Through five generations, precise measuring instruments for watch manufacturers in Glashütte, dial gauges, speedometers, rev counters, car clocks, travelling mechanisms and escapements for the photography and cinema industry, world wars and political changes, Mühle-Glashütte is now celebrating their 150th anniversary as an independent, family owned company. My way to celebrate such an achievement is to present, in my opinion, their most iconic timepiece, the S.A.R. Rescue-Timer.
As much as I love Mühle’s history, I must jump to the year 1994 when Nautische Instrumente Mühle-Glashütte saw the light. After working as the sales manager for GUB from 1980 to 1990, Hans-Jürgen established the Mühle we know today. The fall of the Berlin wall opened a world of business opportunities and producing marine time systems and marine chronometers was the natural way to go. Ten years at GUB had resulted in having contacts at shipyards all over the world and as GUB didn’t operate in this business anymore, the future in the industry of nautical instruments was looking very bright.
It wasn’t before 1996 Mühle produced their first wristwatch and how it became a reality is in a way that warms my heart. When one of the shipyards, to which Mühle supplied products, asked if they could produce some robust wristwatches to be used on its ships, the answer was “Of course we can!”.
With over 125 years of experience as a producer of high-quality, highly precise measuring instruments, this was a task to be solved. The first watches were given no names as they were part of the equipment supplied to the ships. Soon after the “Herren Sporttaucher-Uhr” and “Marinefliegeruhr-I” was born and the path to where Mühle is today emerged.
In the year 2000, Thilo, fifth generation Mühle, entered the company and was put in charge of the product development of their wristwatches. Two years later, in 2002, the S.A.R. Rescue-Timer was presented to the world. The watch had been developed in cooperation with the German Maritime Search and Rescue service and were made to withstand the challenges found being on the wrist of heroes facing mother earths wrath at sea.
I have tried to find a good way to start the actual review, but after thirty minutes of struggling to find the right words I think we must move backwards to the time when I got my first Fortis flieger and the spark was lit. Watches was on my mind 27 hours a day and I spent most of them online, scrolling through endless listings and sites like a chicken with its head cut off.
Then, this strange and unique watch appeared on my computer and I remember an almost panicking sensation rushing through my mind and body. Without knowing what I was looking at, I understood this watch was something special. With my nose glued to the screen, I studied the odd looks, the rubber bumper-bezel, the crown with the mill-logo at four o’clock and the “100 atm” sign. The Mühle-Glashütte S.A.R. Rescue-Timer had entered my life and opened my eyes for the “Nautische Instrumente”.
You would might think that “Add to cart” and “Proceed to checkout” would be the next step? It wasn’t, and this is where the part about me being the worst customer ever and having issues appear again. The more I looked at the S.A.R., the more I fell in love with it, but as the time moved on, I didn’t dare to buy it. It’s not easy to explain this, but I would compare it to not wanting to meet your favorite football player or rock band, just because of the possibility of them being cocky, rude or not as cool as you hoped they would be. In my mind, the S.A.R. had risen to a legendary level where I was too afraid of being disappointed if I bought it, so I decided not to and kept it as the coolest watch I had never had my hands on. Until now…
Mühle decided to ship me one, letting me test it and write my thoughts about it. They knew I loved it, but not the strange story behind my distant “relationship”. When the package arrived, I was filled with both excitement and fright. This was the moment when I was to meet my love in real life for the first time. Would it be as good as I wanted it to be or were we heading down the road made of tears and disappointment?
The first thing you will notice with the S.A.R. is the case with its covered lugs, the rubber bumper-bezel fitted for protection and the big screw-down crown at four o’clock, looking like its being swallowed by the case. It’s difficult to compare the looks of this watch to others, but it shares some of the attitude as the Tudor BB P01. By now you’ll probably know that it’s not a design for the masses, but than again, that’s not the reason why Mühle made this watch.
Don’t be fooled by the quirky looks, the S.A.R. has got specs making it a watch that belongs in harsh elements. A solid, stainless steel body with covered lugs, a modified SW 200-1 movement with the patented woodpecker neck regulation, a 4mm thick sapphire crystal, a rubber bumper-bezel and a 100 atmospheres water resistance, without the need of a helium escape valve, are some of the features that puts it in the top shelf in the tool-watch section. I would go as far and say that this watch doesn’t need you to protect it, it’ll protect you. Doorknobs, rails, ice cold waters and rocks are what the S.A.R. is made to handle, every single day.
Usually, watches with such specifications are often made too big to be considered as an everyday watch, but Mühle has managed to wrap it all up in a compact case that measures 42mm across and 13,5mm from caseback to crystal. Add the length of 50mm and a 22mm width between the lugs and you have the perfect recipe of how to make a tool-watch fit like a glove. The version I’m testing is fitted with the soft and durable Mühle rubber strap that adds a lot of comfort. Due to my “fairly” thin wrists, some trimming had to be done, but after a while I found the perfect size. A great thing about having small wrists is that if I’m going to pass down a watch to my three-year-old son, I only need to trim away one more link for him to experience the same comfort as I do.
Even though I love the specs, the toughness and the comfort, the main attraction with the S.A.R. is the looks. The odd, quirky, charming, solid, vintage, contemporary, modern, hot looks still makes me feel like a kid in a candy store every time I see it. An easy-to-read dial with large indexes at 3, 6, 9 and 12, a circular cyclops placed on the underside of the flat, 4mm thick sapphire crystal, Super Luminova that glows at the slightest lack of light, a rubber bumper-bezel and solid, covered lugs make this watch extremely recognizable. Using the x-factor-term won’t cover the uniqueness this watch brings to the table. I don’t want to repeat myself from earlier reviews, speaking of the unexplainable feelings that appear when people fall in love, but that is the closest I can get to explain what this watch does to me.
All these years went by and I didn’t buy this watch because of being afraid of disappointment. Can you believe that? My stupid choice of a distant relationship with the S.A.R., my high hopes and fear of being let down have been totally demolished. Even how badly I have tried to find any faults and errors to create a believable depth to this review, I can’t come up with anything I don’t like with it. Maybe the caseback could be a bit more juicy, but if you buy a Picasso, you don’t care about how the backside looks.
I’m blinded by the coolness of this cult-watch from Mühle and I’m sure I have forgotten to mention all that I wanted you to know. To be honest, I’m in a mode where measurements and stats don’t exist, just pure excitement!
So, to end this review, this acknowledgment of being a fool not to check out this watch in real life earlier, I want to wish Mühle a happy 150th anniversary and congratulate you being the minds behind the astonishing S.A.R. Rescue-Timer! If there was a Nobel Prize for creating the most delicious watch, you and the captains that were a part of it all should have had one standing proudly on top of the fireplace!