The Start of the Day
“Are we done with breakfast? Let’s grab our gears and head to the HbF now!” My excitement could be heard when I spoke to my teammates during our breakfast at our cozy little hotel situated in the city center of Munich, Germany. It’s been two years since we last visited our beloved friends over at Steinhart due to the global pandemic. This very reason left me even more elated to fly over from Singapore and revisit one of our closest partners to date. Yeah, the 12.5 hours of flight time would be totally worth it.
I’d already made sure that my photoshoot gears were ready the day before, and we carried those and found ourselves wandering to the Hauptbahnhof, the city station, to catch our morning train ride to Augsburg, where their headquarters was located. Snuggling up our coats to check and sync up our time from our vintage Ocean dive watches, we cluelessly found our way to the correct platform and waited.
“Remember to pass Gunther the gift, all right?” I was reminded by Anders, who had brought along our local pastries for them, “Don’t forget to brief them on having those with their tea.”
I nodded at our watchmaker, who was with us for this trip, as we tried to ensure we didn’t miss our train. At long last, our transportation arrived on the dot, and we quickly boarded the first-class cabin (which was quiet) and headed off to Augsburg.
The 45-minute journey went by quickly, despite the cold morning weather on the way, and we arrived at our destined location right on time. Anders took out his cold hand from his jacket’s pocket and paged Gunther once more to remind him we were there on schedule, with him replying that he would “be there in a sec.” We discreetly went through what we wanted to discuss, reminding ourselves what we wanted to do by coming here to rekindle the Gnomon-Steinhart relationship. A smart-looking, long-haired gentleman approached us hastily when we finalized all these.
“Good morning Anders and Gnomon!” The familiar ardent voice was from the debonair man himself, greeting us just like the past times when we met in person. Wearing his slim jacket and plain white tee, he shook our hands before leading us to his new black Cayman S, which completed his dapper overall, and off we went to su casa.
Welcome to Steinhart
During the car ride, Gunther and Anders managed to catch up briefly on how they had been personally through the COVID period. One thing evident in the conversation was that both were glad they could see each other in great shape again, and I was happy for them. As per my habit, I attempted to check what the man was wearing on his wrist. I quickly spotted his two-tone Ocean One Vintage among his tropical stretched wristlets when he laid his hand on the steering wheel. I recognized the model almost immediately, as it’s one of my favorites. We swiftly turned into the familiar gateway, which sits in the middle of those fortress walls, and arrived at the two-story high building in the same dark grey hue I remembered during my last visit.
“We’re here, guys, and welcome back”, announced Gunther in his warmest tone. We got out of the vehicle and grasped once more the ambiance of quietness along Boschstraße, where the headquarters was located.
Obviously, I had to capture some nice pictures during this refreshing moment on both my cameras. I quickly took them out and shot some morning photography while the three of them were still chatting in front of his big wooden door. The sun was shining brightly, although I could still feel the cold breeze which I wasn’t used to, mainly due to enduring tropical weather perpetually in Singapore, but I digress. I could still see the Steinhart banner majestically waving at the front of the gate. Simply mesmerizing for anyone trying to spot Steinhart’s headquarters. The building architecture is as sleek as it gets in Germany. Every inch of it feels neatly designed without throwing off its luxurious look. The overall Bauhaus-ish aesthetic bestows serenity in tandem with its quiet surroundings that any watchmaking company can thoroughly appreciate.
Once done, I stepped through the main door since the rest had already headed in for warmth. I could immediately recall the wide hallway that welcomes one like a cozy home instead of a workspace. The hallway is open and high-ceilinged, with several other familiarities still in place. Three gigantic paintings of Steinhart timepieces hung on the left side of the wall to remind one that you’re at the brand’s home. On the opposite side was Gunther’s personal Harley, still parked in the same spot in its sparkling cloud blue color. As I stood on the same black “Steinhart” rug, one of the staff who became our handler later popped out from the other side of the walkway to greet us with a warm smile. We all shook hands and introduced ourselves (I guess she knew we were coming), and she guided us to the back of the Harley, where lay an entrance to their showroom.
We spent several minutes in the well-lit room, which was as good as a proper showroom. All the current Steinhart models were displayed, separated by their themes, each in a white case with a spotlight placed within. Everything was in good order. On both sides of the room, we found two tables for the guests or customers, a gigantic white one right at one end and a smaller one right behind the doorway. I was assured that the Steinhart team knew we were coming through since there were drinks, plates, and some pretzels on the giant table. Trying to be a good guest, I dropped my gear at the back of the room and headed to the opposite side of the showroom, where I met everyone else from Steinhart.
