Leica’s Picture-Perfect Entry Into Watchmaking

Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire’s weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.

Crossing into watchmaking from an entirely different design discipline is a tempting way to extend a well-known brand’s appeal. But in watchmaking, it is a decision that few outside those brands take lightly. In other words: being taken seriously by the watch business at large is no mean feat. Many a fashion designer has floundered and relatively few convincingly stay the course.

But today saw the rather compelling arrival into the watchmaking sphere in the shape of Leica, the legendary German camera maker. This morning the brand released its first ever watches, the Leica L1 and L2, one a regular three-hand and one with an additional GMT. And anyone who knows Leica knows the brand comes with an industrial design pedigree that few would dare question.

The effective and understated Leica L1 watch.

Outwardly, the two watches are very similar, both signaling in overall feel and in the details the kind of rarefied aesthetic with which fans of Leica fans are familiar. The exteriors were conceived by Professor Achim Heine, a freelance Berlin-based industrial designer who has created a string of epic Leica instruments in the past, including both the Digilux 2 and 3 cameras. Well-versed in the restrained aesthetics that makes Leica an enduring icon, Heine has incorporated design details drawn from the Leica canon that die hard Leica fans will recognize instantly.

the l2, which also features a gmt function
The L2, which also features a GMT function.

For the inside of the watches, Leica drew on the expertise of another German specialist, watchmaker Lehman AG, based three hours south in the Black Forest. Lehmann created the new hand-wound mechanical movements and most of the components in-house at its manufacture, ensuring that the new watches can full lay claim to the mystic prestige of “German engineering.” Both watches come in steel with a diameter of 41mm and have a patented pusher crown that allows the seconds sub-dial at six o’clock to function like a chronograph in the L1 or, in the case of the L2, to reset the GMT timer.

Leica’s two debut watches are sure, even at significant prices for what is effectively a debut brand—$10,000 for the L1, $14,000 for the L2, both currently available exclusively at the company’s Los Angeles store—to find a dedicated fanbase amongst Leica nuts. And as a kindred spirit in precision engineering, Leica may well also receive an enthusiastic welcome amongst watch fans, too.

Nick Sullivan is Creative Director at Equire, where he served as Fashion Director from 2004 until 2019.

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Source : Esquire