Junghans is all about minimalism and “Bauhaus” design – a German art school active during the 1920s, which inspired many of the Junghans watches of the era and is still the brand’s motto nowadays. To complete its already large collection, Junghans presents another iteration of its Meister Calendar watch, this time with a dark blue dial and the distinctive understated style and competitive prices that have come to characterise this German brand.
Junghans is something of an institution in Germany and, at one point in its history (1903), was the largest manufacturer of clocks in the world. Proud of its solid and almost uninterrupted history (founded in 1861) Junghans plays the German design card with great credibility. During the 20th century, Junghans recruited some of the best designers of the day to perpetuate the rational, understated German aesthetic that marks the brand’s products. We recently saw the Bauhaus-inspired Max Bill chronograph – to whom an entire collection is dedicated – but there is another key figure at Junghans whose designs characterised the spirit of Junghans watches from the 1930s to 1960s: Anton Ziegler.
Ziegler, the Watch Architect
Known in his day as a ‘watch architect’, Anton Ziegler was in charge of design from the 1930s – 1960s and played a decisive role in the design of Junghans watches for decades. His speciality was dials and he was famous for saying: “The right proportions of the different watch face elements can make or break a watch.” The balanced design of the dial with its harmonious proportions has been a characteristic of the Meister line since the 1930s, together with the best movements produced at the company. In the 1950s Ziegler and his team addressed the challenge of reducing the volumes of the watch to create more elegant timepieces, despite the relatively thick movement. The steeply domed plexiglasses and dials in combination with thin-walled cases lent the watches a new, more streamlined look.
The current Meister family, populated with simple three-hand watches, chronographs and calendar watches, is based on some of Ziegler’s historic designs and exudes a sleek, retro flair. The Meister Calendar watch we had for the hands-on session is the steel version with a dark blue dial. The polished 40.4mm case with a thickness of 12mm is similar to almost all the Meister watch cases with an exceptionally thin bezel to offer more viewing room on the dial. The short lugs curve slightly to sit nicely on the wrist and the caseback features a small window on the movement. One shortcoming for us was the lightness of the case, but that might be viewed as a positive factor for others.
The dial is in keeping with the minimalist aesthetic of this Schramberg-based brand with clean, crisp markings and a generous sensation of space. Elongated hour markers, with thicker indices at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock and smaller minute track markers compound the rational, sober mood of this collection.
A dark blue background with a sunray brushed pattern hosts the calendar functions with the day of the week and month in two apertures in the upper half of the dial and a large sub-dial at 6 o’clock containing the date and the moon phase functions. A nice touch is the deep bevelled rounded frame of the day and month apertures adding depth and interest to the dial. For the record, the day of the week and month are available in English.
I have to admit though that my first impression was that these two apertures were really far apart and somewhat on the small side. However, over time, you get used to the distance between the two windows. Thanks to the contrasting white background, they are actually very easy to read. The hour and minute hands are treated with a thin layer of environmentally friendly luminous material and the minute and seconds hands extend nicely all the way out to the minute track for precision readings.
A different finish on the date counter sets it off against the dial and the odd numbers are separated by a light blue marker representing the even numbers of the month. The moon phase display was developed in Junghans’ own printing facilities and is pitched against a darker background in the upper half of the sub-dial. An eight-pointed star in the night sky contains the Junghans ‘J’ logo.
The screwed down caseback features a small window offering a view of the automatic movement (calibre J800) with a 38-hour power reserve – an ETA-based, out-sourced but reliable movement. Industrial but with sufficient finishes to make it attractive, the large rotor is decorated with thick Côtes de Genève stripes and the movement features blued screws.
A good-looking, functional watch with a cool German design at a reasonable price. I did notice, however, that the domed plexiglass cover on the dial caused some annoying reflections. A touch of anti-reflective material would have gone a long way in improving this. Yet, this also adds a nice retro touch to the watch…
The Junghans Meister Calendar comes with a cognac-coloured leather strap with a stainless steel buckle and retails for EUR 1,990 (incl. tax). For more details, please consult www.junghans.de.