The Deutscher Werkbund
The Bauhaus movement no longer exists. It was decimated under the Third Reich. Its principles of design, however, live on—but they are becoming more and more diluted with the passage of time. Now that even third-rate furniture supermarkets offer lamps and end tables “in Bauhaus style,” there is every reason to be concerned about the fate of the Bauhaus. For precisely this reason, we at NOMOS are not always particularly overjoyed when someone writes or says something to the effect that the Tangente is a “Bauhaus” watch.
It would more correct to say “a watch of the Deutscher Werkbund,” because NOMOS Glashütte is a member of the Deutscher Werkbund. In contrast to the Bauhaus, this coalition, founded in 1907, was never a school, but rather a kind of special interest group. And what’s more, the Werkbund continues to exist. Whereas the Bauhaus sought to develop and establish a particular style, the Werkbund already in its early years fought for the implementation of modern modes of production in order to (a) make quality goods more affordable and (b) develop innovative designs that extend the lifetime of the products and liberate them from the dictates of fashion and fleeting tastes. It was the turn of the previous century which witnessed the first appearance of what is now commonplace: cheap products flooding the market, the vast majority of which show no signs of being made with any level of technical diligence or aesthetic thought.
Nowadays most would agree that even industrial products should be well-designed, even to the extent that they are considered worthy of being put on display in museums. This is due in large part to the impact of the Deutscher Werkbund, one of the most important and most influential institutions of the 20th century. Yet, at the same time, surprisingly few actually know about the Werkbund. Perhaps this is because its demands for “good form” and durably constructed products made affordable for the general consumer have come to be taken for granted. The Deutscher Werkbund has always striven and continues to strive for improvement in the quality of all industrially-produced items. In so doing, they seek to once again realize in the modern industrialized and urbanized world something that was earlier called “harmonious culture,” founded on the concept of a comprehensively crafted Gesamtkunstwerk. Both artisan handicraft and mechanical production have their place and should each be utilized in those areas where they are most advantageous.
The influence of the Werkbund can be seen in large corporations such as AEG, Bahlsen, the Deutsche Werkstätten, and the linoleum factory in Delmenhorst. Artists working according to the principles of the Werkbund have not only succeeded in making economically viable products for these companies, but, more importantly, have been instrumental in constructing their overall corporate images. Through its collaboration with these large companies, the Werkbund has become enormously important: it has been shown that carefully constructed and manufactured German products sell better—the “artistry” and “quality work” of these goods give them a clear advantage on the international market.
Today it is notable that the goals of the Werkbund have come to be taken for granted and people no longer perceive them as the goals of a specific movement. In fact, the public no longer even recognizes many of the Werkbund’s achievements and initiatives at all, for example the Weissenhof estate in Stuttgart (1927); the presentations of German culture and innovative lifestyle concepts at exhibitions in Paris (1930) and Brussels (1958); or the 1959 demands for an awareness of the consequences of industrialization and urbanization on the environment and for the cultivation of a new understanding of our natural resources and the applications of technology. Nevertheless, the Werkbund continues to serve as a critical authority in its endeavors to improve the environment and living conditions.
NOMOS Glashütte is a proud member of the Werkbund, whose membership also includes numerous galleries, art academies, architectural firms, as well as the Vitra company in Weil am Rhein, famous for the manufacture of classic seating furniture according to the designs of Eames and co. Incidentally, in the picture above you can see Werkbund products in a Werkbund enterprise: among other things, the glass walls of the NOMOS workshop in Glashütte were manufactured by Deutsche Werkstätten Hellerau - one of the Werkbund's founding companies, located in the garden city Hellerau near Dresden.