The story of Tutima is inextricably linked to the history of Glashütte, the German city whose watch industry was founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange. Tutima’s roots extend to 1927 when Glashütte and its dominant Präzisions-Uhrenfabrik GmbH were plagued with economic troubles.
This is where the enterprising Dr. Ernst Kurtz entered the scene. A jurist originally from Hamburg, he created the Glashütte watch factories Urofa and Ufag from the bankrupt carcass of the Präzisions-Uhrenfabrik. Kurtz had a good feel for how these companies should be run—focusing on wristwatches instead of the pocket watches Glashütte had predominately been manufacturing.
The economic upswing of the 1930s helped the two factories establish themselves in an international market made ever more competitive by the trendy Swiss wristwatches. While Urofa manufactured ébauches, Ufag produced finished watches—and its top brand Tutima became a synonym for quality in the process.
At the end of 1938, the two factories were integrated into the armament industry by the government, and two years later they completely stopped manufacturing civilian wristwatches until the end of the war—an obligation that would bring forth one of the most iconic pilot’s watches of all time in the guise of the Reich’s air force watch.
About 30,000 pieces of Tutima’s first serial pilot’s watch were manufactured between 1941 and 1945. It was powered by manually wound chronograph Caliber 59 and outfitted with what the firm called a “speed stop” at the time—familiar as a flyback function today—the lion’s share of which was used as the official watch of the German Reich air force’s military pilots.
East meets West
On May 8, 1945, just scant hours before the official end of World War II, Glashütte was bombed one final time, the Russians making sure that all of the town’s “military installations” were leveled. In Glashütte’s case, this meant watch and other micro mechanically involved factories. That which survived the attack from the air was dismantled and transported back to the Soviet Union. This was a heavy shock, and one that set Glashütte’s watch industry back several years.
Kurtz settled in a region of Germany that borders on Saxony but that later remained part of West Germany and took a number of qualified Glashütte tradespeople with him. In Memmelsdorf he took over a former assembly factory for the Glashütte industry; both Urofa and Ufag had been dismantled by the Soviets.
The first job Kurtz landed was to reassemble the remaining stock of Caliber 59 that had been salvaged for the U.S. Army. Around 1951, he moved on to northern Germany, finally settling in Ganderkesee, near Bremen, and began to produce watches he signed with the brand name Kurtz Glashütter Tradition.
Five years later, Kurtz once again ran into financial trouble due to the ever-growing competition presented by less expensive, large-series wristwatches from Switzerland, and his employee Werner Pohlan took over the company. Pohlan, who renamed the company Nurofa (thus adding a symbolic “north” to the original Glashütte name), reactivated the brand name Tutima during his time as company head.
In 1960 businessman Dieter Delecate took over. He was a co-worker of Pohlan and a close confidant of Kurtz. He saw to it that Tutima thrived well past the quartz crisis to become a leader of the mechanical renaissance.
This past May, Delecate finally fulfilled half his goals for the company. After an absence of sixty-five years, he brought Tutima home to Glashütte.
The Delecate family—Dieter runs it together with his two oldest children, Jörg and Ute—has always been conservative with decisions, and this includes the move back to Glashütte. Delecate bought the property formerly housing the area’s railroad maintenance crew in 2005 and began renovations of the building, which were only completed in 2008.
Tutima now directly neighbors Nomos, whose headquarters are in the former train station, and is steps away from both Glashütte Original and A. Lange & Söhne.
In 2008, Delecate hired Rolf Lang. Lang is a cornerstone of modern Saxon watchmaking: not only has he served as chief restorer for the Mathematics Physics Salon located in Dresden’s Zwinger—which houses one of the widest and most important collections of historical timekeeping instruments—but he has also held the chief position of restoration and special projects at A. Lange & Söhne and was production head for Moser & Cie.
Since 2008, Tutima and Lang have been working on a highly complicated, limited edition timepiece to honor Kurtz and Tutima’s history. Called the Tutima Hommage, it is the very first minute repeater to come out of Glashütte that was fully conceived, designed and produced in the German Mecca for fine watchmaking.
The new factory has four levels of production space filled with machinery and employees; a convenient situation that allows changes to production and prototypes to be made very quickly. Needless to say, the factory is state-of-the art in terms of technology—particularly the sunny basement level, which is packed with latest-generation CNC machinery, some of which can be seen from the ground floor through a large peephole in the flooring.
