Feature: We’re SO Pleased These Watchmakers Are Back
As with life itself, everything comes with its ups and downs, good times and bad times. And the luxury watchmaking industry is certainly no exception to this rule. In fact, it has faced its fair share of hardships from devastating wars to the notorious quartz crisis, during which some watch brands came close to extinction. Below are five watchmakers we’re delighted made it out of the woods.
A. Lange & Söhne
Despite being one of the most loved watch brands out there, it doesn’t mean A. Lange & Söhne is immune to challenging times. The political and economic landscape during World War I and II meant the town of Glashütte struggled to continue manufacturing its watches. Not only that, but in the final months of WWII, ALS’s workshops were destroyed in a bombing raid and the remaining machinery confiscated by the Russians. For the next 45 years ALS was nowhere to be seen, this was until Germany’s Iron Curtain collapsed and A. Lange & Söhne was re-registered in 1990 by Walter Lange—thank goodness!
Creating some of the finest watches, clocks, automata and more, Jaquet Droz is an incredibly luxurious brand that enthralled the world’s royalty and the rich during the 1700s. The Swiss watchmaker’s success was threatened, though, when the French Revolution took hold in 1789 leading the brand to serious financial difficulties. Plus, a Continental Blockade put in place by Napoleon in 1806 killed the remaining market for very high-end goods. Thankfully, this wasn’t the end for Jaquet Droz, though, and in 2000 it joined the Swatch Group, where it continues to make divine pieces such as the Magic Lotus watch.
Montblanc didn’t start producing watches until 1997 after it was acquired by luxury goods giant, Richemont. The company started out in 1906 and focused on producing writing instruments and, later, leather goods including bags and notepads. Although, Montblanc might have never made it this far at all because of the Second World War, during which all the brand’s facilities were destroyed. Thankfully, the company rebuilt rapidly and started producing pens in Denmark, as well as re-establishing its foreign offices.
The rise of quartz technology in the 1970s left people convinced that mechanical watchmaking was toast, leaving brands like Blancpain in a sticky situation. Famed for its dive watches, Blancpain was reduced to producing movements for other watch brands. This was until Jacques Piguet and Jean-Claude Biver got hold of the rights to the brand in 1981. The duo began to make high-end mechanical watches in limited batches, along with the tag line: “Since 1735, there has never been a quartz Blancpain watch. And there never will be.”
Like ALS, Glashütte Original faced hardship due to WWI and WWII. In fact, after WWII, remaining Glashütte watchmaking companies merged in July 1951. After the German reunification in 1990, the Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH was entered into the commercial register, becoming the legal successor to most of the watchmaking businesses that remained in the region. Ten years later, Glashütte Original became part of the Swatch Group, where it continues to produce watches that are an example of fine German craftsmanship.