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The 16 Best German Watch Brands You Should Know

Best German Watch Brands 0 Hero

More than we’d like to admit, the context in which something is made plays an essential role in how it comes together. Take the Swiss for instance. The country became so well known as watchmakers because, over the course of a century or two, they developed a style of production called “etablissage.” This type of production – smaller shops producing specific components or functions necessary for a watch, and then shipping them to a central factory to be assembled – was in part a response to the country’s geographic and meteorologic quirks.

Switzerland is a country of high peaks, low valleys, and cold winters. When the fields were too cold to farm in the winter, peasants in the valleys would keep themselves busy putting together watch components. And given that each valley was separate, pockets of expertise around very specific parts of a watch began to emerge. Eventually, big players moved the experts from these areas and put them under one roof – refining the process further.

German brands got to a similar point through a much different route. When the Soviets cordoned off East Germany and socialized all the watch companies, it forced what was left of the industry to become self-sufficient. Much like the Swiss had nearly a century before, these watchmakers began to produce all of their springs, jewels, and other essential items themselves. Rather than having their industry and process be formed by geography and meteorology, German watchmakers were influenced by political geography and ideology. After the Iron Curtain fell, the companies that had once been choked off by an oppressive system of government roared back to life like a fire being fed more oxygen. Today, you’ll find some of the best watch brands in the world in Germany. Take a look through our rundown of the best German watch brands and read a bit about their history.

History of German Watchmaking

Although the pocket watch is said to have been invented by a German in the 16th century – predating any watchmaking in Switzerland – the German industry didn’t really take off until 1845 when A. Lange & Söhne opened its doors in the city of Glashütte, which still serves as a mecca of horology.

While a plethora of companies were born in the 1920s, many were destroyed and/or shuttered from the War. It wasn’t until the 1990s, following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, that high-end watchmaking started to pick up again in earnest.

Why German-Made Watches?

While imbuing their timepieces with a great deal of style, German watchmakers have a strong appreciation for utility, especially considering the Bauhaus philosophy of function over form. This may lead to a great deal of minimalist models across the board. Many of these brands rose with the likes of the aviation and diving industries, and carry those facets in most of their models. German engineering also emphasizes precision, which yields more technical horology than it does novelty.

German Vs. Swiss Watches

Often less playful than their Swiss counterparts, German timepieces tend to be more minimalist in aesthetic thanks to their favoring of function over form. Inside the watches themselves, Swiss watches tend to use rhodium-plated brass for their movements, while German watches favor German silver, which is an alloy of copper and nickel.

A. Lange & Söhne

A Lange and Sohne
Photo: A. Lange & Sohne Triple Split
Why They Made The Cut
  • The godfather of modern German watchmaking, A. Lange & Sohne has a 173-year history and makes some of the finest movements in the world.

Among the oldest watchmakers in both Germany and the world, A. Lange & Sohne was founded a little over 173 years ago in the small town of Glashütte by a man named Ferdinand Adolph Lange. Using his sons Richard and Emil as his primary workforce, Ferdinand set his small company apart by producing some of the best quality pocket watches at the time. As styles changed after WWI with soldiers coming back from the trenches with watches strapped on their wrists as opposed to stuffed in their pockets, A Lange & Sohne changed too. By the outset of WWII, the family company was making pilot’s watches for the Luftwaffe.

Not long after they started producing these oversized flight watches, the brand was put out of business. The new Soviet government split Germany in two, and nationalized businesses like A. Lange & Söhne. It wasn’t until the reunification of the country that the company started its efforts to once again start making watches. Now, over 20 years after Walter Lange brought his family’s business back to life, it is regarded as one of the world’s premier luxury watchmakers.

Year Founded: 1845
Location: Glashutte, Germany
Style: Luxury, Sport, Dress
Popular Models: 1851, Lange 1, Triple Split
Price Range: $25,000 to $250,000+
Hero Watch: Triple Split

Archimede Watches

Photo: Archimede Klassik 200
Why They Made The Cut
  • A young brand with an old soul, Archimede specializes in affordable sport and field timepieces with quality construction.

