Okay, this is not really a new brand. I’ve know about Mühle Glashütte (Muehle Glashuette) for as early as I caught the watch collecting bug in early 1990’s. At the time, the company was relying upon calibres manufactured by Swiss leader ETA, so I personnally didn’t find their “Made in Germany” watches that interesting. But the recent release of the Teranaut III Trail prompted me browse their Website and write an entry about this 140 years-old manufacture.
I use the term manufacture intentionnally, because even though Mühle still relies upon mechanisms initially designed in Switzerland, they now have a say in how their movements are finished – which is a clear example of a company taking reign over their calibres – the true definition of a manufacture.
Mühle’s new standard calibre is based on the Sellita SW200, which is itself based on the ETA 2824, introduced for the first time in 1972. Throughout history, the factories that were eventually merged into ETA SA had always relied upon sub-contractors. One of these was Sellita, a company that became so specialized in the refinishing of movement blanks that they could offer nicer working movements than ETA for the same price.
For a long time, ETA was just focused on supplying movement blanks and stock movements to watch companies, but there was a lot of money to be made with movement refinishing. In the late 1990’s the Swatch Group started to acquire strategic suppliers and announced that it would stop supplying movement blanks.
Companies like Sellita interpreted this as a blatant attempt at undecutting their core business, and after filing complaint to the COMCO (the Swiss antitrust commission), they manage to postpone the deadline.
Most of the intellectual property of ETA factories has now fallen into the public domain, and since Sellita still had some tools to build ETA movement blanks, they started to develop their own version of ETA clones, which are almost 100% compatible with originals.
In December 2009, the Swatch Group took one step further in announcing that it would stop supplying all watch parts to competitors. Some day thus, companies will have to source movements and parts somewhere else than from the Swatch Group factories, and Sellita is already headed for becoming one of the most prominent alternatives.
For Mühle, the benefit of working with Sellita is that they get much more flexibility than with a mass-manufacturing supplier like ETA. Much like Jorg Schauer from Stowa, Mühle is capitalising on the opportunity to source movement blanks from Sellita to finish them to their own standards.
Mühle now has its own custom-made automatic flagship calibre, which benefits from a typically-German 3/4 plate bridge and swan-neck regulation.
The movements benefit from further improvements, which are listed on the company’s Web site.
The company’s collections has a very Germanic and utilitarian look, which is explained by the company’s other products (Nautical and Marine instruments) designed for professionals.
Available with two dials and two case finish, the Terranaut is one of several iterations of their Flieger watch. Expect prices to be around USD 1,500. It isn’t cheaper than your average automatic Swiss Made watch, but the Mühle movement probably has further work done on it…