Summer Rewind: The Terroirs of Time
How does where a watch is made influence how a watch is made? To find out, you’ll need to take a look back at our Terroir of Time series.
Like wine, the specificity and heritage of a particular region hold sway not only on the watchmakers located there but on the approach and style of the timepieces they produce. Hence why we began our Terroir of Time series: to provide a deep dive into the watchmaking centers of Schaffhausen, Glashütte, and the Jura Triangle.
Moreover, the series’ author, Watchonista Editor-at-Large Rhonda Riche, delivers an in-depth exploration of how these different regions influence the watchmakers located there.
So, without further ado, enter our Swiss/German classroom and learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about these horological “terroirs”!
The Terroir of Time: Glashütte, Germany – Part 1
Glashütte, Germany, is so prolific, in fact, that we have to tell this tale in two parts, beginning with the origin story.
In part one of our series, we explore the flavor of watches from the Saxony town of Glashütte, Germany, and discuss how history and geography have impacted the form and function of the region’s timepieces.
Also, we discuss how the origin story of brands like A. Lange & Söhne, Moritz Grossman, and Tutima created a signature so significant that in February 2022, the German government passed a law that legally protects the designation of origin of timepieces made in Glashütte. As a result, from now on, “Made in Glashütte” enjoys comparable legal protection to “Swiss Made” watches.
The Terroir of Time: Glashütte, Germany – Part 2
The Terroir of Time: Schaffhausen, Switzerland
In Switzerland, almost 700 kilometers away from Glashütte, Germany, water drives the production of the timepieces from Schaffhausen.
By harnessing the power of the region’s Rhine Falls to turn enormous energy-generating turbines, Heinrich Moser, the founder of H. Moser & Cie., brought the machine age to Switzerland. This, in turn, attracted American Florentine Ariosto Jones and his manufacture, International Watch Company (IWC), to the region.
Born out of the geographic quirks of the region, both companies shook up traditional Swiss watchmaking in the 1800s and continue to make noise in the 21st century.
The Terroir of Time: The Jura Triangle
The first significant era in the horological development of this mountainous region came in the 1700s after Englishman Jeremy Thacker (may or may not have) invented the chronometer (a.k.a., a clock used for celestial navigation and determination of longitude).
However, back in the Jura, farmers often spent their winter months making clocks and clock parts, then using their proximity to Neuchâtel to sell their wares. An over-saturated market in Geneva also saw many full-time watchmakers relocating to the region.
By the first half of the 1800s, this cottage industry shifted away from clocks to watches. But when the Swiss railroad came to the Jura in 1844, the region saw its watchmaking businesses transform from seasonal side hustle to full-time production.
So, perhaps it is no coincidence that the region is the birthplace of some of the most celebrated maisons, such as Breitling, Omega, Longines, Patek Philippe, Girard-Perregaux, TAG Heuer, and more. And like Italy or France exporting varietals to California and Australia, The Jura Triangle is also home to important parts makers, like Sellita.