While they’re less than two decades old, Archimede Watches claims a heritage that is much much deeper than their 20 years of business would leave one to believe. Given that they’re operated by Ickler, a 90+-year-old watch case maker based out of the same town in Pforzheim, Germany, Archimede positions itself as a young brand with an old soul.

Whether or not you find that association convincing – it is hard to deny the brand’s quality. They produce attractive and relatively affordable watches (they retail under $1,000) that are driven by quality Swiss automatic, hand-wound, and chronograph movements. All things said Archimede offers itself up as an entry-level timepiece for those looking to getting into the undeniably expensive world of mechanical watches.

Year Founded: 2003
Location: Pforzheim, Germany
Style: Sport, Field, Dress
Popular Models: Outdoor 41, Pilot 42, Klassik 200
Price Range: $900 to $2,000
Hero Watch: Klassik 200


Photo: Chronoswiss Open Gear Flying Tourbillon Sunset
Why They Made The Cut
  • This Germany-founded brand specializes in high-end skeletonized dials, including chronographs, and incredibly detailed crowns.

Some watch lovers may have an issue with our inclusion of Chronoswiss on a list of German watch brands. And we get it. Not only do they have their headquarters in Lucerne, Switzerland – their name has the word Swiss in it. Why not include it in a list of the best Swiss watch brands?

Well, our reasoning here is that the relatively young brand was originally founded in Muchen, Germany. From the outset, the brand produced top-tier watches and started blazing trails with examples like their skeletonized chronograph watch (the first of its kind), and incredibly detailed crowns. In fact, they did so well that Chronoswiss claims not only to be great watch brand, but a co-founder of the mechanical renaissance.

Year Founded: 1983
Location: München, Germany
Style: Luxury, Skeleton
Popular Models: Open Gear, Skeltec, Space Timer
Price Range: $12,000 to $44,000
Hero Watch: Open Gear Flying Tourbillon Sunset


Photo: Damasko DC56
Why They Made The Cut
  • Nearly 30 years old, Damasko has aeronautics built into its DNA and specializes in innovative case technologies.

Watches are all about precision. The sloppier a manufacturer is with the production and assembly of a timepiece, the less useful an instrument it is. This emphasis on precision has scared a lot of would-be entrepreneurs from the world of watches, but for Konrad Damasko, it was part of the appeal.

Before starting his watch company, Damasko cut his teeth producing tools for clients in high-demand spaces like the aeronautics industry. The namesake of the watch company ended up applying much of the same methodology to producing watch and watch technology. For instance, the company owns the patent for a special type of polycrystalline silicon used in essential watch components. They also set themselves apart in the world of watches by producing an incredibly tough nitrogen-enriched and nickel-free case that has a HRC rating of 64. That hefty case technology was a large part of the reason that Sinn (another German watch brand included on this list) once partnered with Damasko for sourcing their watch and dive watch cases. Now, Damasko primarily makes pilot’s watches – one of which, the DC56, is the official timepiece worn by Eurofighter test pilots.

Year Founded: 1994
Location: Barbing, Germany
Style: Sport
Popular Models: DC56, DC57, DK36, DC80
Price Range: $1,200 to $4,300
Hero Watch: DC56

Glashutte Original

Glashutte Original
Photo: Glashutte Original Sixties Annual Edition
Why They Made The Cut
  • One of the few German watchmakers who makes its own in-house movements, Glashutte Original has a history that dates back much longer than the year it was founded.

Tracing the origins of watch companies in East Germany is always a little tricky. For all intents and purposes, before 1994, there was no such thing as Glashütte Original. The company was formed after the Wall fell and the once socialized conglomerate watchmaker VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (called GUB) was privatized and turned into Glashütte Original. But the heritage of the brand really does reach much further than 1994.

