Dornblüth & Sohn
There aren’t all that many family pursuits left in the watch world. Most of the time they’ve been bought out, fallen into obscurity or revived by someone without any relationship to the original brand. There’s just no room for some little father and son enterprise like that. Well, outside of watch writing anyway, and the Kesslers have that sewn up thank you very much.
Like every rule though, there’s an exception: Dornblüth & Sohn. Unlike their compatriots in Glashutte, there’s still very much a vater und sohn relationship; in fact, it was entirely thanks to that relationship that the brand even exists.
In 1999 Dieter Dornblüth turned 60. He’d been a master watchmaker for decades already by this point, working for various brands throughout the years. His son, too, had been bitten by the horological bug and was every bit his father’s equal except, it turned out for one little factor.
As a 60th present, Dirk Dornblüth presented his dad with a watch he created for the occasion, based off the Glashütte caliber 60.3. Not to be outdone though, Dornblüth senior revealed something that had been lost to the ages: his own plans for a new movement designed 40 years previously.
Needless to say, it was a bit of a revelation, one that set the bi-generational pair to scrivening. They began getting their blueprints down on a paper napkin; no CAD, no cutting-edge design software, just a scrap of paper and some inspiration.
It’s an ideology that today flows through the entire Dornblüth brand. It means two things that all fine handmaking watchmakers come to terms with: high quality, low numbers. No more than a few each month in fact. When you take a closer look at the movement though, that’s understandable.
The calibre 99.0, the genesis of the Dornblüth collection is, to not put too fine a point on it, magnificent. Well, most things with a double sunburst finish, shining gold chatons and a beautifully engraved balance cock look magnificent, but this particular movement goes even further.
At 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour, it’s an incredibly accurate piece of watchmaking. A swan-neck adjuster helps maintain that accuracy from watch to watch, necessary to take into account the variances of something this purely hand-made. It was also just the beginning.
Each new Dornblüth watch isn’t just some visual variation on the last; each is an entirely new timepiece with a shiny new movement at its heart. Granted their steps rather than leaps and bounds away from one another, but they act like a timeline that has slowly but surely expanded the watchmaker’s collection to an impressive level.
Ranging from the original small seconds, moving through Dornblüth’s unique power reserve indicators all the way through to the stunning Regulator and, shock horror, a three central-handed watch, it’s a wonderfully harmonious collection.
Dornblüth’s watches are never going to upset the watch world, never going to upend the status quo of haute horology and that’s completely fine. Because Dornblüth doesn’t need that. It’s not what they set out to do nor what they want to do.
Theirs is a watchmaker built on a mutual love of their craft, valuing hand-made quality above pointless innovation for innovation’s sake. With watches this lovely, it’s hard to say that they didn’t make the right decision. In fact, it’s downright impossible.
Dornblüth & Sohn will be joining us at the Watchmakers Club event in London on the 7th of November.