4 German-Made Automatic Watches From Lesser-Known Brands
James Elliott6 September 2021 | 5 min read
When you think of Germany, watchmaking is unlikely to be the first thing that springs to mind. Despite a reputation for excellent engineering, German watch brands have never quite hit the watchmaking heights of their European counterparts in Switzerland or even countries such as Italy. We recently explained why in a history of German watchmaking.
In this article, we’ll pull out four of our favorite German-made automatic watches from brands that you may not have heard of. Alongside showcasing each watch’s design, specs, and price, we’ll also give you a history lesson on the brand and its origins.
Lass uns anfangen! (Let’s begin!)
- 4 German-Made Automatic Watches:
A bit about Laco – Founded in 1925, Laco started their life specializing in pilot watches for the German Luftwaffe. Even through the fallout from World War II, the German brand continued to create watches of only the highest caliber, focusing for the most part on their aviation heritage. While still based out of Pforzheim in Germany, their watches utilize Swiss and Japanese watch components making them highly accurate and reliable while still delivering that traditional German design.
The Laco Type B is a watch that any field/aviation fans are going to love. A refresh of one of the brand’s original 1930’s WWII pilot watches, the Type B delivers a big, bold and straightforward dial design that’s absolutely packed with lume.
The 42mm piece feels nice on the wrist and comes equipped with a durable brown calf leather strap, further adding to the durability we expect from field watches.
Inside the case, you’re getting a fairly familiar Miyota 821A automatic (self-winding) movement. This Type B model has been in production for a while, and that Mitoya movement has been very popular in delivering a highly accurate performance which German watch fans just love.
The watch is rounded off with a sapphire crystal, and an anti-reflective coating comes by default alongside a fairly respectable 50m of water resistance. Overall, it’s a great field/pilot watch for just a shade over $400. It lines up nicely with competitors at this price point, such as the Hamilton Khaki Field, and is a great way to get your hands on a German watch at a budget price.
A bit about Junghans – Junghans is a German watch brand with one hell of a pedigree. They’ve been creating watches for nearly 100 years alongside helping big brands like Seiko push forward the technology of timekeeping. Famously, they worked with the Japanese great to create the first radio-controlled, local timezone adjusting watch. Nowadays, Junghans continue to make a range of high-quality, beautifully designed watches for all tastes.
The Max Bill Automatic is dedicated to the famous Swiss designer, inventor, and artist who created a wide range of watches for Junghans through the 1950s.
This incredibly simple and sleek model combines a black dial with slender white hour markings and hands with lume-filled numbers around the edge of the dial. Those who love modern and minimalist design styles will love this watch for its simplicity and class.
Inside the case, you’re getting an in-house Junghans caliber J800.1 automatic movement, which delivers 38 hours of power reserve at 28800vph. Plexiglass and 30m of water resistance round off the compact 38mm package, making it a great dress watch for those with slender wrists.
If you like the look of this minimalist piece from a legendary German manufacturer, you’ll be handing over around $750. It’s a lot of money for a dress watch, but it’s a beautifully designed piece from a unique brand with a lot of history.
A bit about Sinn – Sinn’s life started in 1961 when an ex-WWII pilot instructor named Helmut Sinn began manufacturing his own cockpit clocks and chronograph watches. Initial these watches were made in Switzerland and sold directly to customers. Sinn watches have accompanied many German astronauts into outer space and are lauded for their accuracy and build quality. Today, you’ll see Sinn watches stocked in many popular retailers, especially in the pilot watch sections.
Sinn describes the 104 St Sa A as ‘an aesthetic reminiscent of cockpit navigation clocks and their rapid and clear readability.’ It’s hard to argue with that description with the watch combining a clean, large numbered black and white dial with a functional and smart rotating bezel.
Sinn’s SW 220-1 movement is super high-quality and assessed to Germany’s DIN 8330 standard, something that’s very similar to the COSC standard we see in the Swiss watch world. The black uni-directional bezel, brown leather strap, and sapphire crystal round off this high-end package, with the watch also capable of 200m water resistance.
We’re moving into the mid-range/premium territory here with this watch retailing for around €1,280, which converts to approximately $1,500. It’s a reasonable price for a watch that really is a piece of legendary engineering from a company that prides itself on the highest level of quality and performance.
A bit about Nomos – In 2021, Nomos is the largest watchmaker in the famous German horology region of Glashütte. Although they were only founded in 1990, the brand has had a pretty impressive rise in popularity. By combining clean and straightforward design with expert Glashütte-certified watchmaking, Nomos has become incredibly popular in Germany and is now primed to start taking the rest of the world by storm.
The Nomos Club range is one of the brand’s leading line of watches, aimed at getting men into the watch hobby ‘first timer’s club’. That means the watches are super clean, fresh, and simple to appeal to all tastes as a day-to-day dress/sports piece.
The 701 model specifically combines a clean white dial with a combination of large even numbering, a small seconds hand, and thin baton hands. The combination of white, black, grey, and orange strikes a great balance between staying simple whilst bringing a modern and interesting twist.
This watch is all driven by Nomos’s ‘Alpha’ movement, an in-house mechanism that delivers high-quality timekeeping with an impressive 43 hours of power reserve. Domed sapphire glass protects this tiny 36mm piece and rounds off a package that would make a perfect small dress watch.
All of this boils down to a $1,550 price tag when bought directly from Nomos. Whilst it might seem a fairly heft price for a fairly simple dress watch, it’s one of these you need to see in person to truly appreciate. And for those of you with investing in mind, given the upward trajectory of the Nomos brand, it might be one of those that only rises in value over the coming years.
While Germany may not be the first place people associate with great watches, it’s a country with a proud and long history of horology. As with all things German-made, you can guarantee that any watch coming out of the European giant will deliver exceptionally accurate mechanics.
We’d recommend exploring the full ranges of the brands we’ve featured today, with Nomos, Junghans, Sinn, and Laco all stacked with many different models. The great news is that there’s a whole world out there ready to explore when it comes to German-made automatic watches!