It is safe to say that in the 1990’s the Swiss had the monopoly when it came to high-end sport chronographs with a manufacture movement. However, that was about to change, at least a little bit, when Glashütte Original introduced their Sport Chronograph, proudly made in Germany!
Glashütte Original shared much of the same faith as Lange & Söhne and Mühle. After WWII they where hidden from the eye of the world behind the Iron Curtain, making watches (if any at all) that where solid but could hardly live up to the “capitalistic” glory these companies once knew. The fall of the Berlin Wall brought them back to life and former glory. Glashütte Original originates from the VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, often better known as GUB (Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe), which was the result of a large merger in 1951 that included basically all the watch related industry in Glashütte. In 1990 this became Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb GmbH that in 1994 was purchased by Heinz W. Pfeifer and in 2000 joined the Swatch-group.
One of the big advantages of Glashütte Original was that even during the decades behind the Iron Curtain they had continued to make their own watches from almost scratch. That is evidently in the Sport Chronograph. The first series had caliber GUB 10-60 as their movement. This high frequency movement was modular, and based on caliber GUB 10-30. As can be expected from a German product this caliber was a solid movement and completely made in Glashütte, even down to the ball-bearings of the rotor. Later Glashütte Original replaced caliber 10-60 for caliber 39-31 (see photo below). This new movement was not so much better but a little fancier on the details. The whole movement was better decorated and had a better finish, it had a swan-neck fine adjustment and the rotor was skeletonized and fitted with a 21 karat gold oscillation weight.
Wither you had the old or the new movement, the Sport Chronograph was always fitted with a sapphire glass back, secured with 8 screws, so that you could admire the “ engine” of this watch. The whole design was a smart combination of sportiness and class. Just as with it’s Swiss competitors, this Glashütte Original felt equally at home with jeans and a polo, as half hidden under the sleeves of a suit and shirt. The 12 sided bezel and case design gives the Sport Chronograph a slight reminisce of the Royal Oak from Audemars Piguet, but there ends any real resembles with other watches. The case has a very high finish and the large, rectangular chronograph pushers are easy to use and cleverly mask the fact that this is a modular movement. The Sport Chronograph lacks a date, but in return offers a very balanced design of the dial. Despite some nice touches like the triangular hour makers, the rest of the dial is what we come to expect from a German manufacturer; straight forward and easy to read.
Although the Sport Chronograph could be bought on a strap, the bracelet certainly offered added appeal. It’s unique design resemblance something that best can be described as ice cubes.
Glashütte Original offered the Sport Chronograph in two sizes; a 43mm Senior model (the earlier model with caliber 10-60 was 1mm smaller) and a 39,5mm Medium model. The case size was the only difference and both where offered in either steel, gold/steel or solid gold. That solid gold part is something that Glashütte Original took very seriously. The Senior version on a strap featured almost 100 grams of 18k gold, weiging a total of around 135 grams with all other parts added.
This photo perfectly shows the incredible finish of the Sport Chronograph’s case. That’s one serious chunk of gold!
This particular Sport Chronograph is now discontinued, but still lives on in the current Sport Evolution Chronograph. Gone are the 12 sided bezel and case, as is the “ice cube” bracelet, but the appeal of a German made manufacture chronograph is still there, ready to take on anything it’s owner desires to.