Anyone who checks their watch just before midnight on New Year’s Eve wants to know the exact time for the big countdown – accurate to the nearest second. Although the time has long been determined by official atomic clocks, there are other special sites of precision timekeeping. Since September 2006, the grounds of the restored observatory in Glashütte, a town in the German state of Saxony, has been home to the only test centre in accordance with the German chronometer standard. It is operated by jewellery and watch retailer Wempe, which cooperates with the state measurement and calibration authorities of Thuringia and Saxony. The German limit values for mechanical wristwatches conform to Swiss values set by the testing authority Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC). Outside Switzerland, Glashütte is the only place in the world where wristwatches undergo special chronometer testing and an official agency certifies their accuracy. Only then may a watch be designated a chronometer.
Glashütte’s revival after the fall of the Wall
It is no coincidence that watches are tested here, in a small town on the fringes of the Erzgebirge mountains, of all places. Visitors arriving in the town are greeted by the words “Glashütte – hier lebt die Zeit”, which translates roughly as Glashütte – home to time. Here, south of Dresden, is the centre of traditional German watchmaking, with numerous manufacturers and companies of national and international renown operating in Glashütte. The town’s reputation as a watchmaking centre dates back to 1845, when Ferdinand Adolf Lange began setting up a watchmaking factory here. Over the years, other companies evolved, and today the town is synonymous with the ultimate German-made quality, precision and luxury. Glashütte’s development is also a fascinating illustration of German economic history, for it was only after the Wall came down 25 years ago that the small town saw a revival of its watchmaking business.