Much of the resources used by GUB had been pulled together from disparate watchmakers in East Germany who themselves had been around for nearly 100 years before the end of the Second World War. In a sense, a watch brand like Glashutte Original claiming a heritage as far back as the 1800s serves as a kind of rebuke to the oppressive Soviet system that had constrained their growth and independence, and a celebration of the long history of watchmaking in the town of Glashutte. Any way you cut it, the German brand is now among the world’s best – being one of the few watchmakers who makes their own in-house movements.

Year Founded: 1845
Location: Glashutte, Germany
Style: Luxury, Dress, Minimalist
Popular Models: Senator, Pano, Sixties
Price Range: $6,000 to $100,000+
Hero Watch: Sixties Annual Edition


Photo: Junghans Max Bill Automatic
Why They Made The Cut
  • Known for its iconic Max Bill watches, the Bauhaus staple makes some of the best minimalist watches in the world.

While German watch brands east of the Wall were living a pretty spartan life during the 1950s and 1960s, brands in the west like Junghans were making the most of post-war life.

While they’d been around since the 1860s – founded by Ernhard Jungians and his brother-in-law – and started making wristwatches in the mid-1920s, it wasn’t until the brand started working with Bauhaus designer Max Bill in 1956 did they really come into their own with a distinctive, exciting style. Bill applied a minimalist, attractive take first to wall clocks by Junghans, and then wristwatches. They remain some of the most popular examples from the brand.

Year Founded: 1861
Location: Schramberg, Germany
Style: Sports, Minimalist
Popular Models: 1972 Chronoscope, Form A, Max Bill
Price Range: $800 to $2,500
Hero Watch: Max Bill Automatic


Photo: Laco Stuttgart PRO
Why They Made The Cut
  • Once making watches for German military pilots, Laco now has some of the finest field watches in the nation, and for affordable prices.

Surviving even the toughest of times during World War II, Laco has a history that spans nearly 100 years. One of five brands to make timepieces for German Luftwaffe pilots, the Pforzheim-based watchmaker later went on to create the very first electronic wristwatch in Germany’s history. Today, the brand continues its spirit of pilot’s and field watches with its Fieger PRO and Pilot lines, each with distinct design languages that blend utility with minimalism, and at a very affordable price point..

Year Founded: 1925
Location: Pforzheim, Germany
Style: Pilot, Field
Popular Models: Fieger PRO, Pilot Watch
Price Range: $400 to $2,700
Hero Watch: Stuttgart PRO


Photo: MeisterSinger Bell Hora
Why They Made The Cut
  • Known for its unusual single-hand timepieces, MeisterSinger is another in-house movement maker and purveyor of very unique dress watches.

MeisterSinger, the relatively young brand based out of Munster, isn’t founder Manfred Brassler’s first rodeo. In the late 1980s, Brassler founded a company that specialized in selling quartz watches. After just ten years, he sold the brand and set out to follow something he was much more passionate about; mechanical watches.

Named after singers from the Middle Ages who discovered and experimented with new melodic elements, MeisterSinger has fought to define themselves in a crowded market by doing things like only producing watches with a single hour hand, and eventually by developing their own in-house movement (they sourced an ETA SA movement before making the switch). An altogether impressive brand with fun timepieces ranging from dress to dive watches.

Year Founded: 2001
Location: Munster, Germany
Style: Dress, Minimalist
Popular Models: Unomat, Bell Hora, No.1
Price Range: $2,000 to $6,600
Hero Watch: Bell Hora


Photo: Montblanc 1858 Geosphere
Why They Made The Cut
  • Montblanc does a bit of everything, but their luxury watches may be their most impressive achievement, which have had in-house movements for just over a decade.

While they’re maybe best known for their high-end pens, Montblanc also produces a number luxury watches. They are, for all intents and purposes a German company with over a century’s worth of history doing business in the country, but they do not produce their watches in the country. Instead, the brand relies on the expertise of the Swiss to produce their watches.

