steel case makes the timepiece sparkle.

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02/25/2021 12:36 am GMT

BRAUN GENTS BN0032 CLASSIC DETAILS 

  • 40mm case
  • Stainless steel mesh bracelet
  • Quartz movement
  • 50m water resistance

Laco

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Laco has been around since 1925 and is headquartered in Pforzheim, Germany, a city known for its jewelry and watching-making industry.

The company boasts an impressive survivor history. Because their watches were famed for reliability and precision, they were one of five chosen watch manufacturers chosen to build pilot watches for the German Air Force. Others included Lange & Söhne and IWC.

As a company, they persisted through the Second World War, a feat few German businesses can lay claim to. 

They produced the first German pilot watches, which were DIN-certified. This means that they passed rigorous durability tests given by the German institute for standardization.

Nearly 100 years later, they owe much of their success to legendary lines like the Laco Sport Model chronograph, but tend to put their pilot watch foot forward when it comes to branding. Their watches are still sturdily built with its trademark German work ethic. 

Laco watches have a wide range, price-wise. Beautiful antique-inspired automatics can cost over $2000. However, let’s take a look at their 861972 model which features a popular, bold-lined design, and runs south of $400.

The Laco Luzern 861972

From their pilot watch line, this timepiece has a remixed Swiss railway clock style. The stainless steel case is matte with a black IP plating and the hands are filled with a superluminova.

Laco Luzern 861972
$353.00

Silver stainless-steel case and black Leather strap. Black dial. Quartz movement. Buckle closure. Water resistance of 50 meters.

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02/25/2021 12:36 am GMT

LACO LUZERN 861972 DETAILS 

  • 42mm case
  • Leather strap
  • Quartz movement
  • 50m water resistance

Junghans

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Founded in 1861, Junghans is a heritage brand that became the biggest clock factory in the world at the turn of the century. They slowly shrank, but found new life in the 1950s when they started working with Bauhaus designer Max Bill. 

Bill was a leader of the Modernist movement. He has artwork in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection, including clocks with the same design as his Junghans watches. This gives these timepieces artistic credibility, on top of its German horological chops.

Junghan is known for their Bauhaus-inspired Weimar sensibilities, which combines mass production with artistry, and function with aesthetics. 

In 1972, Junghans was the timekeeper for the Summer Olympics in Munich. That’s some Swiss-level cache.

Junghans watches range from just below $600 all the way up to $2500 for a high-quality automatic. One cool thing that the brand does is they create quartz versions of their premium automatics without sacrificing a single design point. This is the case with the watch we’re highlighting today!

The Junghans Max Bill Quartz

Of course, we have to highlight a Max Bill. It looks just like his piece in the MoMa, so wearing this watch is like wearing art. The beige strap is unique, but if it’s too unconventional for you check out the dark leather option. And if you’re horologically curious or just want it all, the automatic version is offered at a premium.

Junghans Max Bill Quartz
$485.00

Of course, we have to highlight a Max Bill. It looks just like his piece in the MoMa, so wearing this watch is like wearing art. The beige strap is unique, but if it’s too unconventional for you check out their other offerings.

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02/25/2021 12:36 am GMT

JUNGHANS MAX BILL QUARTZ DETAILS 

  • 38mm case
  • Calfskin leather strap
  • Quartz movement
  • 30m water resistance

ARCHIMEDE

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Karl Ickler founded this Pforzheim-based business in 1924, and it’s still run by the Ickler family today.

Regardless, most parts of an Ickler watch are developed and manufactured in-house, from the design and construction, to the prototyping, engraving, and quality control. In fact, the cases are crafted from solid blocks of stainless steel, titanium, or bronze.

The ARCHIMEDE brand name debuted in 2003, offering the personal touch of a family business with German professional discipline. 

ARCHIMEDE professional watches really punch about their price point, avoiding short-cuts and making the most of the resources at every cost category. They’re a fairly under-the-radar watchmaker.

As such, they’re a good brand to turn to if you want a reliable, robust, and professional watch that isn’t caught up with distracting its audience.

Their entry-level Pilot Model is one of their most successful. 

Archimede Pilot Watch

This understated bang-for-your-buck timepiece is both classic and unique. Sure, it’s simple, but it’s powered by a Swiss automatic movement, features an anti-reflective sapphire crystal and a PVD case, and a traditional, by-the-book design. It’s a dignified watch that few others will likely be sporting.

Archimede Pilot Watch
$775.00

This understated bang-for-your-buck timepiece is both classic and unique. Sure, it’s simple (it’s German, after all), but it’s powered by a Swiss automatic movement, features an anti-reflective sapphire crystal and a PVD case, and a traditional, by-the-book design.

