Christine Hutter shares her journey from watchmaker to founder and CEO of her own independent watchmaking manufacture Moritz Grossmann, and what sets her brand apart
Karl Moritz Grossmann was one of the most prominent figures in German watchmaking in the 19th century. In addition to developing technically impressive pocket watches and pendulum clocks, Grossmann also co-founded the German School of Watchmaking in Glashütte. In 1885, he died of a sudden stroke and his manufacture in Glashütte was liquidated.
While that appeared to be the natural end of Grossmann’s story, his name and legacy would be revived and perpetuated more than 120 years later by a passionate watchmaker named Christine Hutter.
Born in Eichstätt, Germany, Hutter founded Moritz Grossmann as a watch manufacture in 2008 after acquiring the rights to the name and brand. Today, it is a well-known independent brand revered and coveted by watch aficionados around the world, including Singapore. During a recent visit here, Hutter talked to us about her founding journey, as well as the traditions and crafts that make Moritz Grossmann so special.
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How did you first get into watchmaking?
Christine Hutter (CH): It was a crazy situation because I had always wanted to study sports, though I did also feel a little connected with the arts. After high school, I wasn’t able to take the examination for sports so a friend of mine asked me to consider watchmaking instead. And I thought, “Why not?”. I decided to give it a try and I really liked it. I did the apprenticeships, I was very good in school and it was clear for me to continue on in watchmaking. I experienced different areas from retail business to sales promotion, marketing and operation (with A. Lange & Söhne worldwide) and setting up distribution for sales in A. Lange & Söhne Middle East. Now with Moritz Grossmann, all my experiences in the different facets of watchmaking are coming together.
What led to your founding of Moritz Grossmann in 2008?
CH: Grossmann was a very excellent watchmaker in the 19th century and he did a lot for Glashütte and for watchmaking because he also wrote books and essays, and translated books from French into German. He also wrote essays for the British Horological Institute, and he won first prize. When I moved to Glashütte in ’96, I recognised the importance of the Moritz Grossman name and applied for the name protection with my family. When it was granted, I was working in Switzerland but it was clear that if I wanted to do something with the name, it had to be back in Glashütte. On 11 November 2008, I established the company with really just a letterbox and working from my kitchen table. We really started from scratch and took time to set up a production building, hire employees, train them, develop movements— it’s not done in half a year. We introduced our first timepiece in 2010 but only officially started producing them in 2013.
What makes Moritz Grossmann stand out as a watchmaking brand?
CH: For us it's really about the fine finishing of our movements. It's the highest form of craftsmanship in terms of what you can do by hand in-house. For example, we do not chamfer by machine or diamond. Instead, every single piece in a movement is finished and brushed or polished by hand, which takes a long time. We also have our own hands production, so each hand is done by one person from polishing to heating over fire and it takes each person between six to eight hours to complete the three hands on one watch.
It is really a unique selling point (USP) for us because if you look to our watches, you'll see that they have very slim hands. In our vintage collection, we even have hands with a thickness of 0.1mm. Just imagine, you have to polish and heat-treat them—it's incredible.
What is the DNA of Moritz Grossmann?
CH: We do mostly classical watches with some forward and out-of-the-box thinking. Our DNA is in high craftsmanship and finishing in the traditional way. Some crazy things we have done include developing the first movement containing a brush made from real human hair, as well as a women’s watch with a movement that can be wound by twisting the strap.
More recently in February, we launched the Universalzeit—a watch that makes it possible to view the current time in seven different time zones at once. It's the first time in a mechanical watch that you have six additional time zones displayed digitally.
What percentage of your movements are made in-house?
CH: We do more or less 90 per cent in house. Some parts we have to order like sapphire stones and a spring for the binding mechanism. But most other parts like the anchor, balance wheel, we make all in-house. It's a lot and we are a real manufacture. We also develop in-house; we have the construction department, prototyping, a raw part production and a department for special tools.
When creating a new timepiece, which usually comes first: a new idea or inspiration from the archives?
CH: A mix of both. My team comes to me with ideas, and when I travel, I talk to customers, journalists, retailers, and come back with new ideas as well. All our ideas come together when we discuss them in terms of what is possible, and these plans also evolve over time.
What is it like being one of the few women founders in the world of watchmaking?
CH: The watch business is dominated by men and I am used to it. I am often the only woman in the room but I do not feel like an outsider. I think differently as a woman and look at things with a more emotional perspective, such as with women’s collections. But generally, I think as a CEO of a company and not as a woman or a man, so for me, my gender doesn’t matter.
What are you currently working on and what else do you hope to achieve?
CH: At the moment we are working to increase our production. Currently, we produce fewer than 300 pieces a year, but demand is high so we are working towards gradually ramping our production up to 800 to 1000 pieces a year. We also have new ideas, complications and developments we are working on but I cannot share about them yet. Stay tuned!