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The German Watch Brands You’re Going to Love! By Extropian

German watches
Microbrands
Dive watch
Pilot watch
Field watch
Chronograph
Sternglas
Steinhart
Sinn
Laco
Heinrich Watches
Hanhart
Eza
Circula
Benarus
The German Watch Brands You’re Going to Love! By Extropian

Although a much larger country than Switzerland, Germany isn’t always as closely associated with high quality watchmaking as its diminutive neighbor. And this is a shame, because it has a rich history of exquisite and innovative haute horlogerie, with towns such Pforzheim and Glashütte forming important centers of the industry. Major brands such as A. Lange & Sӧhne may be instantly recognisable to serious watch enthusiasts, but there are many less familiar names that are worth exploring. Let’s take a look at a few of Extropian’s favorites, some recent, others long-established, but all making great watches that you’ll definitely want to discover.

 

Benarus

It’s great when a brand knows exactly what it wants to focus on; no distractions, just an unswerving devotion to one particular type of product. For Benarus it’s Dive watches, which they’ve been making since 2008 when founder Ralf Schreiner teamed up with American designer Steve Laughlin, owner of US brand Raven. Together they’ve developed a diverse range of Divers to suit every taste and budget, from the conventional to the truly unique. 

Although now based in Hong Kong, the brand was founded in Germany, and wears its German heritage proudly, so it makes this list by default.

The Megalodon is a real monster of a watch, with a 49mm diameter and 19mm thickness. But the sheer size (incorporating a 4.5mm thick caseback and a 4.5mm thick sapphire crystal) is necessary to achieve its whopping 2500m water resistance! The ultra-rugged build is carried over to the chunky bezel and bold dial design, featuring bold colors and large vintage-style markers that look a bit like guitar picks. It comes in either a Stainless-steel, Titanium, or (our favorite) Bronze case, with a choice of bold dial colors, so there are options aplenty.

Benarus Megalodon Bronze - Brushed Teal

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If that’s a bit more Dive watch than you need, then try the Bonito. It’s a much more traditional affair, with a Stainless-steel tonneau case, a regular dive bezel with an aluminum insert, and a mere 300m water resistance (which, let’s face it, is more than enough for most of us!).

Benarus Bonito - Black/Red

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Circula

The Huber family can trace its history in the watchmaking trade all the way back to 1926, when it opened a watch and jewelry wholesale store in Pforzheim, one of Germany’s oldest horological centers. This eventually developed into a watchmaking company, Circula, in 1955, and has remained a family business ever since.

Although it returned to a wholesale business in the mid-80s, Cornelius Huber revived the brand in 2018, and has been developing a great range of vintage-inspired watches ever since, some of them directly inspired by Circula designs from the past.

The AquaSport is a perfect blend of past and present, directly inspired by Circula’s classic Dive watches from the 1970s, but with some great modern twists. It has a distinctive 40mm Tonneau case with fine stain brush finishing and polished chamfers, a 120 click bezel with a sapphire insert, scratch-resistant curved sapphire crystal, and 200m water resistance. 

Circula AquaSport II - Blue

Montre Aquasport Ii Blue as St Bb Circula Watches

The ProTrail is a robust Field watch which also nods to a design from the brand’s rich history, but gives it an overhaul for the 21st Century. The Stainless-steel case has a Tonneau shape with a modern, angular design and a deep gunmetal finish produced by a mixture of sandblasting and Klosterizing (which is a type of hardening process in case you were wondering!). It also has a soft iron inner cage, which makes it antimagnetic up to 80,000 A/m, which is a great feature for any mechanical watch, but Field watches in particular.

Circula ProTrail - Sand

Montre Protrail Sand Circula Watches

Eza

Eza has a very similar history to Circula. It’s also based in Pforzheim, and can trace its history back to the 1920s when Hermann Becker founded a company producing watch cases, dials, and components for mechanical movements. The brand began making its own watches in the ‘50s, but was forced to cease production in 1979, another victim of the Quartz Crisis. 

However, the brand was revived in 2016 by Dutch watchmaker and entrepreneur Adriaan Trampe, who wanted to start a firm that made vintage-inspired watches with the best possible modern engineering. Focusing on mechanical watches, just as in the company’s heyday, the components are now sourced from neighboring Switzerland, but all the watches are designed and assembled in Pforzheim.

The Airfighter is a modern, stylish take on the classic military-issued Pilot’s watch, with 316L Stainless-steel case mixing brushed and high gloss finishes, and a delightfully simple dial with minimal baton markers and elegant sword hands.