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02/25/2021 12:36 am GMT

ARCHIMEDE PILOT WATCH DETAILS 

  • 42mm case
  • Leather strap
  • Swiss automatic
  • 50m water resistance

NOMOS Glashütte

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Despite only having been around since 1990, NOMOS Glashütte has become the biggest producer of German mechanical watches. They were founded soon after the fall of the Berlin wall. NOMOS’ artisan timepieces have quickly earned them esteem in the watch industry.

NOMOS is a member of the Deutscher Werkbund, a Bauhaus initiative of companies that are interested in combining handcrafted art with industrial production, and function with form. Ever German, the brand is known for clean and modern looking watches.

nomos watches
Nomos watches

Specialists in NOMOS’ Glasshütte Chronometry department make most of the watch parts by hand. Unsurprisingly, their watches are all over $1000. Considering their quality and reputation though, these are more reasonably-priced luxury watches compared to top-tier Swiss brands.

Let’s look at their flagship model.

NOMOS Tangente

The Tangente is NOMOS bestseller and has been winning since it first came out. It’s the perfect Bauhaus watch, with a sleek simplicity that makes it incredibly versatile. It features a stainless steel case with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. It’s a hand-winding mechanical movement with 42 hours of power.

NOMOS Tangente
$1,522.50

Stainless steel case with a black leather strap. Fixed stainless steel bezel. Galvanized white silver-plated dial with blue hands and alternation index and Arabic numeral hour markers. Minute markers around the outer rim

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NOMOS TANGENTE DETAILS

  • 38mm case
  • Leather strap
  • Nomos calibre Alpha hand-wind movement
  • 30m water resistance

Sinn

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Sinn is the brand of maximum functionality. This philosophy also manifests in their watch aesthetics which makes it unique from the typically minimalist, clean German design sensibilities.

The Frankfurt-based brand was founded in 1961 by World War II pilot, Helmut Sinn. In the 90s, Lothar Schmidt took over the company. A certified engineer, Schmidt focused on technological advancements and certifications.

Their dive watches are tested and certified for pressure and water resistance by Germanischer Lloyd, the largest maritime classification society in the world.

Many of their pilot watches have been certified by Aachen University of Applied Sciences according to the European technical standards for pilot watches. This guarantees that the watches meet all time measurement requirements during professional flight operations. 

Sinn Traditional Pilot Chronograph 103

This uncompromisingly professional pilot watch has a much more frenetic aesthetic compared to its minimalist German brethren. 

Sinn Traditional Pilot Chronograph 103
$5,385.00

Model 103 St, which is equipped with a shock-resistance acrylic glass, is also available for an extra charge with a high-domed, scratch-resistance sapphire crystal glass with anti-reflective coating on both sides.

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The Sinn Traditional Pilot 103 features either a shock-resistant acrylic glass or a high-domed scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. It’s equipped with a 25-jewel self-winding mechanism, is anti-magnetic, and features a polished stainless steel case. 

SINN TRADITIONAL PILOT CHRONOGRAPH 103 DETAILS

  • 41mm case
  • Straps available include alligator and calfskin, stainless steel, canvas
  • Self-winding mechanical movement
  • 200m water resistance

MeisterSinger

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MeisterSinger is based in Münster, Germany and is known for making elegant mechanical watches.

It was founded in 2001 by jeweler Manfred Brassler. A MeisterSinger was a German vocalist in the Middle Ages who discovered new melodies, so Brassler chose this namesake because his designs were also inspired by music.

A trademark of their watches is that the faces feature one singular hand, or at least one prominent hand that aesthetically nabs the spotlight. Brassler was inspired by sundials and the Westminster Abbey clock tower.

The combination of musical, jewelry, and historical inspirations make MeisterSinger a dressy, fanciful option.

If you can find it, the MeisterSinger’s Circularis is a popular award-winning classic, but the Paleograph is also a well-loved riff on the one-hand aesthetic -with multiple hands!

MeisterSinger Paleograph

Despite being a chronograph, this watch still looks more ballroom-appropriate than race track-appropriate. The subtle and elegant subdials feature hours, minutes, and seconds.

MeisterSinger Paleograph
$3,695.00

Stainless steel case with a brown leather strap. Fixed stainless steel bezel. Cream dial with blue hands and Arabic numeral hour markers. Minute markers. Arabic numeral minute markers (at 5 minute intervals) around the outer rim.

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The transparent case back showcases an ETA design rooted in pocket watch movements, which is on-brand for MeisterSinger’s classic leanings.

MEISTERSINGER PALEOGRAPH DETAILS

  • 43mm case
  • Croco-embossed leather strap
  • Automatic movement ETA 6497/8
  • 50m water resistance

MontBlanc

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While MontBlanc’s headquarters is in Hamburg, Germany, the watchmaking facilities are in Le Locle, making for a unique hybrid with a focus on luxury. After all, MontBlanc is in the Richemont family, along with Cartier, IWC, and Jaeger-LeCoultre

German banker Alfred Nehemias and Engineer August Eberstein founded MontBlanc in 1906 as a pen company. MontBlanc pens, of course, soon became status symbols. 

