German watch manufacturer Glashütte Original has always done things its own way. Its watches are characterised by classic designs that invariably incorporate a quirky modern twist or two, appealing to connoisseurs and iconoclasts alike. Just look at the PanoGraph if you’re not sure what I mean. For whatever reason, however, Glashütte Original doesn’t always attract the same level of media attention as some of its peers, which means there are quite often hidden gems to discover. One such model is the PanoMaticCounter XL, which we’re taking a closer look at today.
For some of you, the PanoMaticCounter XL is probably already quite familiar. That’s because it is not a new watch. In fact, it made its debut on the market back in 2010. It’s still included in the current Glashütte Original Pano collection, however, and with good reason. Not only is it quite attractive aesthetically, but the PanoMaticCounter XL is also very interesting technically. Equipped with a flyback chronograph, it also boasts an unusual counter complication. All powered by a manufacture movement, of course. More on all that in due course. First, let’s take a closer look at the design.
The first thing to note about the PanoMaticCounter XL is that it comes in a steel case. In some ways, this is unusual for a watch of this level of complexity and sophistication. Normally you would expect a precious metal, most likely yellow or white gold. The choice to use steel here, therefore, is a deliberate one. It reflects the somewhat sporty nature of this timepiece and suggests it was designed to be worn, its complications intended to see regular use.
It also reflects the market sentiment at the time this model was launched. In 2010 global markets were still reeling from the impacts of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US and conspicuous consumption was in serious decline. There was still a demand for complicated watches but of a decidedly more understated nature.
Whether the 44mm x 16mm dimensions of the PanoMaticCounter XL can be defined as understated is another matter. Despite its hefty proportions, however, the watch is surprisingly comfortable on the wrist thanks to the short, curved lugs. The entire case, including lugs, crown and pushers, shows a polished finish and I particularly like the thin stepped bezel which frames the dial nicely. There’s a certain elegance to the case which provides an interesting contrast to the somewhat sporty dial. As you can see there are five pushers in total, three on the left and two on the right (flanking either side of the crown). We’ll get to what each of them does in due course.
The dial layout of the PanoMaticCounter XL is quite distinctive. I wouldn’t say it’s the most legible watch I’ve seen but it does manage to present quite a bit of information in a way that is somewhat intuitive. Plus, it has a very contemporary feel to it. At the base is a galvanized black dial with twin apertures at 3 and 9 o’clock respectively.
The time (hours and minutes) is displayed on an off-centre sub-dial just above 6 o’clock by white gold hands, which point to applied white gold numerals and hour markers. Directly above, and in fact overlapping the time dial between 10 and 2 o’clock, is the chronograph stop seconds, shown on its own dedicated chapter ring. It’s raised slightly above the rest of the dial, introducing an added sense of depth to the display. An additional two sub-dials at 10 and 2 (on the main dial) show running seconds and elapsed chronograph minutes respectively.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the zero points on these two sub-dials have been rotated 60° in a bid to improve legibility. The stop-seconds scale, subsidiary seconds and 30-minute counters all feature white numerals and indexes against a black backdrop for maximum contrast.
Completing this distinctive dial layout are the aforementioned apertures at 3 and 9 o’clock. The one at 3 o’clock house Glashütte Original’s familiar Panorama date display, with white numerals shown on a black background. The one at 9 o’clock, however, is a little more unusual and explains how the PanoMaticCounter XL got its name. This is the display for the counter complication, which allows you to do exactly what it sounds like. Count things.
Using the pusher at 9 o’clock, you can count all the way up to 99 and then use the pusher at 10 o’clock to instantly reset back to zero. Or alternatively, you can use the pusher at 8 o’clock to count back down 1 digit at a time. What you choose to count is completely up to you. The number of times your partner rolls their eyes when you start talking about watches. Or perhaps the number of times you see the exact same picture of the exact same watch on its launch day (in this case, counting to 99 may not be sufficient.) Admittedly it’s not the most practical of complications but it is very novel, and as we’ll see in a minute, far more complex than it looks.
Glashütte Original is a truly integrated watch manufacturer and has been producing high quality, in-house movements for some time now. The Caliber 96-01 – new at the time of PanoMaticCounter XL’s launch – is a fantastic example of this. Its architecture is based on the award-winning Caliber 95 and features a column-wheel chronograph with flyback function. It also boasts GO’s patented bilateral winding mechanism, which uses step gears to transmit energy quickly and efficiently to the movement and adapts to the activity levels of the wearer.
In total, the movement is comprised of 584 individually-crafted components, 217 of which are required for the counter complication module alone. The unusual complication was designed by Glashütte Original’s in-house development team and all its components are precision-crafted in the Glashütte Original manufacture.
Beating at 28,000vph, Caliber 96-01 offers an approximate power reserve of 42 hours. As with most Glashütte Original watches, it is beautifully finished, including the three-quarter plate with Glashütte ribbing, bevelled edges and blued screws, a hand-engraved balance cock and a swan-neck fine adjustment with a finely threaded spindle. All of which is on display through the sapphire crystal case back.
Worn on a black Louisiana alligator leather strap, the PanoMaticCounter XL is something of a hybrid between a sports watch and a dress watch. An impressively complex watch, the steel case helps keep it surprisingly accessible from a price point of view at EUR 21,200. For more information: www.glashuette-original.com.