Provincial backwater and the big,
Two larger streets, five bars, two butcher shops, four bakeries, a grocery store: you can count all the things in Glashütte with the fingers of just one hand. This little town situated halfway between Dresden and the Czech border is actually a mere village and is not really that different from the neighboring villages of Oberhäslich and Elend (whose names in German also mean "extremely ugly" and "misery") Not really different, that is, except for the fact that the best watchmakers in the world live in Glashütte. How did this come about?
It is said that Glashütte was founded by a monk, who was passing through here on his way from Prague to Meissen and discovered silver ore protruding from the grass in a shepherd's pasture. It didn't take long until miners from all over showed up to "scrape the silver veins" and soon smith shops, smelting works, and charcoal kilns began to make their impression on the town's image. Still to this day, two somewhat crude tools, a hammer and mallet, feature prominently on the town's coat of arms.
The valley, in which Glashütte lies, ringed by cliffs and crags, seclusion, quiet, boredom: apparently these create the perfect environment for those who craft the hundreds of delicate components, assemble them together with the aid of microscopes, magnifying glasses, tweezers, and miniature screwdrivers before finally transplanting them into a tiny case.
A good 150 years ago, Ferdinand Adolph Lange began instructing the local basket makers and miners in the art of watchmaking and soon opened the first workshop in the region. As the years went on, more and more people took to watchmaking; manufactories were established, and Glashütte became famous world-wide as the birthplace of fine watches. This lasted until the two darkest episodes in its history came—World War II and the Communist regime of the GDR. "Instruments for the war effort," cheap quartz watches, the decline of the factories and studios: these decades hardly warrant mentioning and Glashütte today no longer has much in common with this the events of this era. Nevertheless, the knowledge and skills of those families of watchmakers, which had been passed down through the generations, managed to survive through this period. Luckily, the Berlin Wall fell with almost perfect timing, just before the watchmakers of the old school had started to die out.
After the fall of communism, this sleepy town accomplished something that failed in so many other cities of the former GDR. Building upon the ruins of the former state owned enterprise geared towards mass production, successful private enterprises managed to prosper here, including three manufactories and various types of ancillary industries and smaller businesses. Today, hardly any jeweler of renown from London to Paris, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and beyond would go without watches from Glashütte in their collection. In this sense, Glashütte long ago ceased to be a provincial backwater. Glashütte is now part of the big, wide world.
Since the fall of communism, Walter Lange, great-grandson of the legendary founder of the watchmaking industry in Glashütte, has returned to the town and some new pioneers have also come here following the scent of opportunity. Using modern means, yet never losing sight of the town's tradition, they have helped to create an economic miracle in eastern Germany. One of these pioneers was Roland Schwertner, founder and CEO of NOMOS Glashütte.