Hands-On: Glashütte Original Has Some Serious Fun With The New PanoMaticLunar Forest Green
Kermit the Frog sang, “It’s Not Easy Being Green” but GO makes it look like a breeze.
Glashütte Original has an extremely broad range of watches, and an extremely interesting history to go along with it. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one). The company is, and no prizes for guessing right on this one, based in Glashütte, which is a pleasant half-hour or so drive from Dresden. It’s a small town – around 7,000 folks live there, and there are over a dozen watch brands headquartered there, with Glashütte Original the largest in terms of production.
Watchmaking in Glashütte came to a screeching halt at the end of World War II when the town was bombed (though it had been struggling in the pre-war years as well). The East German government collectivized the Glashütte watchmakers into a company called VEB Glashütte Uhrenbetriebe, in 1951, and then, after reunification, GUB was privatized and became Glashütte Original in 1994.
One of its most recognizable product families is the Pano line, and in 2020, GO introduced a new version of its PanoMaticLunar, with a gradient green dial.
This is a pretty snazzy looking watch. It’s being presented in a 40mm red gold or stainless steel case, and it has all the signature elements of the Pano line: a big date display, with an off-center dial for the hours and minutes and an overlapping sub-dial for the running seconds. The moonphase – a purely classic implementation, with the Moon waxing and waning in a crescent aperture, is at 2:00, with the big date display – well, the panorama date display, to use GO’s preferred term – just under it.
The movement is the Glashütte Original in-house (all GO movements are in-house, and actually in-house, not ‘hey look at that snazzy rotor, move along folks, nothing to see, show’s over’ in-house) caliber 90-02, which has an off-center double-G skeletonized rotor (to go with those off-center dials). The movement also has the distinguishing feature of GO movements, which is a double swan’s neck regulating system built on a balance bridge. One of the swan’s neck regulators is for the regulator index and the other controls the position of the balance spring stud, which allows a watchmaker to easily correct a watch that’s out of beat (that is, the tick doesn’t equal the tock) or for that matter, to set it up properly in the first place.
The PanoMaticLunar has been around since 2003 and has not changed all that much since its launch at Baselworld – case size has gone up the merest smidge, from 39.2mm to the current 40mm (and I’m sure the prices have gone up since then too, but frankly I just don’t have the emotional stamina to compare 2013 to 2021 prices for any watch).
For a lot of its history the dials for the PanoMaticLunar were on the austere side, in blacks and whites, and the watch made a pretty formal impression. Its composition is a bit more dynamic than its nearest design competitor, which is of course the Lange 1 Moonphase, and that kept it from feeling too staid, too stolidly Teutonic. (Fun fact: Julius Caesar said the Teutons were a Germanic people but there’s some fairly solid evidence they were Celts. Also, is a gold and steel German watch a Teuton Two-Tone?)
The gradient green dial is the star of the show here, or at least, the featured new player. Anybody who’s been following some of the stuff GO has been doing with the colored dials in the Sixties collection knows that when GO decides to do one, it’s usually pretty sweet eye candy and this is no exception. You’d better not be afraid of color if you’re wearing this one – the gradient dial almost shimmers and depending on the light can look anything from almost black, to a brilliant emerald green.
The elephant in the room with the Pano line in general, is of course the Lange 1, which preceded it by several years. The Pano line launched in 2001 with a very nifty watch – the PanoRetroGraph, which was a 30-minute flyback countdown chronograph with a chime to indicate the counter had reached 30 minutes. If your daily practice is half an hour of meditation, and the thought of timing it with a phone or smartwatch makes your skin crawl, have I got the watch for you.
The complication was unusual enough to squelch most misgivings about GO knocking off the Lange 1 design but some subsequent models have shaved it a little close. Now, of course, overlapping subdials have been around forever and the big date has become a complication almost as ubiquitous as the tourbillon, and if you’re going to get into that game there are only so many ways to skin a cat. The problem is that Lange was there first, and even a passing resemblance to a watch that iconic, which caused such a stir when it debuted, can make you think that at least here and there, GO has not been entirely original.
Personally I don’t think the criticism really sticks these days. In watchmaking as in everything else, people copy (you can say, “are influenced by,” if you want, some people do) and hell, if we had an Infinity Gauntlet, and did a Snap on every watch that is obviously influenced by the Royal Oak, we’d have a lot of dust in the air.
The second point, for this particular watch, is that it becomes almost a different watch with that crazy green dial. I feel like the design kind of comes into its own – there was always a latent desire to have a little fun in the composition, and the watch feels positively exuberant with it, like a Saxon kid in lederhösen cut loose to run free through the meadows and fields after a long day at Schule. Plus, never in a million years would you see this kind of dial from Lange.
Finally, the longer I look at both watches, the more I think the design differences really do add up to two watches that offer distinctly, if not dramatically different, experiences – especially in person. And let’s not forget the price difference – that red gold Lange 1 Moonphase is gonna run you forty six thousand of your favorite dollars.
At $20,500 in red gold, and $9,900 in steel, with that in-house movement, good finishing, and style to burn, you might say it offers a lot of … help me out here Google … gute Ware für Geld?
The Glashütte Original PanoMaticLunar With Forest Green Dial: case, red gold or stainless steel, 40mm x 12.7mm, water resistance 5 bar/50 meters.
Dial, green-black varnish with gradient effect, applied indexes and printed scales. White Panorama Date on black background with silver and gold moonphase display.
Movement, GO caliber 90=02, automatic with 42 hour power reserve. Three-quarter plate with hand-engraved balance bridge, double swan neck regulator.
Price, red gold, $20,500 with folding clase; $18,700 with pin buckle. Stainless steel, $9,900 with folding clasp, $9,600 with pin buckle.