I will not reprise how I came to review this Mühle piece, as I outlined the genesis of this in the review of the MeisterSinger Astroscope a little earlier. Suffice to say that upon enquiring over any new releases, this 29er Casual came to the surface and at first glance appealed.
I don’t think that many outside of the watch community will have heard of NautischeinstrumenteMuhle-Glashutte S/A. Furthermore, I doubt if too many in the community either will know too much about this brand – being a little less high profile than its other more well-known Glashütte siblings such as: A Lange & Sohne, Glashütte Original, Nomus, and Moritz Grossman. To overlook though would be a mistake as this old company has an interesting history, along with a varied and decent range of good quality and well-designed watches covering most types. The prices are mainly at an affordable level (say £1,500 – £3,000), as commonly available Swiss movements are used (albeit modified). However, they do offer more expensive pieces using their own in-house movements along with precious metal options. They also have a patented “woodpecker neck” shaped regulator which offers greater stability and this is used in all movements.
Robert Mühle started his own factory in 1869, specialising in making measuring instruments for the watch industry. This was after training as a precision toolmaker at the watch manufacturer Moritz Grossman. Robert’s business evolved from tool making to the design and production of marine timepieces (including chronometers), speedometers and rev counters. In 1896 the company won the Gold Medal in Dresden for such works. By 1918, many items – including clocks, were now being made for the burgeoning motor car industry and these included Horsch and DKW, and later on motorcycles including Triumph. By this time Robert’s son, Hans, was now in the business and the marine applications in particular were specialised in, and this continues today.
When WW2 ended, this naturally proved to be a very difficult time for the watch industry in Glashütte, as the brands now fell under the sphere of the Eastern Block and were forced to amalgamate into one entity – Glashütter Uhrenbetrehen (GUB). Unusually, Mühle was allowed to continue trading as a private sub-company with their original staff and management – at least for the time being. Hans had a son – Hans-Jurgen, who had left the business to work for Jena (the optical company), but when Hans died in 1970 he rejoined the firm. A little later they did lose control of the firm although the family again continued to work in the business. After re-unification in 1990, the family happily regained control. In 1995 a shipyard client asked them to provide a robust watch suitable for maritime use and this they did – though it never had a name! After this the decision was made to start watch production proper. Hans-Jurgen’s son Thilo now runs the business day-to-day.
Turning to the watch under scrutiny (a press loan example), this is the new 29er Casual, named after a racing dinghy popular in Germany’s Junior Championship competitions. Possibly not my first choice for a watch name, but despite this little peculiarity, it is an attractive looking stainless steel sports type watch with time and date. The 42.4 mm x 9.35 mm case is round, accentuated by the businesslike and in fact quite modest lugs which protrude at some 90° to the case. The screw-down crown shows some robustness of design, and is protected by guards which are pyramid-like in shape. The lugs, case side, crown guards and plain bezel top have a brushed finish, with some edges polished.
The reverse reveals a very broad brushed-finished case back surround, secured by 6 nicely recessed slot-headed screws. This show of strength allows for water resistance to be at 10 bar (100 m). The surround encompasses a crystal exhibition window revealing the movement, a modified Selitta SW300, with Mühle’s special “woodpecker neck” regulator featuring. The movement is pretty common and a “workhorse” type really, but should provide accurate and reliable service. Power is transmitted at 28,000 VPH (4 Hz) with a reserve of 42 hours and all smoothed via 25 jewels. There is no discernible decoration – although the Mühle steel rotor has the brand name and some very light brushing. This is a little disappointing – bearing in mind that a window is provided to provide awe and wonder!
Turning to the dial, this is one of the main attractions! The colour is an attractive blue/grey. Mühle call it Navy Blue but it is not really as we would know it in the UK. The dial has a “granular” type finish and this is just discernible with the naked eye. Under closer scrutiny with a loupe, the surface glistens and that is fascinating. Initially I thought it could be as a result of some kind of galvanoplasty method or trick painting. The latter is actually more accurate, in that the dial base is first wet sandblasted and then colour lacquered. The result is effective and aesthetically pleasing.
On the dial itself, and outboard, is a minute track in white. There are applied metal rectangular batons with square lumed (Super-LumiNova) dots stationed at their ends. At the other end of the batons, and in small type, are noted the minutes – 05, 10, 15 and so on. There is then an inscribed circle, inside which and above the hands is noted the brand name, and below, that the watch is an “Automatik”. At 3 is a discrete date window with no frame, with numerals in white. Lastly, the hands look to be of polished steel and contain lume. The sweep hand is needle-type with a grey finish.
Finally, this watch variant comes with a very nice and soft leather strap in a saddle tan type colour. A black suede strap, or a textile one in grey are available. These will suit fine I think, but personally not my first choice. A nice touch are the quick release levers making a swap-out a doddle. The buckle is stainless steel and notes the brand name.
What are my conclusions? Initially I was a little unsure about a couple of things; I prefer lugs that are a little more flowing and angled into the case, plus, the height appeared quite chunky – but the figures say not at all. Anyway, I must admit though that the watch has really grown on me. It is a comfortable wearer and the overall size is just fine. I also love that blue/grey granulated dial, and the other contained features just seem right. Although not an expensive watch, it does exude a certain “precision instrument” type purity of design feel and finish. This is very appealing and surely harks from the firm’s history. All this, coupled with the fact that the movement will offer more than adequate reliability and accuracy – albeit with minimalist artistry – results in a very nice package. To get all this from a historical and independent company for £1,630 represents pretty good value. Will I indulge – most probably!
Words/Images: The Writer.