While cars and watches are known to be highly related worlds, photography and watches apparently don’t share many links. Yet, several already existing examples showed this connection – think Ming watches by photographer Ming Thein or shutter-inspired Valbray watches. Today, the story is different, as it’s one of the most prominent camera manufacturers that is entering the watch game, you name it: Leica. With “Made in Germany” in mind and quite an impressive mechanical package, meet the Leica L1 & L2 watches.
For its entry into the watchmaking industry, Leica introduces a pair of watches – the time-and-date L1 and the GMT-equipped L2 – which are, at first, not screaming their connection with the world of photography. And from the words of the brand, this was not the idea here. Don’t expect a shutter-inspired watch, like the Valbray/Leica collaboration presented in 2014. The new models, this time initiated by Leica and produced under Leica’s supervision, are proper watches and not photography-like gimmicks. What makes sense here is not the link with the photography world but the inscription of this new product segment under the Leica umbrella, with “Made in Germany” and brand DNA in mind.
Design-wise, the Leica L1 and L2 watches are relatively discreet and clean. In fact, something that corresponds quite well to the original design of the Leica M camera – certainly one of the most iconic cameras ever created. Proposed in a steel and black colour scheme, with just a few white and red accents, this pair of watches is meant to be timeless and functional, as all good Leica product. A 41mm x 14mm steel case, polished and brushed, an embossed calk leather strap, a black dial… At first, nothing to make you hit the roof! Yet, the mechanical and functional parts are far sexier.
The two models differ by the included complications, yet both share the same basic display. Time is indicated in a classical way – central hours and minutes, small second at 6 o’clock – with baton hands and applied indexes over a matte black dial. The date window is positioned at 3 o’clock – utterly classical you might think – however it is adjusted via a push-button at 2 o’clock. Another specificity: the small aperture visible on the right side of the axis of the hands. This is a setting indicator which changes colour according to the position of the crown.
For its first watches, Leica has integrated a clever push-crown. When the aperture is white, the watch is running and the movement can be wound. Push the crown and the aperture becomes red, meaning that the watch is in adjusting mode (to set the time). Also, linked to this push crown is a zero-reset mechanism of the small second for a precise adjustment of the time. The push-crown mechanism is controlled by a column-wheel identical to what is found in high-end chronographs. Finally, the L2 model incorporates a relatively basic GMT function – in fact, only an internal rotating bezel – as well as a day-night indicator. Something a bit more functional would have been welcome.
Powering the watch is a “Made in Germany” movement, something that was dear to Dr Andreas Kaufmann, the main shareholder of Leica. For this reason, the movement has been developed (especially for Leica, thus being a so-called proprietary movement) by Lehmann Präzision GmbH, a movement developer based in the Black Forest region. This hand-wound movement is nicely designed, with largely opened bridges and 3D architecture. The decoration remains industrial but pleasant. This movement has a 60h power reserve and runs at 4hz.
The new Leica L1 & L2 are somehow in the vein of the other Leica products: functional, down to earth, restrained in terms of design but mechanically interesting. These watches will be available as of Fall 2018 in Leica boutiques and selected retailers. Prices are not on the cheap side though, as starting at EUR 9,900 for the L1 model.