Eza Airfighter - Black

Eza Airfighter Black Classic Cognac

The 1972 Diver is a 21st century update of one of Eza’s ‘70s models, with a slim, highly polished case, elegant tapering lugs, and a 120-click bezel with a glossy ceramic insert. The dial is the real star though, with its mix of uniquely-styled applied markers (adapted directly from the original) and red dashes, which give it a character all its own.

Eza 1972 Diver - Black Dial

Eza Rp Melographie Copy Scaled

Hanhart

Hanhart has a history stretching back to 1882, when watchmaker Johann A. Hanhart founded his company in Diessenhofen, Switzerland. The brand relocated to Schwenningen in southern Germany in 1902, where it developed into a family business specializing in high precision stopwatches and instrument watches such as the classic single-button Calibre 40 Chronograph

During and after WWII they manufactured chronographs for the navy and air force, and developed a series of innovative watches which continued to push boundaries, as well as manufacturing their own in-house movements. After weathering the Quartz Crisis of the 1970s the brand returned to full-scale production in the ‘90s, and continues to thrive with a range of watches that draw on the brand’s rich heritage while providing the highest quality modern engineering.

The 417 ES is a reissue of the first pilot’s chronograph made for the German armed forces - a legendary model which the brand produced until 1963. It’s a very close copy of the original, with its characteristic fluted bezel, red position markings, vintage hour markers, and bicompax layout all in place, but ups the water resistance and adds a 58-hour power reserve. It also comes with a cool leather Bund strap to complete the vintage Pilot feel.

Hanhart 417 ES Flyback Reverse Panda

Hanhart 417 Es 39 Mm Reverse Panda Xl 3 1536x1024

The Primus Racer nods to Hanhart’s rich legacy of exceptional chronographs, featuring the brand’s signature fluted bezel and red reset button made of anodized aluminum. But apart from that it’s a thoroughly modern design with a large, angular case and screw-down crown, flexible lugs, and highly polished applied numerals with a contemporary vibe. A perfect blend of past and present!

Hanhart Primus Racer

Primus Racer Lederband Weisser Hintergrund 874x1600

Heinrich

Wolfgang Heinrich is a child of the ‘70s - not just literally (it’s when he was born), but via his deep appreciation of all things from that era, whether cars, movies, music, or watches. So it’s not too surprising that, when founding his own brand, he looked to the design of classic vintage timepieces from the era for inspiration. His watches are designed and developed in Stuttgart, and built in Pforzheim.

The brand’s debut offering was the Taucher 1, a classic looking Diver with a distinctive ‘70s-style case that seamlessly blends rugged, angular edges with brushed and polished finishes to make a supremely satisfying tool watch. The overall design is great on the details too, with a knurled and patterned edge on the bezel, a knurled crown with the brand’s crest on the top, a beautiful Sunburst dial (available in a range of colors), and a mix of teardrop and circular applied indices rounding out the package.

Heinrich Taucher I - Green

Heinrich Taucher Green 5

The Taucher 2 is a sleeker affair, exchanging the angular case for smooth curves, and adding an elaborate dial with an enameled center surrounded by an applied brushed silver ring and indices. The bezel has the same great knurled finish and engraved wavy-line pattern, and you can even add lume to the lines if you like!

Heinrich Taucher II - Meteorite

Heinrich Meteroite2 900x

Laco

Another brand with a rich history, Laco dates back to 1925 and the formation of Lacher & Co., founded by Frieda Lacher and her partner Ludwig Hummel in the watchmaking center of Pforzheim. In the 1930s they produced the legendary Laco Observation watch, used by navigators onboard military aircraft, and went on to be one of the few watchmakers authorized to make watches for the German Luftwaffe during WWII. 

The company continued to thrive in the post-war years before being taken over by the Günther family in 1983. Since then it’s continued to innovate, producing the first functioning electronic wristwatch in Germany along with several other notable achievements, while continuing to build on its heritage with watches based on their most iconic models.

Unsurprisingly, Laco continues to produce aviation watches based closely on their original designs from the 1940s, but updated with the best modern engineering. There are three basic models: Type A is the most basic, with a plain black dial and simple white arabic numerals to offer pilots easy legibility; Type B was designed for navigators, and has a distinctive dial with large second markers and smaller hour markers in a smaller inner ring; and Type C is like Type A, but adds a chronograph function to the mix. Whichever option you go for, you’ll be getting a classic, historically accurate design which doesn’t even include the brand’s name or logo on the dial - because such things were considered a useless distraction back in the day!

