Review: Glashütte Original PanoMatic Counter XL

by Kevin Goodman

8 February 2014

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With Basel 2014 weeks away I recently had the opportunity to spend a week with a Basel 2010 release, the Glashütte Original PanoMatic Counter XL. Before I start my journey with this watch I think a refresher in GO history is in order

Glashutte Original German Watchmaking Art Since 1845

Glashutte Original traces a continuous history of watchmaking in Germany back to 1845. Glashutte Original has its origins the Industrial Revolution which started in England and America a century earlier. A watchmakers guild had been established in Dresden since 1668 and its members flourished as the city became the administrative and commercial capital of a thriving Central European empire.

The story of Ferdinand Lange’s role in creating a watch industry is widely known, as were the economic ups and downs. But the biggest upset to the Glashütte story was to come after World War II, when the so-called Iron Curtain descended across Europe and the small town became part of the DDR (the former East Germany). All its watchmaking enterprises were nationalized as a people’s cooperative, the VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB). With a captive market in the Warsaw Pact, the GUB continued to produce both mechanical and quartz watches throughout the 1970s, when the Swiss industry was almost wiped out by the quartz revolution. Although the output of the GUB was rather utilitarian throughout the DDR’s existence, the watchmaking skills and industrial capacity developed over 100 years were nonetheless retained.

From Utilitarian to Haute Horology

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Germany was reunified in 1989. It was during this time that the seed was sown for the luxury watch manufacturer that we know today. In 1990 Heinz Pfeiffer, a German entrepreneur and a dedicated watch collector along with another investor, brought the entire GUB from the state privatization board and renamed it Glashutte Original. Pfeifer realized that the only viable future lay in switching production to high-quality, hand-finished watches for the serious end of the market. His first limited-edition (25) Julius Assmann , with flying tourbillion and perpetual calendar, sold out instantly at DM290,000 ($160,000) each and established the credentials of his ‘Glashutte Original’ brand.

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This is a later model of the Julius Assmann from 2007

The company was purchased by the Swatch Group and added to its list of high end brands (Breguet, Blancpain, and later on Jacquet Droz)

PanoMatic Counter XL

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The PanoMatic Counter XL was released at Basel in 2010. 2010 found the world still in the grips of a severe recession and this watch seemed to reflect those times. It comes in a stainless steel case rather than precious metal, which could be considered standard for a watch of this caliber. The steel case make this fine German chronograph more “affordable”. The PanoMatic Counter XL is a substantial watch with a dominating presence. The 44 mm diameter and height of 16 mm give this watch a sporty feel. Despite the size of the watch it fit quite comfortably on the wrist. The comfortable fit is attributed to the lug spacing that gives the watch a nice fit even on a small wrist (I never include wrist shots because I have a problem showing a fine mechanical watch being engulfed by wrist hairs).

The dial of the PanoMatic Counter XL seems fairly straightforward. It’s a fly-back chronograph with a “big date” display located at 3 o’clock. The hour and minute display are located in the traditional Glashütte Original subdial configuration at 6 o’clock. There are two subdials on either side of the large chronograph second hand display – a second hand subdial on the left, and a 30 minute counter on the right hand side. Although the dial is great to look at the 3D second counter partially obstructs reading of the subdials. The two pushers on the right of the dial operate the chronograph. The pusher at 4 starts and stops the chronograph and the one at two operates the flyback function and resets the chronograph to zero when it is fully stopped.

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Set against the matte black dial, the complications on this 44mm diameter watch are arranged and easy to read. The interesting novelty on the PanoMatic Counter XL is the red two-digit “counter” complication located at 9 o’clock on the dial. The red digits on the counter clearly distinguish it from the white ones featured on the big date.

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The counter complication is controlled by pushers on the left-hand side of the case – the pusher at 10 o’clock resets the counter, the 9′oclock pusher advances the counter by 1, and the pusher at 8 o’clock brings the counter backward by 1.

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The counter pushers

You may ask why a counter function and that same question can be asked about many other complications. In short you can use it to count. Count day, weeks how many times your boss says “kinda” in a meeting. It is a complication that can entertain as well as possibly have some functionality

The dial of the PanoMatic Counter XL is protected by a sapphire crystal,

The Caliber 96-01 is a mechanical self-winding movement based on the award winning Caliber 95. The movement is comprised of 584 parts ( 217 of which are attributed to the counter complication) and 72 jewels, which beat at 28,000 beats per hour. This movement is made entirely in house by Glashutte Original. The movement is viewed through the sapphire crystal display back. Highlights of the movement include the column wheel used to engage the chronograph and the free sprung balance both must have for some watch purists.

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The PanoMatic Counter XL has a black Louisiana alligator leather strap with a brushed stainless steel two-button, bi-fold clasp. The brushed stainless steel clasp is nice as it is less apt to show the scratches as opposed to a highly polished surface. It also adds to the sporty feel of the watch. Those disappointed by the discontinuation of the bi-fold clasp in other GO models will be glad to see that it is still present in this model.

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Conclusion

I started this article with a short summary of Glashutte Original. My point being is that Glashutte Original in its post Iron Curtain status is a young company. That has not stopped this luxury manufacturer from pushing the envelope and creating some wonderful timepieces. The PanoMatic Counter XL follows in that line by giving us an excellent time keeper coupled with a counter that acts independently of the watch movement. I have also recently bemoaned the fact that Glashutte Original no longer carries sport watches in their collection. The XL Counter proves me wrong, it’s stainless steel case and dominating wrist presence definitely give this one a “sport” watch feel. As we approach Basel 2014 I am very excited to see what lies in store for us from Glashutte Original

Kevin Goodman

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