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Junghans: Creating time – yesterday, today and for generations to come

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Junghans CEO Matthias Stotz.

Junghans has a new slogan to mark its 160th anniversary: “Creating time – yesterday, today and for generations to come”. It is a timely reminder that the German watchmaker has survived through tougher times than the covid pandemic, and will be around for decades or even centuries more.

Its museum in the enchanting Black Forest is well worth a visit, not only for a walk through the history of clock and watchmaking in the region from wooden cuckoo clocks to radio-controlled timekeepers and modern Bauhaus-design classics, but also for the spectacular architecture of its Terrace building, which clings to the hillside and has its own funicular railway to travel from the bottom to the top.

Junghans was founded in Schramberg, a tiny village in Germany’s Black Forest, 160 years ago by Erhard Junghans and his brother-in-law Jakob Zeller-Tobler and has been one of the world’s most prolific and innovative volume producers for much of the 20th century.

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By 1903 the company was employing 3,000 people making over 3 million timepieces per year. Fifty years later it was still Germany’s biggest producer of chronometers and the third largest in the world.

SCHRAMBERG, GERMANY – JUNE 05: Terrassenbau Museum Junghans Shooting on June 05, 2018 in Schramberg, Germany. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for Terrassenbau Museum Junghans)

The company transitioned from mechanical watches to more accurate quartz and radio-controlled pieces from the 1970s onwards, but could not scale as quickly as the Japanese and lost market share.

Over the past 20 years it has developed watches on multiple platforms: mechanical, quartz and radio-controlled, typically for Bauhaus-inspired minimalist collections like Max Bill and Meister.

The 160th anniversary year celebrations were muted by the pandemic, but that makes 2021 all the more important and exciting for the brand.

“It’s been a challenging year,” says Junghans CEO Matthias Stotz with admirable understatement. “It is of course a shame that our 160th anniversary falls during the Corona period. But we make the best of it and actively support our [retailer] customers.”

Online sales have rocketed for Junghans’ retailers, and the brand is redoubling its efforts to provide digital assets to support them. An online product catalog, for example, has been upgraded to a portal of assets to excite customers. “There are films, stories and backgrounds and much more to discover,” Mr Stotz describes.

For 2021, Junghans is not straying far from its Bauhaus-inspired aesthetic, but there is a touch more luxury to the watches than the puritanical form follows function that the movement prescribes.

Meister Signatur Handaufzug Edition 160

Most eye-catching is the Meister Signatur Handaufzug Edition 160, a watch made in 18ct gold and housing a hand-wound J620 movement. It would have been a travesty had it not been given an exhibition case back because the movement is a genuine vintage Junghans calibre that’s been disassembled, re-finished with rose gold plating, reassembled and decorated.

Despite its vintage, the movement has an impressive power reserve for its age at 45 hours. Its bright white dial with gold hands and markers carries an exact replica of original Junghans signature-style logo from the 1860s. It is limited to 160 pieces and priced at €8,160.

FORM A Edition 160

More classically Bauhaus are two 600 piece limited edition FORM A Edition 160 watches, which have a root and branch connection to Junghans’ home of Schramberg in the beautiful Black Forest of Germany.

Originally launched in 2017, the first of this year’s FORM A Editions uses a black and brown palette and bark-textured strap inspired by the forest. The other has a red and grey combination with a strap made of the region’s traditional loden wool. Both have a special inscription on the dial that reads “Junghans Automatic Black Forest Since 1861.”

The black and brown version has a black case back with an etching of the rings of a mighty oak (one ring equals one year of growth).

The other has a crowing capercaillie, a grouse-like bird indigenous to the forest. Both watches use the J800.2 automatic winding movement 38 hour power reserve. They retail for $1,150.

Meister Gangreserve Edition 160

Last-up in the anniversary collection is the Meister Gangreserve Edition 160, which revives a power reserve display first introduced in the 1950s.

 

Appearing at 6 o’clock on the minimalist dial, it shows the remaining power in traffic light colors changing from green to yellow to red. Ignore the red, and the watch’s 42 hours of power will run out.

The 40.4mm steel watches have mineral glass front and back so the J810.2 automatic movement can be seen from the back.

The Meister Gangreserve Edition 160 will be available in August in a range that includes blue and white dial colours and steel or steel with gold PVD cases.

There are leather straps in grey or brown, or the option of a steel bracelet. Each is limited to 600 pieces, priced between $1,490 and $1,550.

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