I, so far, am not lucky enough to find a unique rose gold Patek 570 with a pink dial or a unique platinum 2499, so when it comes to vintage watches I am always looking for that special piece that nerds at Redbar won’t turn their nose up at. Furthermore, I live in central London, I have a student loan slowly but surely gaining interest and a “social” drinking problem so i don’t want to spend eye-watering money on a vintage just yet (Yes i know “eye-watering” money is subjective- some people, who don’t get it, would say £1,000 on a NOS 1967 Omega Chronostop is “eye-watering”) Moreover, we have readers who are just getting into watches and are looking for a solid, affordable vintage watch. So for all these reasons I am writing this article about a vintage German brand that packs a Ramstein sized punch for a price sub £500.
The brand I am going to tell you about is exceptionally affordable but with copious amounts of horological prestige and history. I am going to tell you about GUB. Pieces from this vintage German brand can be found on ebay for about £120-400 with either GUB on the dial or occasionally with the Glashütte original logo we now know. The pieces with Q1 on the dial typically sell for a bit more as these were the models that were considered the premier range and subsequently had better movements etc. However, you can still find these for sub £500, which is madness. Utter madness. Especially as Hodinkee did in fact include GUB in an article titled “Ten Vintage Watches That Should Be More Expensive Than They Are, And Why”, back in 2013, which included the likes of the The Heuer Bundeswehr Flyback Chronograph and the Breitling Top Time. Now although Mr Clymer was referring to a piece which discreetly houses a particular in-house Lange movement, I believe that all the pieces from the brand offer you that DNA of Lange and Glashütte. I am now going to give you a stream-line version of the back story behind this brand which I hope will help you if you are looking for a vintage piece. Also, because a few of these may turn up for sale on The Young Horologist shop, ever the salesman, I am doing some preemptive marketing…….
GUB (VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetrebe) was an East German conglomerate formed in 1951 from the amalgamation of Glashütte-based watch and "precision mechanics" companies based in Glashütte. This included the likes of A. Lange & Söhne, founded in 1845 and now owned by Richemont, and Glashütte Original, currently owned by The Swatch Group.
Adolph Lange started the watchmaking industry in Glashütte. Around 1845, he petitioned the government of Saxony (Where the famous Saxonia model comes from) for a repayable subsidy to help him start a workshop in Glashütte. His business was a success and over time a watchmaking industry would grow around his factory seeing more than half the local population involved in the business of watchmaking by the turn of the century.
An A lange & Sohne tourbillon pocket watch created during Adolf Lange's glory days in Glashütte
Lange invited other watchmakers of the time to join him. In the 1850s Assman came to Glashütte, Strasser and Rhode set up shop around the 70s, and so on. All this horny horology came to a stop at the start of WWI and the industry died off during the war. After the war, a company was formed from the ashes that would be the start of Glashütte Original. They used the term Original Glashütte in their logo to separate themselves as the real Glashütte, derived from the pre-war glory, rather than being one of the imitations that had sprung up in the void. Then somewhere in the early 20s Glashütte Original first appeared on a watch dial.
All of the Glashütte watchmakers and industry alike faced tough times as the depression in post WW1 Germany was hurting sales of all watches in general. Then the commencement of WW2 ended the industry in Glashütte. However, A. Lange & Sohne was commissioned by the Nazis to make pilot watches for the Luftwaffer. (This is a separate article all together)
During the war, the Lange factory was completely destroyed as were others. Following that the soviets combined what remained into the VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetrebe or GUB.
As the relevant members of the Lange family had been jailed or exiled, the management of the company was left to those more sympathetic to the Soviet cause.
After the Berlin Wall fell, Walter Lange, the great grandson of Adolf Lange, set out to relaunch his family company. A few years later ('94), GUB was privatized, and ostensibly owned the legal rights of the formerly-independent companies amalgamated (though by force) into GUB. At this point Walter Lange managed to secure a deal for A. Lange & Söhne to regain rights to use their name. And thus, A lange & Sohne and Glashutte Original, as we know them today, were born.
For those of you that jumped straight to this point because you couldn’t be arsed to read the full story, GUB is an amalgamation of all the brains that A lange & Söhne and Glashütte had following WW2. No, they aren’t Lange. No, they aren’t Glashütte. However, GUB contains the Glashütte DNA that, you can definitely argue, went into the birth of the two German icons of horology, we know today. I believe that a piece from GUB is a nerdy watch for watch nerds who don’t want to break the bank on a nice little dress watch but still want something you can wear at Redbar (or as i call it Watchoholics anonymous).
A beautiful example of a GUB Q1 gold plated 34mm model from the early 60s
As you would imagine, a lot of these pieces are coming from Germany and The Czech Republic but some can be found in UK. A 36mm, gold plated GUB Q1 model should set you back about £350-300 and a 34mm one, £250-300. The non Q1 models are still great and are even cheaper. When looking online you may find these peces with either the GUB logo or the Glashütte Original logo we see on the modern Glashütte watches. The GUB logo was used until 1967 and from then the Glashütte logo. There isn’t actually a great deal of the pre 1967 dress watches on ebay but there are a lot of Glashütte “Spezmatic” pieces which are a different ball game and resemble very russian designs and quality.
Happy hunting nerds and be sure to keep an eye on the website for new articles, new videos and a watch store, selling both modern and vintage pieces. One promise I can make to you is that we will never sell our souls and start selling crap through our store. We are serious watch nerds, not doing any of this for a living but for pleasure. This same point is a sorry explanation for the sporadic content in these early days. But hey Hodinkee wasn’t built in a week…….