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Thread: A trip to Stowa

  1. #1
    Moderator - Central tribe125's Avatar
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    A trip to Stowa

    Background to the trip

    I received a gift by email. Martin Hoch ('Crusader') was inviting me to join him on a visit to Stowa. John Opie ('JohnF') would also be on the trip. We had been moderator colleagues for the best part of a decade, but I had never met them. Martin and John no longer had the time or opportunity to moderate watch forums, so there would be something significant in our meeting.

    The visit to Stowa would be a private affair on a Saturday, followed by dinner with Jörg Schauer. There would be eight of us in all.

    It was an opportunity that wasn't going to come again. Meet Martin, meet John, meet Jörg Schauer?

    flight ✓ hotel ✓ train timetable ✓ passport ✓ credit card ✓ ... Go!

    Living in England, this wasn't going to be a day-trip. I flew to Stuttgart on Friday evening and booked into a hotel. Stuttgart to Pforzheim is about 32 miles, with regular trains. John met me at Pforzheim station and took me the last 6 miles to Engelsbrand.














    Impressive, eh?



    Stowa and Jörg Schauer

    The short history of the modern Stowa is that Jörg Schauer knocked on Stowa's door in 1995, asking if they had any vintage movements. With the old Stowa not exactly thriving, he was offered not only movements but the whole company. It was part of the deal that Stowa's identity would be preserved.

    Jörg Schauer drew upon Stowa's heritage, reissuing signature models while controlling costs and prices by concentrating on direct sales. In what now seems like very little time at all, Stowa became an enthusiasts' favourite, with sales to all corners of the globe. Owning a Stowa Flieger became near-compulsory for anyone interested in military watches. I had one myself, along with an Antea. Along the way, Stowa gained an enviable reputation for quality, integrity and customer service.

    We might now take Stowa for granted, but it takes a smart and resourceful man to do what Jörg Schauer has done. Enthusiasts recognise the achievement, and will sometimes say of other companies: 'Why can't they do things like Stowa?'

    Steady growth required bigger, purpose-built accommodation, and Stowa's new premises were opened in 2008. Continued growth led to the addition of a second floor just four years later. Incorporating a museum, the building is a visual metaphor for the modern Stowa - impressive but not flashy, functional but not sterile, respectful of the past but looking to the future.

    Stowa now has twenty employees and produces 5,000 watches a year. Exports account for around 70% of sales.



    The tour

    Appropriately, we started with Stowa's past in the museum.





    The building is open-plan and airy, with the museum space to the left of the Reception area. Visitors will be immediately conscious of the past as the foundation of the future, which stretches away to the right. No stuffy display cases here, but something more approaching an art installation. It's very effective, and it's like walking through a galaxy of Stowas.




    Martin, and his wife and son - plus Jörg Schauer.


    Thinking about Stowa's past, present and future, I asked if Stowa might produce more contemporary models. After all, had the old Stowa continued to thrive, it would now be making modern watches, with maybe a few historic reissues.

    New models would also allow Jörg Schauer to demonstrate his creativity, which is otherwise largely confined to the less attainable Schauer brand. Maybe there was room for new, original Stowas?

    Well, that was the plan, as it turned out. Stowa would have three distinct lines - Classic, Contemporary and Special Editions. Jörg also confirmed that the Schauer line of watches has had to take a back seat as Stowa has developed. They are currently only available to the Japanese market.




    That's John, in the position he was to occupy for much of the trip.

















    Dispatch. And repository for beer, if you look closely enough.







    Display cabinets along the open passageway through the building.







    Martin and Robert do some bead-blasting. Bead-blasting, unlike sand-blasting, doesn't remove metal. I didn't know that...




    The Stowa Photography Department.




    Case polishing.




    It's noticeable that some of the machinery appears to date from the days of the old Stowa. The first machine on the left was a pantograph cutter, where a large object is traced to make a smaller object. It looked as though it had recently been used for making watch hands (although most hands are bought in).




    Pick a colour - any colour.




    Dial printing - selecting a die.




    Coating the die with ink.




    The ink is transferred to the dial. There's a kind of magic to it...




    Inks. If 'ink' is the right word.







    The design area. Books on Bauhaus, etc.




    Bits and pieces from Fricker.




    Hands from Estima - just about the only notable Swiss maker not owned by the Swatch Group.













