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History & philosophy Der Firmengründer Johannes Dürrstein, 1845 - 1901






Johannes Dürrstein, 1845 - 1901


The History Of Union Glashütte

Founded:  A Long Time Ago - Founding Principle:  Timeless

Businessman Johannes Dürrstein had a very simple aspiration when he founded the Glashütte Union watch manufacture in 1893: "Watches which have everything to make them accurate and beautiful but nothing to make them expensive."  This aspiration has lost none of its relevance, even after more than 100 years.  It continues to be the basis for a new success in UNION GLASHÜTTE's history.

Johannes Dürrstein started his career in watchmaking after an apprenticeship in sales, working as a traveling salesman for a Swiss watchmaker.  In 1874, he decided to go at it alone, founding the watch wholesaler Dürrstein & Compagnie.  With his experience as a watch wholesaler and his flair for sales, Dürrstein was in a perfect position to start producing his own watches.  

In 1893, he founded his own watch manufacture in the watchmaking town of Glashütte, steeped in tradition where only the best, finest and most accurate watchmaking was practiced.  There was a time when the small Saxony town of Glashütte was associated with the fine art of German watchmaking. It was above all the high quality and the typically German penchant for precision that formed the basis of their good reputation, with the result that they became coveted collectors’ items back then – and continue to be to this day. However, only the fortunate few could afford the expensive models from the Erzgebirge.  Dürrstein  maxim was this:  the watches should offer Glashütte quality, yet remain affordable.  The keystone of the Glashütte watch manufacture Union Dürrstein & Co. and their UNION GLASHÜTTE /SA. brand was set.

Simply Brilliant:  The Most Complex Watch In The World

Very soon, Dürrstein's 40 or so employees were all masters of the watchmaking skills of their time and assembled the complete range of timepieces from that period: from the simple pocket watch to tourbillons.

Johannes Dürrstein was highly ambitious.  To demonstrate his watchmaking skill he hired the master watchmaker Julius Bergter to create a highly complex watch, which would surpass even the most successful Grande Complication caliber.  Dürrstein's "dream watch" marked a high point in the art of watchmaking:  with 18 complications, the "Universal Watch" long remained the world's most complex timepiece.

The Future Of The Watch Began In 1900

Presented at the watchmaking trade exhibition in Leipzig in 1900, the "Universal Watch" was considered at the time to be the most complex pocket watch in the world.  In addition to a perpetual calendar with moon phase and leap year display, the timepiece featured a double chronograph, an alarm and a minute repeater with grande sonnerie.

When Dürrstein met his end in 1901, family members took over the running of the company until the 1920s.

Eventful times.

The Great Depression brought these successful years for Glashütte to an abrupt end. As was the case with many other brands, the Union Glashütte watchmaking factory had to stop production in 1926, and ten years later, the company was removed from the registry of commerce.

In 1951, the remaining watchmaking companies were merged into “VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB)”, renamed “Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH” after German reunification and privatised in 1994. Three years later, when the domestic watchmaking industry was changing direction, “Union Uhrenfabrik GmbH Glashütte/SA” was created, as a subsidiary of “Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH”.

1994 brought new leadership to the Union Uhrenfabrik GmbH Glashütte, which was then acquired by the Swatch Group AG in 2000. With its expertise as the world's largest watch producer the Swatch Group declared its objective of making UNION GLASHÜTTE /SA. wristwatches once again in German quality – and in the style of Johannes Dürrstein: “Watches which have everything to make them accurate and beautiful but nothing to make them expensive”.

A new beginning with powerful partners.

In the year 2000, “Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH” and its subsidiaries including “Union Uhrenfabrik GmbH Glashütte/SA” joined the family of brands owned by the Swatch Group AG. The solid backing of a large organization allowed the brand to reconnect with its founding ideals – of creating high-quality mechanical timepieces with a classically beautiful design, affordable not only for an elite clientele. As a fine German brand, and a place in the portfolio of the world’s largest watch manufacturer, a promising future lay ahead for Union Glashütte. The brand proudly reclaimed its traditional place among the renowned Glashütte watchmaking brands.

Today, Union Glashütte still conveys the essence of fine watchmaking as much as it did 120 years ago. The brand's timepieces, as modern representatives of their historical predecessors, display the very best workmanship, mechanical expertise, renowned quality and timeless beauty. They are the best example of “Made in Germany” watchmaking, creating a name for themselves around the world among timepiece enthusiasts who know what matters – time for the finer things in life.