It was only in 1997 that they started to make their watches in Le Locle, Switzerland, and it is only for the past decade that they’ve been producing in-house movements. But there are advantages to being young and nimble. More recently, Montblanc – like TAG Heuer – has been producing high-end smartwatches.

Year Founded: 1906
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Style: Luxury, Sport
Popular Models: 1858 Geosphere, Star Legacy
Price Range: $3,000 to $7,000
Hero Watch: 1858 Geosphere


Muhle Glashuette
Photo: Mühle S.A.R. Rescue Timer
Why They Made The Cut
  • With over 150 years of history, Mühle made its most iconic watch in 2002 with the S.A.R. Resuce Timer for the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service.

Robert Mühle opened the doors of his namesake Glashütte-based brand in 1869, although it specialized in making precise measuring instruments for other watchmakers before producing its own speedometers and rev counters in the late 1910s. Despite a long and successful history of making these instruments, Mühle didn’t make its first wristwatch until 1995, when it was requested to do so by a German shipyard client.

Today, Mühle is the only Glashütte watch brand to be owned by the same local family. The Mühles have been in the area for over seven centuries and are today prominently known for its S.A.R. Rescue Timer tool watches, which are used by the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service.

Year Founded: 1869
Location: Glashutte, Germany
Style: Sport, Field
Popular Models: S.A.R. Rescue Timer, Seebataillon, Sea-Timer
Price Range: $2,500 to $4,000
Hero Watch: S.A.R. Rescue Timer

Nomos Glashütte

Nomos Glashuette
Photo: Nomos Glashütte Orion
Why They Made The Cut
  • Known for its cleanly-designed faces and unique color choices, Nomos makes its own in-house movements for its indelible timepieces.

Another brand to rise up after the reunification of Germany, Nomos embraced the same Bauhaus design that made Junghans such a popular watch brand in the mid-20th century. In fact, many people find the cleanly designed faces with unique shades and colors to be the main attraction of these watches.

In the watch world, however, the brand has a special cache thanks in part because they’re among the few that make their own in-house movements. And for a brand that manages to consistently produce award-winning dials with their own movements, they’re relatively more affordable too.

Year Founded: 1990
Location: Glashutte, Germany
Style: Dress, Minimalist
Popular Models: Ahoi, Orion, Club
Price Range: $2,000 to $4,300
Hero Watch: Orion


Photo: Stowa Antea Klassik 390
Why They Made The Cut
  • Another Bauhaus staple, Stowa is also known for its affordable dress watches, pilot’s watches, and divers.

Founded by Walter Storz roughly a decade after WW1, Stowa specialized in making reliable mechanical pocket watches and wristwatches. Not long after the brand started up in Englesbrand, they moved on to Pforzheim where they’d begin to develop Bauhaus-style wristwatches nearly 20 years before their peers at Junghans began their partnership with Max Bill.

Stowa’s history, like most all other brands from Germany, is also tied up in the Second World War. During the 1940s they made Pilot watches to be used by the Luftwaffe, and had their building destroyed during Allied bombings. A flattened factory didn’t deter the company, however. Within the year Stowa relocated to Rheinfelden where they’d eventually build a new factory (though they’d also rebuild their first in Pforzheim). The brand still produced both their Bauhaus and pilot’s watches, along with a host of new styles including dress watches and divers – all driven by automatic movements.

Year Founded: 1927
Location: Englesbrand, Germany
Style: Dress, Pilot, Minimalist
Popular Models: Antea, Flieger
Price Range: $1,250 to $2,000
Hero Watch: Antea Klassik 390


Photo: Sinn T50 GBDR
Why They Made The Cut
  • Making some of the most impressive divers in the game, Sinn also specializes in affordability for its tool watches.

