Leica Camera Makes Surprisingly Good WatchesWritten by Alvin Wong
As far as first impressions go, the camera-maker gets a thumbs-up.
Leica L1 (left) and L2
IT’S NOT LIKE LEICA’S AN UNKNOWN, YOU KNOW
Reputation certainly counts for something, and Leica is known among photography enthusiasts as the gold-standard brand for cameras and lenses (and from time to time, rifle scopes). The legendary German company has been making top-drawer cameras since 1914, which are favoured by the world’s most eminent lensmen. Now that Leica is indulging in a bit of product diversification with timepieces, expectations among both watch and photography aficionados are naturally – and justifiably – high.
Leica L1 and L2 movements
BUT EVEN A TITAN UNDERSTANDS ITS LIMITATIONS
As legendary as Leica is in photography circles, the giant knows that the watch business is notoriously hard to crack. In order to do things ‘right’, the brand has Leica has enlisted Lehmann Präzision, a movement component and precision tool manufacturer based in Germany’s Black Forest (which also makes watches under its own brand) to help conceive and supply hand-wound movements for the timepieces (above).
SO, WHAT DO WE HAVE HERE?
For a start, Leica is offering the Leica L1 (above), a time-and-date model, and the Leica L2, which features a GMT display, courtesy of an inner rotating bezel. Both models are available in brushed stainless steel cases with black dials. There will also be limited pieces with red dials, and an additional rose gold version for the L2.
Design-wise, there are wink-wink nods to Leica cameras, such as the crown, which is set with a ruby cabochon to recall Leica’s red dot logo, and a sapphire crystal that is dome-shaped, mimicking a camera lens. Both the L1 and L2 are driven by hand-wound movements that feature a patented push-piece crown that actuates the time-setting mode and the second hand’s zero-reset function.
ARE THE WATCHES ANY GOOD?
As makers of high-quality cameras, Leica’s legacy has certainly impacted the production – and to a large extent, the perception – of its watches. We don’t have the exact retail price for now, only that it starts from €10,000 for the ‘basic’ L1 model in stainless steel.
This effectively places the timepieces in the luxury spectrum of the market and it is only fair for watch lovers to expect a certain level of technical and design finesse in the creations. To this end, the minimalist-style L1 and L2 duly delivers, bearing the hallmarks of German watchmaking with their fuss-free aesthetic, robust functionality and proud German-made ethos. The launch of Leica’s self-branded watches also coincides with the latest expansion phase of its factory, Ernst Leitz Werkstätten, which houses an assembly workshop and design studio – all of which contribute to the provenance and authenticity of the timepieces.
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.