Glashütte Original CEO Yann Gamard took charge of the German watchmaker in 2000. He was initially based in the United States, where he oversaw the brand’s North American launch, before moving to Glashütte itself in 2011. Interview.
How did Swatch Group’s purchase of Glashütte Original come about?
When Mr Hayek came to visit us here in Glashütte he saw we had a manufacture capable of making watches from A to Z, including development and design, and that appealed to him. He was very keen on brands with depth in manufacturing and design, and that’s what he saw in Glashütte Original.
What are your annual sales figures?
Unfortunately, not big enough for my liking! We are reaching our limits in terms of capacity: we can’t sell more watches than we can produce. We do succeed in selling all our products, and that is positive. But we have a portfolio of six months more than we are able to make.
What are your aims for the coming years?
To continue along the same path. We are growing around 10 to 15% each year, but we need to improve our production capacity. It takes around six years to train an employee, whether in watchmaking, engineering or machining, to the level that they can really play a role in production. Our school has around a hundred students. Our ability to increase production is therefore dependent on our ability to train people at Glashütte Original, so it takes time.
Are you not tempted to look for manpower in Switzerland?
We are very happy to be competing with the great Swiss watchmakers, but we’re not about to start stealing their workforce. Everyone has their qualities, and their own ways of doing things! Our school has a good reputation in the outside world, and we receive requests from students all over the globe. That’s a good position to be in.
The school has a selection process and offers a high level of training. How many graduates does it produce?
Last year it was 13, this year there will be 21! That’s not counting the toolmakers, who are also trained by Glashütte Original, around three of whom graduate each year. It’s not that many, but it’s quite an achievement in itself. Once they are trained, they have to be integrated into the workforce. Over the last five years we have doubled the number of employees.
Is the economic crisis creating a watchmaking crisis?
I don’t really know if there’s a watchmaking crisis, but I do believe that the economy has its ups and downs. It seems to go in cycles of around seven or eight years. A crisis from time to time is not necessarily a bad thing. It gets rid of those that are not completely serious, and gives the serious ones the ability to express themselves a bit better.
How does Glashütte Original manage during these periods?
We have not been affected by the crisis. But we have always differentiated ourselves by the realistic price of our watches. They are not overpriced. Also, there is high demand for visits to our manufacture and museum. We get around 7,000 a year. These visits have an influence on the decision to purchase a Glashütte Original. People see how we work, and the quality that goes into our watches. That’s a very convincing argument. Through these visits we can show people what we do and who we are.
What are the distinguishing features of a Glashütte Original watch?
A Glashütte Original watch has superb workmanship, it’s meticulously finished and the technical standard is very high. Attention to detail is a priority. They are often grand complication Swiss fake watches, but with an elegant and minimalist aesthetic. They are designed to be useful to the wearer. We also pay a lot of attention to the finish and chamfering.
What is your favourite watch, of all those you produce?
The PanoInverse, no question! This watch is truly a technological feat. We wanted to show the beating heart of the watch on the dial. On the face of it, you might think it’s quite easy: all you have to do is turn the movement over. But if you do that the hands turn in the wrong direction! So the movement had to be completely redesigned. The PanoInverse is not only beautiful to look at, it’s also exquisitely finished and represents the pinnacle of watchmaking technology.
In three words, how would you sum up Glashütte Original?
German. Precise. Elegant.