Visiting the Dornblueth watch manufacture in Kalbe, Germany
I just returned from a long trip to former Eastern Germany. In a small village called Kalbe, the manufacture of Dirk Dornblueth and his father is producing about 15 intensively handmade timepieces per months.
Dirk Dornblueth told us that he gave his father a watch as a present in 1999. That was the start of the story to develop their own watch. His father had plans for his own watch tucked away in a drawer which he revealed to his son and showed him. The rest is history. Look at their beautiful timepieces nowadays.
As we drove along, we crossed the former border from Western Germany to Eastern Germany. The wall has been completely torn down, so all you can see is a sign that says you are near the former borderline.
We were a group of a half dozen watchenthusiasts visiting the Dornblueth manufacture. Below a shot of part of the group with Dirk Dornblueth, the founder, second to the right.
Dirk Dornblueth received us with coffee and some german style coffee cakes. For those who are non German readers, having coffee and cakes in the afternoon is a deep part of German culture. People even take time off in their jobs for that depending on the jobs they have.
The first floor is actually fulled with machines used to create tools and other machines for watchmaking, be it dials, hands, etc..
Dirk Dornblueth told us that he has a depth of production betweenn 55 to 75% which is very large. I did not expect this. They are making all of their own dials, hands, and movement parts. While the movements of the 99 collection are based on an Unitas, Dirk Dornblueth is changing the Unitas so much that it can be virtually considered a different movement. The only thing that stays the same is the baseplate. Everything else is highly reworked and finished to a very high level.
Kontaktring was an Eastern German trading commmunity in the 1960s. Funny to see the sign. Quite old and a relic from a time long gone when Germany was a divided country.
On the lower floor it was amazing to see the machines that are used for making tools. The whole place seemed like it is full of manual labor, and that is what we were shown along out visit. There was not even one CNC machine. We only saw one computer screen, and it was turned off.
The first floor is where dials are made, where hands are made and blued. Where cases are polished. Where repairs and revisions are made.
Below you see the brass plates used to create the movement baseplates.
Impressions from the machines used in the manufacture. It was quite amazing to see how creative Dirk and his team are. They created for example a machine by themselves using the engine that once powered the wipers of a Peugeot and turned it into a device that is creating the thread of screws. Unfortunately, I missed shooting this device.
There are a lot of possibilities for customization of your Dornblueth watch. Plenty of dial choices of different colors as well as the red twelve dials. In addition, Dirk and his team developed a method to created ceramic dials.
The red twelve is often associated as being a sign of a military watch. This is not completely wrong. But the red twelve goes back over a century and was primarily used to increase readability. The history of the red twelve is nevertheless very interesting, especially as it is partly associated with Stalin, as it has been said. This is some interesting overview which I recommend to read if you are curious about the red twelve.
Below is a pantograph. A pantograph is a machine that can translate an engraving from a much larger size to a very small size. In this case, it is the company name that can be engraved on a dial for example.
The steel ring on the left is used to create the steel case of a Dornblueth wristwatch.
Dirk Dornblueth was very open about everything. We asked him questions about how many watches he is making annually. He told us about 180 watches are made per year. There are 7 people currently working with him. His sister is running a store around the corner not far from the manufacture.
The above and below watch are the new leadies timepieces from Dornblueth. The upper dial is a ceramic dial while the below one if mother of pearl.
In the assembly room, every watch is also tested and any faults are marked and then fixed before a watch is shipped out.
The assembly room is where all watches are put together by watchmakers. They are also doing revisions in this room.
The prices for a revision are extremely fair. Take a look. Dornblueth does also repairs and revisions of other watches than their own.
I tried to shoot as many watches as I can in the viewing room. I put them on my wrist and just was curious to find out how a Dornblueth truly feels.
Below is a large small second 99.1.
Below you see a 99.0, the base model of Dornblueth, with a smaller small seconds.
The regulator is quite amazing.
Below is a 99.2 with ceramic dial. Dirk Dornblueth developed his own method to create a dial that is very similar to an enamel dial. Enamellers are a very rare breed and hard to find. So this was his pragmatic solution and these dials are absolutely stunning. The 99.2 has a power reserve indication at 3 o’clock.
Below is a 99.1 with a blue ceramic dial.
Here you see the plate how the ceramic dial is made. It is fitted inside of a steel ring. Then the watchmaker starts to work on it.
Just a shot in the sun. The blue dial with the “Panda” style small seconds really caught my heart.
Dornblueth watches can also be had in gold cases. Quite stunning.
The blue ceramic dial is not less beautiful in the sun.
The ceramic white dial looks different than the regular dial. You can order a ceramic dial from reference 99.1 up. The 99.0 is not delivered with a ceramic dial.
The ceramic dials have advantages over an enamel dial, they are very durable, yet the do not break as easily as enamel dials do. The production process is safer accordingly and wearing such a watch is less risky.
This is a new design by Dornblueth with a power reserve indication. I am struggling with this one, as it is quite different from what I imagine as Dornblueth design. But it is good to see that there are new developments going on. Dirk told us about his new and upcoming watch plans as well. First, he is working on a GMT which will be called reference 99.10. I forgot to shoot the prototype, but I was not sure if Dirk was happy that I did not shoot it.
Second, he told us about creating an automatic watch, maybe even with a microrotor. This is something longterm.
Just a shot of a caseback. The finishing of Dornblueth watches reminds me more of a very expensive timepieces as it is done with very beautiful Glashuette stripes and the balance cock is a beautifully engraved as you know from some of the major Glashuette names.
The regulator is offered in steel or gold cases. In gold case, it was absolutely stunning.
I think that watches made by Dornblueth deserve special recognition. The amount of handwork, the spirit behind them, and the passion that goes into it are truly unique.
A visit in Kalbe gives a completely new insight and feel for what it takes to make these watches. Dirk Dornblueth only uses companies in the region to get parts delivered that he needs for his watches and work. His watches are 100% made in Germany. This is rare to find. At the same time, despite all the hard work going into his watches, they are priced very reasonable and fair. If you are in Germany and like to visit the atelier of Dornblueth, and if you love watches, I can only recommend taking your time for a visit. I was impressed, and I am sure, you will be too.
Seeing and holding these watches gives you a much different feel for it than just watching pictures on the internet or in a magazine. The watches site well, feel very comfy, and are a pleasure to look at.
So last but not least, I wanted to show you a short wristshot clip of the regulator in gold. No words needed…
For more information on Dornblueth, visit their homepage below: