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Cplath Produktion

C.Plath-Hamburg - our history

The history of C.Plath almost spans two centuries. What started out in 1837 as a small shop with a modest repair shop on the fringes of Hamburg harbour, quickly developed to the epitome of nautical precision engineering and quality thanks to the pioneer spirit and craftsmanship of Carl Plath. The company Hein & Oetting, since1992 sole German manufacturer of C.Plath magnetic compasses, feels bound to this inheritance up to this day.

1837 – The foundation stone is laid

The company is founded by David Filby. He deals with nautical literature, sea charts as well as nautical instruments imported from Great Britain. Moreover, he has a small repair shop for instruments.

1862 - Takeover by Carl Plath
David Filby sells his shop to the skilled instrument engineer Carl Plath. More and more he concentrates his business activities on the construction of sextants, compasses, compass casings and barometers.

1876 – First C.Plath compasses on trade exhibition in Hamburg
At a time, when precise and reliable compasses were exclusively available from English production, Carl Plath presents the first compasses he hasdeveloped at the trade exhibition in Hamburg.

Thereafter Carl Plath concentrates on the production of compasses with magnetic compensation, a new technique stemming from Great Britain, which also enables the upcoming iron steamboats to navigate with the aid of a compass.

1889 – Gold medal for precision
Carl Plath receives the gold medal at the trade and industry exhibition in Hamburg due to the extraordinary precision of his nautical instruments.

1900 – Silver medal on the World Exhibition
At the World Exhibition in Paris, Carl Plath receives the highest award for nautical instruments in merchant shipping with the silver medal.

1913 – C.Plath writes seafarer’s history
The ocean steamer Imperator of the Hamburg-America Line, at its launching in 1912 the largest ship of the world, is the first merchant ship worldwide equipped with a gyro compass – a development of the company C.Plath.


1929 – Graf Zeppelin rides around the world with a C.Plath Libelle sextant
On his trip around the world, Captain Wittemann relies with his airship Graf Zeppelin, the most successful airship and the only one ever to surround the world, on a Libelle sextant of C.Plath.

1939 to 1949 – Explosive growth, production prohibition and successful new launch
The high demand for compasses and navigation instruments during World War II lead to a rapid expansion of the company – the number of employees increased from 34 to 650 persons between 1933 and 1942. After the end of the war, C.Plath is forced to reduce the production of precision instruments to about two-thirds of the level of 1938. To secure its continued existence, the company produces diverse substitute products, from typewriters up to clock units. As of 1949 C.Plath can take up the manufacture of nautical precision instruments in full scale again.

1953 – Founding of Weems & Plath in Washington
To expand the business with C.Plath sextants in the US, Johannes Boysen founds – jointly with the world-famous American nautical engineer P.H.V. Weems – the company Weems & Plath Inc.

1958 - Gorch Fock equipped with a C.Plath magnetic compass
1958 was the construction date of the Gorch Fock – right from the start it received a C.Plath compass. The famous German sailing school-ship Gorch Fock is being equipped with a C.Plath magnetic compass.

1962 to 2001 – Time of name- and owner change
In 1962 Weems & Plath is taken over by the American conglomerate Litton Industries and merges with Decca Marine and Sperry Marine in 1997. In the year 2000 the company is being renamed into Sperry Marine. In 2001 Sperry Marine is taken over by the current owner, the Northrop Grumman Corporation.

1992 – Hein & Oetting takes over manufacture of C.Plath compasses
The Hein & Oetting Feinwerktechnik GmbH in Hamburg becomes exclusive German license holder and manufacturer of the C.Plath compasses Merkur and Venus.