The watch business is a tough one to break into. Hemet Sinn, founder of the eponymous German watch brand knew as much when he set out to start his own company selling pilot’s watches and navigational clocks. So to get a competitive edge on all of the watch companies that had a century of history behind them, Sinn cut out the middle man and offered sales directly from his company.

Their ability to offer great quality timepieces for less money helped launch Sinn into the market where they’ve since established themselves as a truly premier brand. Sinn’s watches were reliable enough that they were used by everyone from astronauts like Reinhard Furrer and the Marine unit of the German federal police.

Year Founded: 1961
Location: Frankfurt, Germany
Style: Sports
Popular Models: T50, 103, EZM
Price Range: $1,500 to $3,000
Hero Watch: T50 GBDR


Photo: Tutima M2 Pioneer 6451-02
Why They Made The Cut
  • Maker of the official NATO watch in 1984, Tutima expertly blends heritage with modern-day horology with its impressive and budget-friendly sport watches.

During the Roaring Twenties, Dr. Ernst Kurtz decided to double down on the future of the wristwatch despite the prevalence of the pocket watch at the time. Meaning “safe, secure,” Tutima found early success in the early ’40s with precise and durable pilot’s watches. However, a Russian air raid that destroyed the factory almost spelled the end of the brand. It held strong for a couple more decades, eventually garnering the attention of NATO, who used the Military Chronograph ref. 798 as its official timepiece in 1984.

Today, the company mixes its heritage with modern-day propensities, with its core lineup consisting of relatively new models, which were introduced in 2013. These include the M2, Saxon One, and Grand Flieger – all tool watches that blend form and function well

Year Founded: 1927
Location: Glashutte, Germany
Style: Sport
Popular Models: M2, Grand Flieger, Saxon One
Price Range: $1,900 to $3,400
Hero Watch: M2 Pioneer 6451-02

Union Glashütte

Union Glashuette
Photo: Union Glashütte Belisar Date Sport
Why They Made The Cut
  • Originally founded under the mission of making affordable timepieces, Union didn’t officially form until the 1990s, still with the same ideals.

Even as far back as 1893, people thought that watches were just too damn expensive. In fact, that was the impetus for Johannes Dürstein to start Glashütte Ruhrenfabrik Union. The company’s mission? Produce great watches that wouldn’t cost a small fortune. In its original formation, the company had a long run – but like so many others, they would be consumed by GUB during the Soviet Era, and then reformed in the early 1990s after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Today you can still get great quality mechanical timepieces for a relatively more affordable price than you at other marquee brands.

Year Founded: 1996
Location: Glashutte, Germany
Style: Sport
Popular Models: Belisar, Noramis, 1893 Johannes Durrstein, Averin
Price Range: $2,500 to $4,000
Hero Watch: Belisar Date Sport


Photo: Wempe Zeitmeister Aviator Watch Automatic XL
Why They Made The Cut
  • One of the first prolific watch retailers in the 19th century, Wempe now specializes in dress and pilot’s watches in the entry-level luxury range.

Originally founded in 1878 by Gerhard D. Wempe, who was said to have had only 80 deutsche marks in his pocket, started out selling used watches at his storefronts across Germany, becoming the first successful brand to do so at the time.. While eventually it would make its own chronometers, Wempe was famous for retailing and repairing watches from both Germany and Switzerland, and still has close ties with Rolex to this day.

Known mostly for its dress watches and pilot’s watches, Wempe operates in the lower-end luxury range with its Zeitmeister and Chronometerwerk pieces serving as its most popular models.

Year Founded: 1878
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Style: Dress, Pilot
Popular Models: Zeitmeister, Chronometerwerk
Price Range: $2,000 to $11,000
Hero Watch: Zeitmeister Aviator Watch Automatic XL

The Best Minimalist Watches

Best Minimalist Watches 0 Hero

If you want to explore minimalism even further, head over to our guide to the best minimalist watches to buy.