Moritz Grossmann, born in Dresden in 1826, was deemed a visionary among Germany’s great horologists. In 1854, his friend Ferdinand Adolph Lange persuaded the young, highly talented watchmaker to establish his own mechanical workshop in Glashütte. Apart from building a respected watchmaking business, Grossmann was committed to political and social causes. He established the German School of Watchmaking in 1878. Moritz Grossmann passed away unexpectedly in 1885, after which his manufacture was liquidated.
The spirit of Moritz Grossmann’s horological traditions sprang back to life in 2008 when trained watchmaker Christine Hutter discovered the venerable Glashütte brand and had it re-registered. She developed concepts and was inspired by the vision of reviving Grossmann’s legacy more than 120 years later with a particularly exquisite wristwatch. And she convinced private watch enthusiasts to support her in making this dream come true. On 11 November 2008, she incorporated Grossmann Uhren GmbH in Glashütte.
At Grossmann, gifted watchmakers are preserving traditions without copying historic timepieces. With innovation, superb craftsmanship, a combination of traditional and contemporary manufacturing methods as well as precious materials, they are celebrating “Pure watchmaking artistry since 1854” in their watches.
Moritz Grossmann (1826 – 1885)
The origins of Glashütte as a small crucible of watchmaking in Saxony date back to the middle of the 19th century and to two outstanding personalities: Ferdinand Adolph Lange and Carl Moritz Grossmann. Lange established his manufactory in 1845. Nine years later, in 1854, he persuaded his long-standing friend and fellow journeyman to move to the Ore Mountains and to establish a mechanical workshop there. It would soon be transformed into a watchmaking enterprise as well.
Carl Moritz Grossmann was born in Dresden on 27 March 1826. His father was a mail sorter at the royal court post office there. While Moritz grew up under modest circumstances, his teachers quickly recognised his eagerness to learn and realised that he had an extraordinary aptitude. Just like Ferdinand Adolph Lange before, he spent – thanks to a scholarship – two years studying at Dresden’s Technische Bildungsanstalt, the precursor of what is now the Technical University. In 1842, Grossmann signed up as a watchmaking apprentice with Gottfried Friedrich Kumme, Sr. Consequent to his fast developing talent, he completed his training much faster than the norm. In his spare time he also studied English, French, and Italian. During this period, he made friends with watchmaker Lange, 11 years his senior. Both were ambitious tinkerers who wanted to know how things worked and whose calling was to craft watches.
During his journeyman years starting in 1847, Moritz Grossmann first worked for chronometer maker Moritz Krille in Hamburg, and then with court clockmaker Josef Bierganz in Munich. Soon thereafter, he was drawn to Swiss watchmaking capital La Chaux-de- Fonds, and later to England, France, Denmark, and Sweden. His ambition was an ongoing quest for further training and a deeper understanding of his discipline.
He finally returned to Dresden in 1854 but decided shortly thereafter to move to Glashütte, 30 kilometers away. There, Moritz Grossmann developed the Glashütte lathe for watchmakers and later concentrated on lever escapements and the optimisation of pivoted detents for chronometers. He crafted precision tools, escapement models, fine pocket watches, and precision pendulum clocks as well as lever chronometers and marine chronometers. Of course, the varied projects to which Grossmann was committed could not have been pursued without highly qualified staff members. He succeeded in enlisting a team of specialists that included watchmaking geniuses Ludwig Strasser and Carl Maucksch. Thanks to their help, he not only gained time to translate his knowledge into his proprietary timepiece designs but also to pass it and foreign special-interest magazines, and translated books on horology, such as Claudius Saunier’s multi-volume standard anthology entitled “Lehrbuch der Uhrmacherei” (Textbook of Watchmaking). In 1866, Grossmann submitted an essay in London with the title “On the detached lever escapement” and became the very first German contestant to win a competition tendered by the British Horological Institute.
Moritz Grossmann also had a penchant for social issues. He founded the Gymnasts’ Voluntary Fire Brigade and the Glashütte Military Society and campaigned for the construction of a railway line to the Müglitz Valley. In 1866, he succeeded Ferdinand Adolph Lange as the mayor of Glashütte and served his community for 12 years. After his first wife died, he remarried in 1871 and became the father of three children. In 1875, he was appointed a member of the Royal Saxon Landtag. He initiated, conceived, and in 1878 founded the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte. Even though he was the school’s first chairman of the board of trustees, he still found sufficient time to teach mathematics and languages there.
Moritz Grossmann died suddenly of a stroke on 23 January 1885, after having delivered a speech in Leipzig about the introduction of World Time. Tragically, just like his friend Lange, he only lived to the age of 60. After his unexpected death, Grossmann’s manufacture in Glashütte was liquidated.
