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Union Glashütte Brand History: Precise German Quality, At More Approachable Price Points

Union Glashütte is a German watchmaker that offers mechanical chronographs and calendar watches at a midrange price point.
When it began, the company sought to provide Glashütte quality and aesthetics to those seeking a more affordable watch.
However, it has also sold higher-end, more complicated offerings at various points in its history.
The Union brand has changed hands over the years, but its Glashütte location and basic philosophy have stayed the same.
A sister Swatch Group watchmaker to Glashütte Original, this brand is mainly available in Western and Central Europe.

With its roots in the 19th century, the Union brand has long sought to provide good-value German quality of design.
Though most of its watches historically excluded expensive luxury materials, the company has occasionally made high-end watches alongside these.
This is also true in the current era, for example, in its gold and rose gold editions.
Continue reading to learn about Union’s connection with Glashütte’s horological history, and how it continues that tradition today.

The Union Emerges
In 1880, Johannes Dürrstein first sold watches under the brand “Union,” but the company that became Union Glashütte began later.
This was the Glashütter Uhrenfabrik Union, and it was here in 1893 that Dürrstein and his craftsmen realized his vision.

Johannes Dürrstein’s Big Plan
At this time, Glashütte was home to several other watchmakers.
However, Dürrstein sought to serve the section of the market that couldn’t afford these expensive pieces of haute horlogerie.
Therefore, the company made watches with excellent workmanship and good accuracy, but without premium materials like gold.
While doing so, Dürrstein and his expert watchmaker Julius Bergter also worked to create luxurious complication pocket watches.
These included, for example, a watch with Louis Piguet’s “La Fabuleuse” grande complication movement, assembled in Union Glashütte’s workshop.

The Death And Revival Of Union
Although the company enjoyed a few more decades of success, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, business declined.
The firm shut down in 1933; afterwards, the brand would be absent until the 1990s.
It only returned after German reunification, when private companies emerged from the remains of the East German state conglomerate VEB.
In 1996, the Union brand was back in action; during this period, the brand used Glashütte Original movements.

This was true in, for example, the Julius Bergter watch, with its Glashütte Original caliber 30 movement.
This particular Glashütte Original caliber 30 movement features moonphase and power reserve indication, making it more complicated than Union norms.

A few years later, in 2000, Swatch group acquired the company.
New Life Under Swatch
In order to better fit the brand within its portfolio, Swatch Group reimagined Union Glashütte as an upper-midrange watch brand.
Therefore, it now fits alongside Swatch brands like Longines and Rado.
However, Union timepieces are still, on the whole, more affordable than those of many other prominent Glashütte brands.
Because of Swatch’s vertical integration model, Union Glashütte now uses ETA movements, some of which are exclusive for Union.

Only some of the parts come from Switzerland, however; Union’s watchmakers make the rest, combining them with the Swiss parts.
Glashütte-made components include rotors, bridges, and balance cocks, for example.
Alongside a rhodium electroplating process, Union’s watchmakers decorate these with perlage and the traditional Glashütte stripe finish.
Due to German law, the watches must consist of at least 50% Glashütte-produced components by value to claim Glashütte origin.

These are still ETA designs, though, and that does bring a certain advantage.
Although Union Glashütte watches are relatively uncommon, some of these ETA movement designs are common and, therefore, easier to service.
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