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Mühle-Glashütte: Innovation by Demand

“We are a sports and luxury watch company,” says Mühle-Glashütte CEO Thilo Mühle. “The term ‘professional nautical instruments’ is in our name (Mühle-Glashütte GmbH Nautische Instrumente und Feinmechanik), it’s part of the heritage of this entire company, and it has provided our focus.”

Mühle, who was travelling the United States earlier this year exhibiting his current wristwatch line after a recent successful launch at the 2019 Baselworld watch show, is one of the few watch executives who can lay claim to a company name that has been continuously family held, and in the timekeeping business, for five generations. Mühle-Glashütte has been in operation for more than 150 years in the famous Glashütte watchmaking area in Germany.

Thilo Mühle, CEO of Mühle-Glashütte, displays the Sea-Timer BlackMotion.

Mühle-Glashütte’s foray into wristwatches emerged from a market request, and has allowed the brand to grow organically, filling a specific mid-market position for a robust sports watch with a nautical pedigree, developed to exacting precision standards based on a long history of experience in the space. The company recently added several luxury models that draw on its heritage of producing high quality timepieces with extensive hand working, powered by in-house movements.

Mühle-Glashütte Pavona Green, on a leather strap

History

To fully understand the engineering imbued in Mühle-Glashütte products, it’s necessary to examine the company’s history. The watchmaker has achieved its market positioning through the vision of several significant family members, who managed to collectively pass a torch from one generation to the next.

Thilo’s father, Hans-Jürgen Mühle, founded Mühle-Glashütte, the wristwatch company, in 1994. The company’s roots, however, date to 1869, when Robert Mühle established a company manufacturing precision measuring instruments for the watchmaking industry. The company expanded into automobile clocks, survived WWII, Soviet dispossession, German reunification, and bankruptcy, thorough successive generations of Mühle family members.

Mühle-Glashütte's Teutonia Sport I features a new tachymeter scale.

Thilo Mühle joined the company in 2000 and helped pull it out of near insolvency in 2007. Despite significant business disruptions, the company’s products remained in high demand throughout its entire history. Under the leadership of father and son, it has succeeded in delivering multiple innovations to the market. These include a patented woodpecker regulator, a three-quarter plate, and several in-house designed movements including manual winders and chronographs, available with varying features and distinct metals and finishes.

In the U.S.

Jeff Hess, watch distributor and owner of Old Northeast Jewelers and Hess Fine Auctions, is Mühle-Glashütte’s North American distributor and hosted Thilo Mühle’s recent United States tour. Hess chooses his brands carefully and selected Mühle-Glashütte in 1999 for several significant reasons.

“When I visited the factory and found out they were making speedometers for BMW in the 1920s and nautical instruments since the late 1800s and watches for fifty or sixty years—and it’s still family owned—I became interested,” Hess says. He adds that the brand delivers incredible value for the money, reflective of other German brands from Glashütte region.

Thilo Mühle and Jeff Hess.

“To use the name Glashütte on dial you need to produce fifty percent of the movement in your own factory,” explains Thilo Mühle. “Our company spends a lot of attention on the movement. Anyone would hard pressed to find a watch that had this much handwork done to it. There’s a big gap in price between regular movements and customized. If this watch had one of the big Swiss names on the dial, the customer would pay three times as much. We spend a lot of time listening to the customer and they helped us grow our brand,” he adds.

The current incarnation of the company began in 1995 with a consumer demand for a water-resistant watch for use on ships. Thilo’s father, Hans-Jürgen Mühle, responded to the request with an unnamed private-label watch that laid the groundwork for the company’s first two models: Herren-Sporttaucher-Uhr (a men's sport diving watch) and Marinefliegeruhr-I (a marine pilots' watch).

The product line was expanded and refined, growing in accordance with consumer interest, and currently features fifty-five different SKU’s and thirty different models.

“We have one rule: you must take your end consumer with you. Some brands lose the consumer. We have many repeat buyers and collectors who buy because they like what they see. We talk with consumers and retailers, and when you spend time speaking with people you get a lot of information,” observes Mühle.

Current models

Standouts from the current collection include the Sea-Timer BlackMotion, which looks to be a best seller. Retailers tell iW that it is indeed a hot pre-order item. The Sea-Timer is a handsome stainless steel, TiC-coated 44mm by 12.5mm all-black sport watch with bright SuperLuminova indices. It features the Sellita SW 200-1 Mühle Version automatic movement, with woodpecker neck regulation, rotor, stop-second, fast date correction and 38-hr power reserve. It’s got a cool black band that could be sailcloth or carbon fiber and fits the design ethos of the watch by delivering a punchy utility look. A special 150th anniversary edition features a blue rotor.

Other new models include the Panova Green, a green-dialed watch with orange indices and a sporty NATO strap. The Green is also powered by the Sellita SW 200-1 Mühle Version automatic movement in a 40mm brushed stainless steel case.

The Teutonia Sport 1 is a flashy, race-themed watch with black and red highlights, a tachymeter, timers and a neat leather/rubber strap. It’s got a 42.6mm stainless-steel case housing an MU 9413 automatic movement with woodpecker neck regulation, Glashütte three-quarter plate, rotor, stop-second, fast date correction and 48-hr power reserve.

Rounding out the 2019 collection is the elegant and outstanding Robert Mühle Mondphase Gold moonphase watch. This commemorative model (150 years) from the "R. Mühle & Sohn" manufacturing line is limited to twenty-five timepieces. This simple and elegant moonphase is powered by an RMK 04, hand-wound movement sporting a Glucydur balance with a Nivarox spring, engraved balance cock, three-fifth plate, Glashütte long-slot click, woodpecker neck regulation, stop-second, 21,600 A/h, Moon phase display with fast correction, up/down display, hand date with fast correction and 56-hr power reserve.

The 42mm watch has a brushed/polished red gold case, anti-glare sapphire crystal, fire blued hands, transparent case back, and a crocodile leather strap with an 18-karat red gold pin buckle. It is a testament to the high level of craftsmanship, engineering and design displayed in Mühle-Glashütte products.

“Brands like ours do not have the advertising and marketing dollars to push the market like many big Swiss brands, however we still have a steadily growing market share and find that being a niche brand from Germany has an advantage: our true story resonates with our consumers,” says Thilo Mühle. “We listen, we adapt and we deliver. That’s our heritage and that’s why our products sell so well. Our retailers and consumers are as much a part of the company as our designers and engineers, and always will be.”

This year Mühle-Glashütte USA partnered with AOPA to create a very special timepiece in honor of AOPA’s 80th Anniversary The Mühle-Glashütte AOPA AeroSport is an 80th Anniversary Commemorative Limited Edition of 500 pieces worldwide.

• Special AOPA Member-Only price is $1,499, US retail price is $1,899

• To obtain your AOPA Member Discount use promo code: aopamember (all lower case).

• For more information, and to place your order visit: https://www.muhleglashutteusa.us/

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