Since its foundation over 125 years ago, the Union Glashütte brand has dedicated itself to fine watchmaking, and its collections provide an insight into Glashütte watchmaking history. Right from the start, businessman and founder of the company, Johannes Dürrstein, kept to the principle of making his high-quality, precision watches affordable for a wider range of customers. This objective has remained the same throughout the eventful history of the company but has continually found new ways of expression. It has never yet lost relevance.
With financial support from the state government of Saxony, Dresden watchmaker Ferdinand Adolph Lange (1815–1875) began manufacturing watches in Glashütte and thus laid the foundations for the development of a Swiss-style watchmaking trade in the Ore Mountains.
On 22nd August 1845, Johannes Dürrstein was born in Niederrad near Frankfurt.
Dürrstein acquired his commercial knowledge at the Ludwig & Fries watchmaking suppliers in Frankfurt/Main. During his travels and time as a sales representative, he established contacts with watch manufacturers and customers in Switzerland and Germany.
On 19th January 1874, Johannes Dürrstein established the Dürrstein & Comp. watch wholesaler in Dresden.
In the same year, he took over general distribution of A. Lange & Söhne watches from Glashütte.
At the suggestion of Dürrstein, Lange & Söhne established the inexpensive brand “Deutsche Uhrenfabrikation” (DUF).
Julius Bergter (1856 – 1944), who worked as a watchmaker at the Moritz Großmann watch factory and a teacher at the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte, was hired by and quickly became a close technical adviser at Dürrstein & Comp. in Dresden. Many of his designs were patented for Dürrstein & Comp.
Dürrstein registered the first trademarks for its own watch brands, including the Swiss watchmaking brand “star with a D” and “Union Glocke”.
The watches of the “Union Glocke” brand featured a bell with five stars. The symbol stood for the export to five continents and also served as a trademark.
The range of products included other consumer watches such as “Felsenburg”, “D+C” and “Monopol”, along with tools and accessories.
On 1st January 1893, alongside the watch wholesale business in Dresden, Johannes Dürrstein established the Uhrenfabrik Union in Glashütte.
Julius Bergter presided over the company as director. Production initially took place in rented rooms within an apartment building, but soon moved to the workshop of precision engineer and employee Carl Jentzsch.
Still, in the same year, Dürrstein presented and sold a Grand Complication watch at the Chicago World Fair.
A stylised temple was introduced as the trademark for the Union brand in Glashütte. The symbol certified to the originality of the Glashütte Union timepieces.
The Grand Complication exhibited in Chicago was presented in a modified form as an “anniversary watch” to mark 50 years since the foundation of the Glashütte watch industry.
It was the first Grand Complication built in Glashütte and featured a rattrapante chronograph with dead seconds, 30 minutes display, perpetual calendar, foudroyante, moon phase, minute repetition, grande and petite sonnerie. In total, six copies were made.
Union Uhrenfabrik moved to a modern production facility at 41 Hauptstraße.
With Julius Bergter in charge, the “Universaluhr” (also known as the Universal Watch) was finished and put up for sale at 12,000 German marks. Two other movements remained unfinished.
In addition to the complications of the anniversary watch, these three watches also had an alarm function.
One of the two unfinished movements was later bought by Martin Seidel (1910–1989) from Rudolstadt and, after years of painstaking work, was completed in 1950 and presented as “La Grandiose”.
The third movement, “La Fabuleuse”, was finished by Richard Danners at the Swiss House of Gübelin in 1985 and was sold for 750,000 Swiss francs.
The product range was expanded to include observation watches.
In January, Johannes Dürrstein died, childless, at the age of 56.
Following the death of his brother, Friedrich Dürrstein, his wife, Lina, continued the Dürrstein & Comp. business in Dresden together with her sons.
Watchmaker Emil Leutert (1884 – 1973) was appointed as regulator. He worked as an operations manager until the company closed in 1925, after which he became self-employed, repairing Union timepieces.
Introduction of marine chronometers with ébauches made by Paul Stübner in Glashütte.
The cases were made in-house by Otto Rüdiger (1896–1988).
Hugo Bogusch (1885–1954) succeeded Julius Bergter and was director of Union Uhrenfabrik until 1925. He attempted to convert the company to efficient production.
In the transition phase, Union produced the flattest pocket watches in Glashütte. Only a few wristwatches were completed. They were fitted with a ladies’ pocket watch movement.
As was the case with many other brands, Union had to stop production due to the consequences of the First World War.
In 1936, Uhrenfabrik Union was removed from the German Commercial Register.
On 13th August 1996, Union Uhrenfabrik GmbH was founded again as a subsidiary of Glashütte Original.
Union Glashütte entered the market with a wristwatch collection that was designed on its behalf by Glashütte Original and manufactured with full vertical integration.
The Swiss Swatch Group AG took over Union Glashütte. The development of Glashütte Original fully exhausted the production capacities. It lacked the resources to manufacture Union timepieces.
The management of the Swatch Group decided to run the two companies separately. Union Glashütte repositioned itself and launched as an independent brand with its own production and collection.
Union Glashütte first became the watch partner of the Sachsen Classic rally and subsequently also of other classic car events.
Union Uhrenfabrik obtained a new production facility at 5 Frühlingsweg in Glashütte.
To mark 125 years since the foundation of the company, the German Watch Museum in Glashütte will honour the history of Union Uhrenfabrik with the special exhibition “Union Glashütte – 125 Years German Art of Watchmaking”.
With the limited 1893 Johannes Dürrstein anniversary edition, Union Glashütte is paying tribute to its own history. The watch, with manual-winding calibre, combines Glashütte tradition with modern watchmaking craftsmanship.