Luxury and sustainability? These two concepts can go hand in hand, when you think about how durable and easy to repair Mühle-Glashütte watches are. Recycled paper packaging from Koehler means even the experience of unpacking watches from their boxes is becoming more sustainable.
The mechanical watches made by Mühle-Glashütte are masterpieces of craftsmanship:
Up to 170 parts are fit into a very small space. Many of the long-established company’s models have a glass back, revealing the fascinating interplay between the tiny individual parts. “Any cell phone can tell you the time,” says Thilo Mühle, the watchmaker’s managing director, who represents the fifth generation of the family that runs the company. “But a mechanical wristwatch is a statement piece. It signifies a love of craftsmanship and tradition, and that has huge emotional value.”
Craftsmanship and tradition come with a price: Even the company’s lower-end watches would be considered luxury items for many people. “People who buy our watches love mechanics,” says Mühle. Some buy themselves a watch from his company to spoil themselves. There are also watch fans who own several different Mühle-Glashütte models at once. “This is a sign of an affinity with us. Our customers value owning a watch that comes from the workshop of a small family company,” explains Mühle.
Packaging as Part of the Customer Experience
With a price tag of several thousand euros per product, there are also certain expectations as to how the watches are packaged. “Beautiful packaging is the perfect finishing touch to the customer experience,” comments Mühle. “Sometimes people celebrate the moment of unpacking their new watch at home. So the box needs to be impressive.” Mühle has been working at the company for 23 years. During that time, he has been personally involved in every change to packaging. The watchmaker has often chosen wood as a packaging material, which is seen as elegant and is well received by customers. It is very common for boxes to be imported from Asia, even for watches costing several thousand euros. “Koehler contacted us because it was looking for someone that could use high-quality packaging made from recycled paper,” Mühle recalls. “We thought that was a very interesting idea, partly because we are increasingly focusing on sustainability.” Paper was something Mühle had never dealt with in any great depth before. “For me, paper just meant little slips and notes. But then I saw at Koehler that paper can also be an industry with an emotional element.
A love of craftsmanship and tradition has huge emotional value.
A love of craftsmanship and tradition has huge emotional value.
Managing Director of
From Hamburg, not Asia
Koehler’s paper from certified sustainable forestry was first used in a case for the ‘S.A.R. Rescue Timer’ watch, the 20th anniversary of which Mühle-Glashütte was celebrating with a special edition in 2022. The packaging design was the result of a competition, while Koehler and Mühle found a company in Hamburg to implement it. “The reaction from both customers and the trade press was incredibly positive,” reflects Mühle. “That success was the trigger we needed to convert all of our packaging.”
In terms of sustainability, the change marks an important step for Mühle-Glashütte. The paper and processor have sustainability certification, plus the boxes for the watches now come from Germany instead of on ships from Asia, making a huge improvement to their carbon footprint. „Even for us as a small company with 65 employees, sustainability is becoming more and more important,” adds Mühle. His company has had a photovoltaic system on the roof of its building since 2022, “so we were able to produce around 30 percent of our electricity ourselves by summer 2023.” The watchmaker’s vehicle fleet includes four hybrid cars and one fully electric one, and there are already six charging points in the parking lot.
Robert Mühle founded the family company in 1869. He initially made high-precision measuring instruments for the Glashütte watchmakers, and later expanded his repertoire to speedometers and tachometers, marine clocks, and other nautical instruments. The company has also been manufacturing high-end wristwatches since the fourth generation of family management. Thilo Mühle is now the fifth generation to manage Mühle-Glashütte, and the sixth is already at the company in the shape of his daughter Fanny and son Dustin.
What Mühle particularly liked about the collaboration with Koehler was that it was always constructive, “it always moved forward.” For him, this included the fact that they always found solutions together. For example, Koehler developed the paper color ‘Nautic Blue’ itself, which is closely aligned with Mühle-Glashütte’s corporate colors. “Although we come from completely different industries, we understood each other perfectly and the collaboration broadened both our horizons,” explains Mühle.
“Beautiful packaging is the perfect finishing touch to the customer experience.”
Managing Director of Mühle-Glashütte
He still remembers his visit to the Koehler plant in Greiz: “I walked alongside a machine for about 200 meters, which is still quite small for Koehler. I deal with the miniature – our smallest screw is 0.38 millimeters long. It’s a completely different world.” With the new model, ‘Teutonia IV Moonphase Gold,’ another highly valuable watch from Mühle-Glashütte will be packaged in paper. The watch is made from 18-carat yellow gold and is being issued in a limited edition of 100. “Using paper, we were able to give the box a very particular look that is perfect for this exclusive watch. The packaging is sustainable – and reasonably priced.“
Trying New Things
Mühle has more areas in mind where he would like to change from traditional materials. For example, there are now many alternatives to crocodile leather straps, which are widely used for luxury watches; the industry has become very innovative when it comes to strap materials. He can well imagine entering into some more projects with Koehler: “Koehler is a pioneer that is constantly developing innovations,” says Mühle, adding, “And my motto is: Let’s try out new things and see how people react.”
Koehler Eco®: Recycled Paper for High-Quality Packaging
The new product range, Koehler Eco®, is utterly unique. The premium recycled paper is a cut above thanks to its rich colors and was specially developed for the exclusive packaging segment. Koehler Eco® paper is produced from 100 percent secondary fiber material and has been awarded the ‘Blue Angel’ mark and EU Ecolabel, making it a much more sustainable alternative in the premium packaging sector.