    Case finishing. It was kind of scary, watching him make bold strokes at the case, but the finish was... immaculate. Jörg Schauer was a goldsmith before he was a watchmaker.


    Last edited by tribe125; Nov 22, 2014 at 02:29 AM.

  2. #2
    Moderator - Central tribe125's Avatar
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    A trip to Stowa - part 2



    And upstairs, a watchmaker, working additional hours on a Saturday afternoon.







    Not a coffee machine - an ultrasonic cleaner. The watches were rotating and twisting as part of testing.




    Jörg about to launch a flying mallet at a Testaf.




    And afterwards the timing machine showed it to be running perfectly.




    Laser cutting indentations into a bezel.




    And here, engraving something for Martin's son.




    A Stowa Swiss Army knife. I was a little jealous, but then we all got one (but see below...)




    Rhodium plating. Alchemy.




    Jörg and Regine Schauer.




    And finally, looking at the watches...




    And then Jörg took us all to dinner at the Kupferhammer restaurant.



    My lasting impression

    Everything you see, from the striking exterior to the watch awaiting dispatch, is the embodiment of Jörg Schauer's dedication and vision. From near-accidental beginnings, he has built the modern Stowa into something both modest and impressive - rather like the man himself.

    Stowa continues to develop, and there will soon be a notable addition to the range. I can only guess at the details, but I'd put money on it being contemporary, and possibly a bit of a departure.

    Naturally, I have placed an order for a watch... the day was asking to be marked and the watch was demanding to be bought. A Marine automatic will be heading my way from Engelsbrand.





    A galaxy of the past.



    I mentioned the penknife...

    Sitting on a Stuttgart park bench on Sunday afternoon, I realised I had a problem with the Stowa penknife. With no hold luggage, I couldn't take it on the plane.... The Post Offices were shut, I had checked out of the hotel, I didn't know a soul in Stuttgart... I took a photo of it.





    Not thinking it wise to approach small boys in the street, my taxi driver to the airport received an unexpected gift. He liked it, but I'm not sure I was totally successful in explaining the case-opener blade. As Jörg had mentioned, I said it could be used for oysters.
    Last edited by tribe125; Nov 23, 2014 at 02:55 PM.

  3. #3
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    That is amazing, thanks for sharing the experience and the pictures! Their display floor is something of inspiration!

  4. #4
    Well...I thoroughly enjoyed reading that report. Thank you for sharing. My sister is moving to Germany in the new year, and Engelsbrand will have to be on the agenda when I visit.

  5. #5
    Member Hayseed Brown's Avatar
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    That looks like an absolutely amazing trip. Thanks for writing such a great report.

    But, I would've tried to put that knife in the deep recesses of my luggage and take it back home! You could've always claimed it was an oversight and you forgot about it. Or in checked luggage. Maybe you're a more honest man than I am… Enjoyed the read either way.

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    El bot. geoffbot's Avatar
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    Superb Alan. Stowa seem to offer just incredible value for money - as you say why can't more brands be like them?

    Which model did you go for?
    Follow IWL on instagram! https://instagram.com/iwatchleague

  8. #7
    Very, very, very, very jealous.

  9. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Hayseed Brown View Post
    That looks like an absolutely amazing trip. Thanks for writing such a great report.

    But, I would've tried to put that knife in the deep recesses of my luggage and take it back home! You could've always claimed it was an oversight and you forgot about it. Or in checked luggage. Maybe you're a more honest man than I am… Enjoyed the read either way.
    No way would a penknife get through security....and I wouldn't want to fly from an airport that did let it through security

  10. #9
    lost in translation birdynamnam's Avatar
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    Thank to share with us this visit
    I've bought many Stowa watches and I'll probably never visit his boutique in Pforzheim
    Never say never...

    Now I can place images on this mysterious place for a large part of us
    Maybe one day I will take my car , or a plane to join this place and buy the Stowa MO I like so much
    ...
    Maybe
    "chirp, chirp"

  11. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Amf View Post
    No way would a penknife get through security....and I wouldn't want to fly from an airport that did let it through security
    I accidentally took a 4.5" blade Kershaw pocket knife through security in my backpack about 6 months ago. I did not realize it until I was in LA, searching for a pen with which to take notes for a business meeting.

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