The Wempe name is synonymous with fine timepieces and jewelry. This family owned company, which is based in Hamburg and was founded in 1878, is headed by Kim-Eva Wempe (who was born in 1962) and has 33 branches in cities all over the world, including New York, Paris, and London. The company has been closely connected for generations with the renowned watch manufactures of Switzerland and Germany. In Glashütte, Wempe manufactures its own wristwatch chronometers of the Glashütte I/SA brand, and in Schwäbisch Gmünd it makes jewelry of the by Kim brand. In addition, Wempe operates the largest independent watch workshop in Europe and has been certified as a “Best Place to Learn” in Germany since 2015.
Wempe’s watchmaking tradition is closely linked with international seafaring. Precise ship’s clocks have been manufactured by Wempe Chronometerwerke in Hamburg for more than a century. These ship’s clocks used to be indispensable for determining a ship’s position on the high seas. Wempe’s patented Unified Chronometer was produced in the town of Glashütte in Saxony, where Wempe watches are tested today to confirm their chronometer qualities.
The old observatory is a landmark of the watchmaking town of Glashütte. It was here that, beginning in 1910, an astronomically precise time signal was obtained as an official reference to be used as a standard for measuring the accuracy of high-quality timepieces. And as early as the 1930s, Wempe Chronometerwerke made plans to set up a regulating institution here. Wempe ultimately renovated the observatory in 2006 and expanded it into a chronometer testing laboratory, the only one in Germany.
It is operated as an independent institute by the Thuringian State Office for Consumer Protection (TLV) and the State Office for Weights and Measurements of Saxony (SME). Here, each movement in its watch case must pass a 15-day test to check its compliance with German DIN standard 8319. The rates are monitored and recorded in the five positions “crown left,” “crown up,” “crown down,” “dial up,” and “dial down.” When the rates of the timepieces are inspected in this way, the average daily rate must be between -4 and +6 seconds.
The average deviation from the daily rate may be at most two seconds, and the greatest rate deviation may not exceed five seconds. An additional challenge is that the rates of the timepieces are also inspected at several different temperatures. Only after the watch has passed these tests does it receive the test certificate, and only then is it allowed to display the designation “Chronometer” on the dial.