The Tour Around the Headquarters
Walking through the hallway to reach the other side of the building, I found myself at their main office, the watch vault, and servicing sections. Other members were already working at their desks, including our previous polite handler, who welcomed us. They all seemed busy with their tasks. One was on the phone speaking German, so I had no idea what was going on, and the other two were on their computers handling emails and orders from their customers. I knew these operations well, as back at Gnomon, our administrative staff does the same things daily. However, they still smiled and waved to my team as we entered their space, as if we had unintentionally intruded. We, of course, greeted back in soft tones as we didn’t want to disturb their work.
I was then ushered by Gunther to another smaller room in white beside him, where his watchmakers were at their work desks. I could tell they were as busy servicing timepieces as those in the office. There lay different horology machines that served the needs of the watchmakers to get those watches fixed and going, and opposite their work desks were ample cabinets with watch parts labeled in English on each door.
Right in-between lay a “ferries-wheel” looking watch-winder, with each seat placed with a Steinhart piece to test their movements within. Everything seemed to be in place, apt for a bona fide servicing sector with which I’m all familiar. I then greeted both the watchmakers, and they were happy to see Gnomon at their crib. I knew they were genuine with their greetings and gestures as they showed us what they were currently repairing. And I can assure you they had the passion just like their leader Gunther themselves from our conversation. Did I mention that both of them rocked the latest Steinhart Metropole editions? I even learned that the older watchmaker, whose name goes by “Tino,” had been working with Mr. Steinhart since the brand was established, though their relationship had been more than twenty years. The ebullience of working with watches was still within these two staff members, making me even more proud to be a collector of Steinhart pieces of my own.
Before we could get comfortable with our chat, our handler, who led us into the building, told us lunch was ready! Though a little upset that we couldn’t continue our watch talks, I felt relief hearing it was lunchtime. That’s because I had attempted to mute my growling tummy quite a few times due to hunger. With the rest of the team, we were led back to the showroom’s table, and Gunther sat with a white vase-like pot right in front.
“Since it’s our Oktoberfest season, we’re going to have some Bavarian sausages with pretzels,” said the handler while the rest of us took our seats. She then scooped out the white-colored würstchen onto each of our plates, and we also helped ourselves with some pretzels. We shared our experience so far in Germany during the meal, from the weather to the food. And especially on the food we had here, as it was typically different from what we had at home. We confessed that we found ourselves only familiar with one of the beers here. We laughed together, acknowledging it as a fact and showing our love for alcohol and the enjoyment of these lagers.
It was one remarkable lunch that I will never forget. Sitting at the same table in Steinhart HQ, surrounded by one of my favorite Swiss-made timepieces that bestowed both quality and value proposition, and with the man who created them himself. I knew I had to absorb all these, as they were breathtaking for someone who loves watches deeply. After the meal, we got invited to the other table to see the new upcoming Steinhart models, and boy, did this seem like the best dessert after a good meal.
Fuelled Up by the New Steinhart Models
We took all the time we could to go through each unprecedented Steinharts – from Flieger chronographs to the new Adventure Sports – there were so many wrist candies that we couldn’t wait to share with everyone. Gunther took three trips into the vault room where the watches were kept and brought us more than 20 watches, either not launched or planned to be dropped soon. At last, he told us both himself and Anders (okay, at that point, I wasn’t in the know) had something up their sleeves this year-end. While Anders had his boss talk with the man, I was busy trying out and taking a good look at every new timepiece in front of me as if they were all mine.
There are a few that truly stood out to me. Before jotting down those few, here’s a side note: what I’m about to share can be deemed an alpha for Steineristies out there, but these watches might or might not be launched down the road. First up were the fantastic slim Chronographs with some Fumé effect and vibrant fruit colors. Coming in at 42mm, these beauties were exceptionally refreshing for a classic design since World War II. Moving on were some new dress models with embellishments. Yes, Steinhart had these with them in their vault, and we wouldn’t have known what they had been up to unless their kind boss had shown them to us. Coming in their newly designed cases for the Regulator series, these just upped the Swiss watchmaking game for the German brand.
Now consider the time and attention all of us spent poring over more minor case sizings. I didn’t waste much time and found some limited editions that were certainly planned to drop down the pipeline. And no, we’re not only talking about vintage re-issues (although there’s one or two) but others like the oblong case-shaped ones that were sold out previously. Steinhart had them in different sizing. I believe this is all I can share as of now about the new series, but I can vouch for the brand that they had them all sorted out with new dial designs and more; all of you will know what I meant if they are ever ready to launch them.