It was in 1986, just after having earned a Bachelor’s degree, when Christine Hutter first discovered the beauty of mechanical timekeeping instruments. As she started her apprenticeship with master watchmaker Wilhelm Glöggler in Munich, he showed her old pendulum clocks, pocket watches, and chronographs with fantastic movements that had ranked among the best and finest calibres in the 19th and early 20th centuries. She was confronted with horological rarities like these in the repair workshop, where she began to restore old timepieces within a matter of months. She single-handedly crafted parts such as winding stems and also replaced teeth and pinions.
During this period, the market was dominated by quartz watches. While they were highly precise, their movements resembled modern electronic circuit boards rather than traditional calibres. Christine Hutter appreciated the special appeal of mechanical devices and wondered why modern consumers didn’t have a greater affinity with things mechanical. But the “mechanical renaissance” in watchmaking had already begun. In 1989, the Eichstätt-born watchmaker completed her apprenticeship, as best in class amongst her peers in Bavaria.
She was then recruited by Wempe, Germany’s largest luxury watch retailer. There, she made the acquaintance of many aficionados of mechanical watchmaking. Later, her career path brought her to Maurice Lacroix and, in 1996, to Glashütte – initially to the Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb and finally to A. Lange & Söhne. There she acquired in-depth experience of marketing and communications, and created new distribution channels.
Over time, she began to nurture a growing desire to establish her own watch manufacture. Christine discovered the “Moritz Grossmann” brand heritage and with the help of her family, she acquired the rights to the venerable Glashütte marque. In the meantime, she was appointed general manager of Haute Horlogerie Schindler SA and moved to Switzerland. Here she forged many contacts with discerning collectors who shared her passion for horological values.
Her plans began to mature. She drafted a concept, driven by the vision to launch an exceptional range of watches worthy of the Grossmann name. Her aim was to resurrect the brand heritage that had been dormant for 120 years, and thanks to the support of private watch aficionados, she was able to make her dream come true: On 11 November 2008, she founded Grossmann Uhren GmbH in Glashütte.
- 1826: Moritz Grossmann is born in Dresden on 27 March 1826.
- 1842 – 1847: During his 5-year apprenticeship with Gottfried Friedrich Kumme, Sr., in Dresden, Moritz Grossmann establishes first contacts with Ferdinand Adolph Lange.
- 1847 – 1854: After his apprenticeship, Moritz Grossmann spends 7 years as a journeyman, but is repeatedly conscripted to military service. Stations of his journeyman years include: Jansen und Krille in Altona, Ferdinand Adolph Lange in Glashütte, court clockmaker Bierganz in Munich, La Chaux-de-Fonds, England, France, Denmark and Sweden.
- 1854: After returning to Glashütte, he founds the Moritz Grossmann watchmaking company. He crafts pocket watches, one-second pendulum clocks, tell-tale clocks, measuring instruments, lathes, tools, and escapement models.
- 1855: Moritz Grossmann weds Amalie Auguste Uhlmann (†1870), an apothecary’s widow; the union remains childless.
- 1858: The Gymnasts’ Voluntary Fire Brigade is founded on Moritz Grossmann’s initiative and he remains its chief until his death.
- 1859: Moritz Grossmann co-founds the Glashütte Military Society.
- 1865: Moritz Grossmann actively lobbies for the construction of a railway line in the Müglitz valley.
- 1866: The first edition of Moritz Grossmann’s essay “On the detached lever escapement” – a British Horological Institute prize-winner – is published.
- 1866 – 1878: Moritz Grossmann succeeds his friend of long standing, F. A. Lange, as the mayor of Glashütte. Beyond his 12-year term, he also serves as a member of the Royal Saxon Landtag in Dresden.
- 1871: He marries widowed Anna Maria Leinbrock (†1927); together, they have three children.
- 1878: Over a period of several years, Moritz Grossmann petitions for the establishment of an academy for the watchmaking trades. On 1 May 1878, he can finally make his vision come true by opening the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte.
- 1885: On 23 January 1885, Moritz Grossmann dies suddenly and unexpectedly on a lecture trip in Leipzig. After his death, the Moritz Grossmann watchmaking company is liquidated. The Umbrella Association of German Watchmakers registers the Moritz Grossmann Foundation on 1 May.
- Nov. 2008: Grossmann International Uhren AG is founded on 4 November 2008. On 11 November 2008, Grossmann Uhren GmbH is incorporated and Christine Hutter is appointed CEO.
- Feb. 2009: The staff moves into rented premises on Hauptstrasse 25 in Glashütte.
- Apr. 2009: Acquisition of the property on Uferstrasse 1 in Glashütte, the erstwhile domicile of the Urofa ebauche factory. A new manufacture is to be built there.
