First of all, don’t get your panties in a bunch, I’m not talking about A. Lange & Söhne or Nomos or any of the quality german brands. There is a reason those companies also include Glashutte on the dials.
This article is going to be based solely about the “Made in Germany” label and how you shouldn’t give any value to that branding.
Now we all heard of Swiss Made. Being Swiss Made, means that the watch has to be prototyped in Switzerland, all the technical development needs to be Swiss, the movement has to be Swiss, 60% of production costs need to be Swiss and the final assembly needs to be Swiss. That’s a whole lot of Swiss. And this is enforced, because “Swiss Made” is a registered trademark.
And I’m sure, you all heard about just how hard it is to make a “Made in USA” watch. To clue you in, there is a reason you don’t see any modern “Made in USA” watches. In fact, Weiss Watches was ordered by the FTC to stop using Made in USA on their dials[pdf]. That’s why they now say Los Angeles. The reason for this, is because in America, to have a US Made watch, the watch’s primary component needs to be American, which might not be a problem, except pretty much nobody makes a hair spring in America, and without a US made hairspring, the watch simply can’t qualify for the “Made in USA” label. Note, there IS a startup in New York that makes US Made hairsprings, but they just started and they are very small/expensive…so you won’t be seeing any US made watches any time soon since I doubt anyone will be taking that risk with a new company.
Now back to the original premise…Made in Germany. Look at the main photo for this article, see that watch? See the Made in Germany on the dial? Well…guess what. That watch has a Chinese movement. Yet, its still getting “Made in Germany” label. And there are plenty of “Made in Germany” watches that have Swiss/Japanese/Chinese movements. The reason this is happening is because “Made in Germany” has no actual legal definition. There is no real body that enforces the Germanness of a watch. So the only real “enforcement” is on the level of false advertising. Is the watch “made” in germany? Then you are good to go. So a chinese watch, with a chinese movement, would still be perfectly legal, as long as the final screw was turned in Germany, making it German Made. As you can see, “Made in Germany” is pretty much worthless.
So the next time you see “Made in Germany” proudly displayed on a watch dial or caseback, you can go ahead and completely disregard that because it really doesn’t mean shit.