Hands-On with the Glashütte Original Senator Excellence and the Impressive Calibre 36

Equipped with a newly development movement boasting impressive specs, the Senator Excellence is honest and quietly appealing.
Glashütte Original Senator Excellence

Glashütte Original’s latest watch is modest looking, but its discreet style belies the impressive movement inside. From the front the Senator Excellence is a classically styled wristwatch, perhaps even plain looking. But the timepiece is well thought out, and the calibre inside is smartly designed and constructed to keep good time. As a whole package, the Senator Excellence is a pretty compelling proposition.

The first of the next generation movements by Glashütte Original (GO) – made entirely in-house naturally – the calibre 36 significantly larger than most movements in watches this size, which means it looks proper from the back, being just right for the case size. The calibre 36 is 32.2 mm in diameter, compared to just over 26.2 mm for the calibre 39, Glashütte Original’s longstanding workhorse movement descended from its East German calibres.

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Conceived to keep better time

That means a larger mainspring can accommodated, explaining the impressive and useful 100-hour – that’s just over four days – power reserve. A hundred hours means the watch can be taken off at the end of the working week, and put on again come Monday without needing setting. A long mainspring also promises more stable timekeeping by providing a steady, lengthy power source to keep the amplitude of the balance wheel healthy (meaning to the degree through which the balance oscillates).

Timekeeping quality is further boosted by the newly developed, adjustable mass balance wheel, something custom-made for GO by Nivarox, the industry giant specialising in such components that is GO’s sister company in the Swatch Group. As is traditional for precision watches, the balance is free-sprung, meaning it is attached to a balance spring of fixed length, and adjustment is done by moving the four weights on the rim of the balance. That is slightly more tedious than a having a regulator, but a free-sprung balance tends to be more stable. And in a first for GO, the hairspring is made of silicon, a material now popular with watchmakers for being non-magnetism and immune to changes in ambient temperature.

The sharp eyed amongst you, dear readers, will be wondering what the swan neck regulator is for. Being free-sprung, a regulator index is unnecessary, so it’s used for isochronism adjustment – shifting the position of the hairspring so it breathes concentrically even as the watch winds down. Even then the swan neck is not crucial, but it is a traditional feature of GO movements, and one that is attractively finished with flat polishing. The movement could do without it, but then it would look slightly bare given the recognisable style of GO calibres.

Glashütte Original calibre 36 Senator Excellence 2

Like nearly all GO movements, the calibre 36 has a three-quarter plate, though it’s not especially obvious being covered by the rotor. In typical GO style the rotor features a double “G” logo and a rim made of 21k gold. It winds in both directions, thanks to reverser gears that sit in a neat line.

Glashütte Original calibre 36 Senator Excellence 3

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And instead of being held inside the case by screws, the movement is locked in place with a bayonet mount like that of a removable camera lens; put in, turned and locked in place. This ensures its position in the case is error-free, and also shortens the time needed for assembly and servicing.

All the features of the calibre 36 mean that GO has devised a more rigorous test for the Senator Excellence that takes place over 24 days. It’s tested in six positions, instead of the usual five, and checked for precision as well as amplitude. As a result, each Senator Excellence is accompanied by a certificate detailing the test results, as well as a quality seal for the 24-day test engraved on the case back.

Glashütte Original calibre 36 Senator Excellence 1

The calibre 36 feels encouragingly honest – its claims to do better and it obviously does. Especially heartening is the absence of visible shortcuts in the movement construction, for instance there are no wire springs, an easy, low cost but functional solution that you can find the calibre 899 of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control (that admittedly costs less).

Some of the decoration of the movement is evidently mechanically applied, but as you’ll see in our report on GO’s production process, its movements are finished with a combination of machine and hand-finishing. The perlage on the base plate is done manually, while the striping on the bridges is automated.

Glashütte Original calibre 36 Senator Excellence 4

Contrasting dial styles 

The Senator Excellence is a wearable 40 mm in diameter and just 10 mm high. Simple in form, the case has a stepped bezel with mirror-polished top surfaces, along with a contrasting brushed surface on the flanks. A subtle bevel on the lugs gives it a bit more detail.

Glashütte Original Senator Excellence 3

Two dial styles are available, both looking rather drastically different. The first, and more attractive, has a military-style dial in matte, grained black with large Arabic numerals – that is available only in steel as ref. 1-36-01-03-02-01. Inspired by vintage military deck watches and also found on the Senator Observer, the look is strikingly legible. The dial colour, however, makes the watch seem smaller than it is, even smaller than the Senator Excellence in silver.

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Glashütte Original Senator Excellence 2

The other option for the Senator Excellence is a grained silver dial with just a hint of colour in the form of red five minute markings. Formal and sedate, the dial is nonetheless interesting up close: the markings are not printed, instead they are laser engraved and then filled with black lacquer. This dial option is available in steel (ref. 1-36-01-01-02-01) or red gold (ref. 1-36-01-02-05-01).

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Pricing and availability  

Available starting June 2016, the Senator Excellence is priced as follows:

Stainless steel – US$9700 or €8500 or S$14,300
Red gold – US$17,700 or €15,500 or S$26,000

Euro and Singapore dollar prices include taxes of 19 and 7 percent respectively.

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