Holger Raupach, who moved to watchmaking from working with heavy metals, is in charge of the numerically controlled machinery. Lang—who describes him as “incredibly creative and very curious”—is glad to have such a forward thinker in his team.
Lang puts particular emphasis on teamwork in this factory. He has fourteen hand-picked coworkers, two of whom are movement designers.
The lion’s share of these employees can be found in the finishing department, where the artisans grind, polish and file to achieve a most traditional Glashütte look for the Hommage’s movement. This look does not involve modern decoration techniques like Glashütte ribbing—which is côtes de Genève at a different angle—or perlage. Caliber 800 is polished and then matte gold-plated for a frosted finish. The finished movement looks vaguely English, and this is no accident: early Glashütte watchmaking was very English in style. All engravings on this movement, including the obvious clef note on the balance cock, are done by hand with no pre-cutting done by laser, and the balance cock is engraved in relief—as opposed to flat engraving—as traditional Glashütte values dictate.
All of this movement’s levers, bridges, and cocks, and its springs outside of the balance spring, are manufactured in-house. Currently, the turned parts such as wheels and pinions are being sourced in Switzerland. A supplier that is not at home in the watch industry manufactures its balance wheel in Saxony, and the weighted balance screws come from another Saxon supplier.
Since Lang worked at Moser & Cie for more than three years, launching its debut pieces, it is a given that he would choose a Precision Engineering hairspring for this timepiece. However, its terminal curve is bent in-house to turn it into a Breguet-style hairspring.
Behind the Hommage
It was mainly his experience with repeaters in restoration that gave Lang the confidence to suggest this ambitious project to Delecate. Tutima’s Hommage minute repeater is a high horology timepiece based on traditional Glashütte values with particular emphasis on stability and exquisite finishing as dictated by the city’s horological founders. Jörg Delectate reports that Kurtz also had a penchant for complicated watches despite the fact that he can well be considered Saxony’s father of serial industrial manufacture.
“This is a watch the likes of which has never before been seen in Glashütte,” says Lang.
The reason for this is that Glashütte has never produced a full minute repeater without outside—Swiss—help. Ferdinand Adolph Lange patented a simple quarter repeater in 1866, and in 1873 his son Richard began producing a version with an updated mechanical design utilizing a separate spring barrel and stabilized by a typical Glashütte three-quarter plate. The company made about 700 of these up to 1940 (most before 1914). All other repeaters made in Glashütte were based on ébauches supplied by Audemars Piguet or LeCoultre, which the Le Sentier-based company made especially for Glashütte entrepreneurs (among them A. Lange & Söhne, Julius Assmann, and Dürrstein). These ébauches were described in LeCoultre’s sales catalogues as the “genre allemande” (the German type).
With the introduction of the celebratory timepiece, Tutima is positioning itself to become one of Glashütte’s big players, though at this time this complicated timepiece is planned to remain uniquely a limited edition of 25 pieces.
The Hommage is a three-handed minute repeater conceived from the ground up. The 32 mm hand-wound Caliber 800 features 550 individual components. With a traditional matte, frosted, gold-plated finish and a Glashütte three-quarter plate, this exceptional movement is directly identifiable as a product of its geographical location. The steel repeater parts—every single one of which has been manufactured and tin-polished to perfection in Glashütte—culminate in the two gongs attached to the case for better resonance.
The resonance was a subject of great consideration for Lang and his team. While Kurtz had his apprentices learn musical instruments to improve their dexterity, Delecate and Lang—happy with the quality of their craftspeople—chose to address the pitch and resonance of the repeater by turning to the acoustic labs of the TU Dresden and its Institut für Musikinstrumentenbau for selection and analysis. The two notes of the repeating gongs (the ding and the dong) are thus in a major third interval, so as to emit a “joyful” sound.
Housed in a 43 mm case of solid rose gold or platinum with the choice of a classic or skeletonized dial, this masterpiece is strictly limited.
“Our Hommage will remain just that,” Dieter Delecate said. “An homage.”
As for Tutima’s day-to-day production, it will be moving to this new building in Glashütte, where the Delecate family has great plans for it. “We are looking to now fully incorporate Dr. Kurtz’s philosophy into our production,” Dieter Delecate reported. “We will return to the way he would have continued the company by making high-quality, affordable watches.”