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Armed with trendy vintage novelties and updated versions of its best watches, boutique brand of the hour Glashütte Original came to Baselworld 2018 determined to woo less traditional and conservative demographics than its usual clientele. We bring you all the gory details.
Germany's finest fairytale horological haven, Glashütte, is home to many excellent watchmakers, and the misleadingly named Glashütte Original more than holds its own among them. The company operates out of a large, state-of-the-art atelier, where it can deploy both the most cutting-edge technology and the most ancient, traditional art forms alike. Like Glashütte itself, the company is dedicated to continuing the incredible, centuries-old legacy of fine Saxon watchmaking while also bringing to bear the best of modern manufacturing and aesthetic ideas. It's a tricky balance to get right, and the brand itself believes that it has erred too far towards old-fashioned, classical styles in recent years.
Glashütte Original intends to change that. At this year's Baselworld, it showcased several impressive new additions to its existing collections that shift the scales towards current trends, especially towards what is believed to be popular among, as your parents might say, "the youth". There were no fanfare announcements of all-new collections or calibres, but the changes that have been introduced more than speak for themselves.
First up is the headliner, a stunning Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar. This king of watchmaking complications - a triple calendar moonphase that will show the correct day without being changed until the year 2100 - has been achieved by Glashütte Original in a sophisticated skeleton dial, where almost everything but the minute track and the data displays has been cut away. The central window reveals a view of the movement's cover plate, which has been stunningly decorated in guilloché by traditional methods - a lovely meeting of old and new styles. The watch boasts the company's iconic large date display (which it calls a "Panorama Date") and an amazing 100-hour power reserve. It's limited to 100 pieces in white gold.
This skeletonised model is a marvel, but the perpetual calendar is not new to the Senator collection. Previous versions have featured traditional dials with quintessentially elegant railway minute tracks and Roman numerals for some if not all of the hours. These design details have vanished in the new watch in favour of simple baton indexes. The other Baselworld novelties follow the same path, which is the key way in which Glashütte Original is hoping these new pieces appeal to the collectors of today.
Also within the Senator Excellence series have arrived a number of new three-hand models with the Panorama Date, and some with a glorious, understated moonphase complication. These models present large, clean dials that are masterpieces in modern refinement. Like the perpetual calendar, they have done away with many of the hallmarks of traditionalism in favour of a fresher sort of minimalism and elegance. The three dial variations - a matt white, a horizontally-brushed grey and a sunray blue (apparently obligatory at Baselworld nowadays) - all offer tempting delights of their own, and it's hard to pick a favourite. They're also slightly larger than the previous models - 42mm (up from 40mm). A side-by-side comparison of old and new really says it all.
All the watches mentioned so far use a version of the extraordinary manufacture Calibre 36, which Glashütte Original first unveiled in 2016. This in-house movement is a gorgeous piece of engineering, only equalled by the Calibre 37, the chronograph that was introduced in 2014, deployed in another new Senator, a sporty steel stopwatch. The downside to these movements being so brilliant is that we're unlikely to see any new ones from the company for several years.
But innovations come in other places - the astounding Senator Cosmopolite, for example, now comes not just with refreshed design but also in a stainless steel case. It's big news for a watch equipped with a breathtaking world timer complication so sophisticated that it can be customised to deal with any timezone, no matter how obscure (45-minute offset, Nepal - really?) and even adapted and updated when time zones change. The watch will now retail at €21,000, which might sound like a lot, but you should have seen the price when it was only available in white gold.
The final new model from Glashütte Original this year comes from the Sixties collection, which was launched in 2007 and remains one of the brand's most visually striking. These watches have enjoyed numerous new models over the years - most recently a series of square-cased "TV" watches in 2017. The most popular of these, apparently, was the one in green, so this year's update is another magnificent emerald version of the classic dial, which is created by a "dégradé" varnishing effect and a stamp pattern with authentic vintage roots. Unlike some of the Sixties watches, this new timepiece is not limited in numbers, but it will only be in production for one year, until Baselworld 2019 - so don't delay.
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