The first references to Glashütte date from the fifteenth century, when a short-lived glass furnace operated in the vicinity. It received a charter granting it the customary rights of a town in 1506. It remains a small town and is situated in the Müglitztal in the eastern part of the Erzgebirge (ore mountains) in Saxony, near the border with the Czech Republic. It the early nineteenth century mining fell into decline as lodes of silver ore were worked out, and it was due largely to Ferdinand Adolph Lange (1815-75) that Glashütte became one of Europe’s principal centres of watchmaking. A native of nearby Dresden, Lange studied at that city’s Polytechnic, before training as a watchmaker, and gaining experience of the trade in France, Switzerland and Great Britain. He returned to Saxony and set up a factory in Glashütte in 1845. He was mayor of the city from 1848 until 1866 and a member of the Saxon parliament from 1857 until his death. He introduced new precision tools and emphatically promoted the training of watchmakers. His concern for technical education was shared by Carl Moritz Grossman (1826-85), also a native of Dresden, who studied watchmaking in Switzerland, Bavaria, Belgium, England and Switzerland before returning to Saxony and setting up a factory in Glashütte in 1854. In 1878 he founded the German School of Watchmaking in the town, and the present museum of watchmaking is located in the school building.
The museum, which opened in 2008, has comprehensive collections of the works of watchmakers in Glashütte, including pocket watches, pendulum clocks, marine chronometers, and one of the first wrist watches made in the town, which dates from 1926. There are also workbenches equipped with tools, and collections of photographs and documents. The establishment of the museum was made possible by support from Nicolas G Hayek (1929-2010), the Lebanese-Swiss entrepreneur whose many achievements in international business included the development of the Swatch Group.