- Jul. 2009: On 1 July 2009, Jens Schneider begins his work as chief calibre designer with Grossmann Uhren GmbH.
- Nov. 2009: Only a year after the incorporation of the company, the team at Grossmann Uhren GmbH already includes 6 specialists in various horological disciplines
- Jan. 2010: The rapid development of the individual manufacture departments requires additional space. A production centre is inaugurated on the ground floor of the adjacent building on Hauptstrasse 23.
- Apr. 2010: The construction permit for the new manufacture is issued.
- Sept. 2010: BENU, the first Moritz Grossmann wristwatch, is presented to a global audience.
- 2013: Launches ATUM, the second line from the manufacture and expands BENU collection with Power Reserve and Tourbillon versions.
- 2015: Presents TEFNUT, the third watch line by Moritz Grossmann.
The Grossmann manufacture
There is hardly another word in high-end watchmaking that is used as frequently as “manufacture” and seldom interpreted so disparately. A consensus exists in one respect: It comes from the Latin expression “manu factum” which means “made by hand”. This is a principle that is related to the watchmaking trade in the 19th century and now once again inspires the activities of the new Moritz Grossmann ateliers.
Connoisseurs of watchmaking can recognise Grossmann prowess in the typical details that characterise pocket watches from Glashütte: the straight cut of the plate covering two-thirds of the movement and showcases the balance in a semicircular cutout. The balance cock is not planar, but cantilevered as was the case in Grossmann’s chronometers. The visible screws that secure the gold chatons have raised pan heads, and the frequency of the balance is adjusted with a micrometer screw.
The decisive factor is that these design features are manually executed by watchmakers in the quest for perfection and genuine artistry. The acuity of their eyes and the sensitivity of their hands are their assets. With these “tools”, the experts create value of an unprecedented degree. The edges of all movement parts are chamfered, then polished until they gleam, and the going-train wheels are pierced. The craftsmanship involved comes to the fore by the lavishly decorated parts. Three-band snailing embellishes the ratchet wheel.
Ultra-thin hands, hardened to a brown-violet hue, reveal an almost obsolete skill. Hand engravings grace the escape-wheel and balance cocks. Additionally, the 2/3 plate is adorned with broad horizontal Glashütte ribbing.
All employees at the new Grossmann manufacture contribute their personal talents to the horological masterpiece that ultimately displays the historic “Moritz Grossmann Glashütte i/SA” signature. The idea is just the beginning, but to make it come to life requires the knowledge and experience of all specialists. The people behind Grossmann are totally committed to the tradition of craftsmanship, always seeking new approaches and inventive solutions. They promote and challenge each other to live up to their ambitious quest for perfection. These are the best prerequisites for the genesis of a remarkably exquisite timepiece.
As has been the case for generations, the development of a new watch begins with a sketch. Historic principles and present-day expectations must be meaningfully combined. Technical feasibility and design need to be reconciled. To implement their ideas, caliber engineers use computer-aided 3D visualisation tools that allow them to apply and refine horological details.
The first prototype parts are made by hand in order to assess and examine the interaction of individual subassemblies. Before the first few timepieces can be crafted, the movement gradually takes shape in an ongoing dialogue between engineering and prototyping specialists. Using high-precision machine tools, electronically controlled machining centres, and wire-erosion systems, component blanks are produced to within a few thousandths of a millimetre of the specifications on the blueprints. Only in this phase does technology take precedence over manufacture. The machined parts are first deburred and then painstakingly finished by expert hands that bevel edges, polish surfaces, and apply a diversity of decorative patterns. The manual transformation of a raw balance cock blank, for instance, into a functional and decorated component, takes about seven times longer than the production of the blank itself.
To fine-tune the interaction of all movement parts and mechanisms, the calibre is now assembled, oiled, and greased. Despite tight manufacturing tolerances, precision adjustments are still required. The rate-accuracy of the watch is regulated and checked on a motion simulator that performs typical wrist movements in various orientations. The test results determine whether further fine-tuning is required. As soon as they comply with the manufacture’s strict quality requirements, the calibre is taken apart again. The mechanisms and parts are again cleaned, and the 2/3 plate is decorated with the signature Glashütte ribbing. Finally, the movement is assembled for the second time and only then the timepiece is endowed with its personality: the dial and the hands are mounted. The next step is to place the watch in its precious metal case. After a renewed rate-accuracy test that lasts at least 30 days, the watch is completed with a hand-stitched alligator strap and a butterfly clasp.
The horological excellence and the spirit of Moritz Grossmann are experiencing a comeback. The manufacture’s watchmakers are preserving his tradition without copying historic timepieces. With innovation and craftsmanship, a combination of traditional and modern manufacturing methods, precious materials, they are creating watches that stand for a new HERITAGE IN TIME.
Official website : http://www.grossmann-uhren.com