The Final Interview
Moving onto the last highlight, which would be the Ocean models with exclusive customization. “You guys are going to either laugh or love this one,” said Gunther with a little smirk when he teased us while slowly opening up yet another box of watch prototypes. We were talking about gem-setting for a start, and boy, do I dig this particular idea very much. I could imagine an Ocean One/Two wearer: One day, he wants to stick to a water-proof dive watch, then wishes to change things up with a timepiece that’s more opulent and self-expressive, allowing its wearer to look good in their formal attire – looking expensive and fly – yet not needing to break a bank in which Steinhart conscientiously delivers. With the trend of customizing timepieces with different gems, this would be a hit for those who find them attractive, just like myself. Well, more information will be available once we’re able to share.
We had been at the table the whole afternoon after lunch, planning what would go down for the next few months and in 2023. There were definitely serious talks, and discussions like our new exclusives’ drafts were solidifying with some models Gunther had shown us and offered us. Everything was fruitful, and we moved on to the final task, a formal interview with him for both of our communities.
This time around, we ushered Gunther back to the large table in the room, which was being cleared up from our after-lunch mess. With no time wasted, I got my video gear set up within seconds, and a mic check was performed.
“Let’s begin,” said Anders, the interviewer. “Stay relaxed like we’re just having a normal conversation.”
Gunther smiled back widely, hinting that he felt a little tension while clipping the mic onto his jacket. The interview started with a simple question about how he was during this COVID period, which he’d been asked asked when we met him earlier this morning. It was followed by several related ones, which our coming video will encapsulate.
But right before we ended the interview, one unrecorded question was tossed to Anders once I switched off the camera. It was like the perfect encore piece, a splendid surprise to end our visitation at Steinhart. The question was also a reminder for all of us in the room: “How did you see Steinhart through the years when you started out this watch business?”
The man replied naturally, even when it was un-rehearsed. “I always believed in good Swiss watchmaking at a price point that every human being on earth can enjoy,” he replied. “As you know, I started out designing watches because I couldn’t see myself collecting luxury Swiss timepieces with hefty price tags forever back then. And today, my company and I will never forget how and why we started, and that is to continue producing amazing quality Swiss-made mechanical watches. That’s it. It is as simple as that even today.”
After hearing his words, Anders and I could agree that Mr. Steinhart had established its brand on these sound principles of being well-made, always keeping up with the watch market in both design and quality, in tandem with being affordable for us all, and will no doubt last through time. We, too, came to a sense of relief in a way, knowing the man himself had not forgotten or gone astray from his vision for his brand. Once done, we took some final group photos at the entrance of his headquarters before our ride back to the train station.
“Let’s keep in touch, Anders! I will call you up again once you’re back from this trip. Ciao ciao,” said Gunther.
We waved him goodbye with big smiles on our faces, and hearts filled with fulfillment. What an incredible day for all three of us.
My Final Thoughts
Sadly, our time with Steinhart ended, and we boarded our 4pm train ride back to Munich. Although it wasn’t my first time there, having had some private tours and time with Steinhart, my heart was filled with admiration for the brand throughout the trip. Speaking of which, I know my colleague watchmaker, who was there for the first time, felt this way even more acutely. Both of us have seen the watch brand for almost a decade. Since our early days, when we were recruited into Gnomon Watches, we have been increasingly fond of their offerings. I greatly admire their effort to stay consistent regarding their excellent pricing while consistently improving the quality of their timepieces. It is especially so for me, who paid great attention to what they have been planning and executing for their nascent period.
I genuinely want to say that I know many others have treated their watches like just any other “homage” brand. While many might still come to Steinhart for their classic-looking dive watches or pilot-oriented Nav-Bs – which I deeply feel is a good thing after all – their quality illustrates how the brand has come to offer a formidable watch without breaking the bank. Sure, they have similar designs you might expect from those coveted grail pieces of others, but paired with incredible details. And sometimes, an original touch on top of those elements that watch enthusiasts seek explains why each has become valuable to collectors who tried the brand. Still, finally, after meeting the man behind all of his brand’s watches, I can elucidate that Steinhart is much more than that now.
Where credits have to be said, the German brand has established itself on the guiding principles of being creative with forward and heritage design, crafting timepieces that last. Therefore, they not only pay tribute to several classic watch designs of the past, but the well-priced spirit of Steinhart continues to position the brand at the forefront of being the enabler for many who want to enjoy an excellent Swiss-made watch with a fully mechanical movement. While most of you might not have the chance to visit the brand in person, one can try any of the offerings they find, and the products attest to their watchmaking prowess for me. Deep down, I will continue to enjoy seeing and wearing those Steinhart pieces while reminding myself of Gunther’s and his team’s unprecedented effort to continue over-delivering great quality ones for the world at an affordable price. Now that we have planned what’s going down the road after our visit, we can’t wait to launch and share our exciting stuff with each of you.
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