Laco Pilot Watch Original - Speyer (Type B)

Laco Fliegeruhr Typ B Speyer 862095 Mood Slide 2021

But Laco isn’t just about Pilot’s watches. They have an extensive catalog of navy and sports watches, as well as a range of vintage, Bauhaus inspired models based on its past classics, such as the Weimar 38 with its elegantly simple dark gray dial and brushed Stainless-steel case.

Laco Weimar 38

862070 Weimar40 Slide02

Sinn

A brand with an illustrious history dating back to 1961, Sinn specializes in exceptional tool watches which for decades have been used by professional divers, pilots, astronauts, firemen, and the marine unit of the German federal police. 

The company has pioneered developments in temperature resistance, magnetic field protection, and air-dehumidifying technology to ensure that their watches are some of the most durable and reliable on the market. It was also the first company to manufacture dive watches in compliance with European diving equipment standards, and the first to test and certify them for pressure resistance, water resistance and resistance to fogging. And, in recent years, they’ve also won numerous design awards, so you can rest assured that they look great too!

The 104 St Sa is one of the brand’s classic Pilot watches, with a clearly-structured vintage-inspired dial and distinctive syringe hands, while the 103 St Sa adds a Chronograph function with three separate subdials, a pressure-resistant case, and optional air-dehumidifying technology to prevent the crystal from fogging up.

Sinn 104 St Sa

104 St Sa A

But if tool watches aren’t your thing the brand also offers a superb range of elegant dress watches with a timeless, minimalist aesthetic and exceptional finishing. The 1736 Classic is a perfect example, with its polished Stainless-steel case, white vitreous enamel dial, graceful handset, and textured black leather strap. An ideal choice for any formal occasion.

Sinn 1736 Classic

1736 Classic V

Steinhart 

Founded by Gunther Steinhart in 2001, Augsburg-based Steinhart has built a strong range of rugged tool watches with a mix of original designs, vintage-inspired models, and direct homages to iconic classics. Although headquartered in Germany, their watches are all Swiss-made, and mostly powered by reliable ETA or Sellita movements. 

The Ocean One, for example, is great if you want the iconic Submariner look without paying Rolex prices. It’s an unapologetic homage to a classic, right down to the Mercedes hands, sturdy crown guards, characteristic indices, and Oyster bracelet. It also features a lovely Sunburst dial, ceramic bezel, and 300m water resistance.

Steinhart Ocean One - Green

O1green 1kx1k 02 1 1

Or, if you want something more original, head straight for the Apollon Automatic. This is a monster of a watch, with a 45mm diameter and 17mm width, but it make great use of these dimensions with a Titanium case, domed sapphire crystal, and a choice of interchangeable bezels (Stainless-steel, Bronze, and black DLC coating) so you can give it a totally different look as often as you like. The machined look of the case complements the industrial aesthetic of the Sandwich dial, which features a matte black outer plate covering a dark gray plate underneath, with minimalist lume-filled baton indices and semi-skeletonized sword hands. This really is worth checking out!

Steinhart Apollon Automatic

Apollon Auto 12

Sternglas

Although an avid watch enthusiast since his mid teens, Dustin Fontaine was continually frustrated by not being able to afford the timepieces he so adored. In the end, there was only one solution; to start his own brand, producing timeless, Bauhaus-inspired watches which combined superb minimalist design with affordable prices and superb quality. 

After several years spent perfecting his designs, Sternglas was launched in 2016, based in Dustin’s hometown of Hamburg. The brand has gone on to carve a solid reputation amongst the watch community with its excellent range of quartz and automatic watches, most of which cost well under €500.

To get an idea of the Sternglas aesthetic, look no further than the Naos, with its elegant, ultra-minimalist dial, filigree indices, and simple baton hands. A perfectly proportioned Dress watch, with no extraneous details, it went on to win the iF Design Award in 2020.

Sternglas Naos - White

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Just as appealing is the Hamburg Edition Neuwerk, which adds some subtle flashes of color to the mix. It features a distinctive concave dial with a deep gray satin finish with small orange dots at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock, turquoise skeleton hands, and a bright red seconds hand inspired by the signal buoys found in the North Sea. It looks equally stunning with either a vintage Italian leather or orange nylon Field strap!

Sternglas Hamburg Edition Neuwerk

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Conclusion

Hopefully we’ve persuaded you that the German watch industry is worth exploring. If so, hop over to Extropian’s database to find out more about these brands and what they have to offer.

Created the 2023-10-04

Modified the 2023-11-26

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