Leica Camera, the German brand used by famous photographers like Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Man Ray, plans to add a new category to its line of meticulously crafted technical items this fall: luxury watches.
“We have always been concerned with the mechanical construction of exceptional instruments,” said Jérôme Auzanneau, managing director of Ernst Leitz Werkstätten, a division of the company, and global director of Leica accessories. “There was no reason we couldn’t try to expand the brand a bit more.
“We’re very good at making precision instruments,” he added, “so why not make a watch? “
The collection, coming in November, will feature two hand-wound timepieces: the L1, a date and time model priced at 9,900 euros ($ 11,460) and the L2, with GMT function, at just under $ 15. 000 €. Both will have a diameter of 41 millimeters and a stainless steel case. The L2 will also be offered in rose gold.
The watches will initially be sold only at specially selected Leica stores, including those in London’s Mayfair district and West Hollywood, California. Wider distribution to select watch retailers is slated for next year, as is an additional model, the L3.
Basically, watches and cameras have a lot in common. “To go from cameras to watches, you’re talking about a very similar type of device,” said Dipanjan Chatterjee, vice president and senior analyst at Forrester Research. “The attributes that personify Leica – creativity, expertise, a brand that is valuable – also apply to the luxury watch industry.”
The somewhat industrial look of the watches is reminiscent of Leica camera dials, with clean lines on a black background. (A limited number will have a bright red face.) The watches were designed by Achim Heine, who worked on Leica’s M-series cameras as well as other items. As Mr. Auzanneau said, “Who else could better design the Leica watch than the one who has designed Leica cameras and lenses for decades?” “
The watches are produced at Leica’s headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany, about an hour’s drive north of Frankfurt, using movements from Lehmann Präzision, which manufactures high-precision machines as well as its own watches. “This is a genuine, purely German Leica product,” said Auzanneau.