They eventually expanded their luxury manufacturing expertise into horology, really ramping it up in 1997 when they established MontBlanc Montre.

While it’s rare for even the most high-end fashion brands to transition into watchmaking in a serious way, MontBlanc’s chops for building utilitarian objects (but making them fancy) has made the transition into watches a successful one.

MontBlanc is the go-to brand for personalized high-end gifts. So let’s look at one of their most unique models…

The Montblanc 1858 Geosphere

This luxury adventurer is equal parts modern sleekness and tweed-clad Sherlock-esque smarts. A warmer, more neutral color palette leans more into the latter. The 1858 features a titanium case, a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, luminous silver-toned hands, and a 42-hour power reserve.

Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
$3,795.00

Silver-tone titanium case with a blue leather strap. Bi-directional rotating blue bezel. Blue dial with silver-tone hands and Arabic numeral/index hour markers.

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The coolest features on this watch though are the rotating hemispheres on the face, each turning as time passes.

MONTBLANC 1858 GEOSPHERE DETAILS

  • 42mm case
  • Leather strap
  • Automatic Caliber MB 29.25
  • 100m water resistance

Glashütte Original

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Prestigious Glashütte Original was technically founded in 1994, but the company carries on a horological tradition that started in 1845. Glashütte in Saxony is the birthplace of utility-driven German watchmaking. Glashütte Original today is like Omega’s German cousin, both under the Swatch Group.

This brand only makes a few hundred watches per line, creating a genuine world of exclusivity and understandably high prices. 

Moreover, Glashütte Original plays a big role in carrying on the tradition of Saxony watchmaking: They fund the Alfred Helwig School of Watchmaking, producing generation after generation of German heritage watchmakers.

Despite the several Glashütte-based watch companies out there, this contribution truly justifies Glashütte Original’s claim as the true descendant of the 1845 Saxony tradition.

Let’s look at one of their most luxurious models.

Glashütte PanoMaticLunar 

This unique timepiece combines German discipline with a romantic aesthetic. It features a galvanic silver dial, beautiful blue hands with Super-LumiNova inlays, and a dreamy moon phase display featuring a silver moon on top of a galvanic blue sky.

Glashütte PanoMaticLunar
$7,425.00

Silver-tone stainless steel case with a black (louisiana alligator) leather strap. Fixed silver-tone stainless steel bezel. Galvanised silver dial with luminous blue hands and index hour markers. Minute markers.

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GLASHÜTTE PANOMATICLUNAR DETAILS 

  • 40mm case
  • Louisiana alligator leather strap
  • Automatic Glashütte Calibre 65-01
  • 50m water resistance

A. LangE & Söhne

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We conclude with one of the most legendary and premium Glashütte watchmakers in the fatherland. The company was first founded by German watchmaking legend Ferdinand Adolph Lange in 1845, then relaunched in the 1990s as the brand we know today.

There’s a meticulous level of artistry in A. Lange & Söhne timepieces. The Lang floral pattern is hand-engraved on each watch’s balance clock. This makes every piece unique from each other.

Additionally, each movement is actually assembled twice. Once the watchmakers have built the movement to perfection, it is taken apart and cleaned all over again. During the final assembly, an individual expert watchmaker inserts all of the gold chatons by hand, then houses the movement in a precious metal case.

A. Lange & Söhne is clearly as artisan as it gets, so we’re going to highlight one of their flagship, exclusive pieces. 

The Lange 1

This elegant, classy watch is the brand’s most recognizable. It features an oversized date window modeled after the Five-Minute Clock of the Semper Opera House in Dresden. 

A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1
$27,841.00

Yellow gold-tone 18kt yellow gold case with a brown genuine leather strap. Fixed yellow gold-tone 18kt yellow gold bezel. Champagne dial with yellow gold-tone hands and Arabic numeral & Roman numeral hour markers

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The sapphire caseback exhibits the stunning A. Lange & Söhne manual-wound movement placed in the three-quarter German silver plate – Ferdinand A. Lange’s groundbreaking invention. 

Specs include an 18kt yellow gold case, three sub-dials displaying a second time zone, a power reserve indicator, and a day/night indicator, and a 72-hour power reserve.

LANGE 1 DETAILS

  • 42mm case
  • Genuine leather strap
  • Mechanical hand-wind A. Lange & Sohne Calibre L031.1
  • 30m water resistance

Germany’s Diverse Watch Brands

We hope you learned a thing or two about the German watchmaking tradition!

German design-sensibilities are indeed rooted in sleek function-over-form philosophies. However, as we saw today, amazing German brands serve up an array of styles. On top of the clean-lined tried-and-trues, we have the aesthetically romantic Glashütte PanoMaticLunar or the whimsical MeisterSinger Paleograph.

Which German watch brands do you love?