High-end camera brand Leica is focusing its sights on the watch industry and says it will apply the same “made in Germany” precision engineering principles to its new product line. Early models are a Leica L1 with date and time and a Leica L2 equipped with GMT, both featuring a patented crown mechanism that pushes in, like a camera button, rather than pulling out like crowns conventional.
The watches, including the movements, are made by Lehmann Präzision, a German mechanical engineering company that manufactures high-precision machinery for the watch industry, as well as its own line of mechanical watches under the Lehmann name. The movement and most components of the watches were developed and are produced at the Lehmann factory in Germany, but the watches were designed by Leica in partnership with longtime collaborator Achim Heine, a professor of experimental product design at the Berlin University of the Arts. . They include subtle references to signature features of Leica camera designs. The domed sapphire crystal is reminiscent of the front lens of a camera lens; the patented push-button crown mirrors the shutter release button of a camera; and the red ceramic inlay on the push-button crown is a tribute to the signature “red dot” for aiming its cameras, which is also a symbol of the brand.
According to Leica, the L1 and L2 were designed according to the principle of “Das Wesentliche” (“the essentials” in English) with clean lines, smooth surfaces and formal minimalism. The dials are sleek matte black aluminum, with white indications that take up as little space as possible. There is a small curved power reserve window, a small seconds sub-dial and a circular mode indicator. The rhodium-plated hands and indexes are pencil style, with small tips at the end of straight stick shapes.
They contain the specially designed L1 and L2 hand-wound movements, with hours, minutes, small seconds and power reserve indicator. The L2 is all that plus a GMT, with a 12-hour track along the inner bezel for the second time zone. Both movements have a 60-hour power reserve and a patented push-button crown that resets the small second hand. In classic models, the crown must be pulled out to stop the movement during adjustment, whereas on Leica watches, the crown is pushed in, like the release button on a camera. When pressed, the watch stops and the small second hand jumps to zero. At this point, the dot in the mode indicator to the right of center turns red, another homage to Leica’s red dot symbol. Another click releases the movement again and the point becomes white again. The 41mm x 14.5mm cases are made of 316L stainless steel with polished and satin-brushed surfaces and beveled edges. L1 and L2 are water resistant to 50 meters.
Leica cameras have a reputation for being well designed and built to last a lifetime, with great attention to detail and finish, standards that Leica claims to bring to its watch collections. “They will carry the heart and soul of Leica Cameras,” the company said in a statement, “and will be built to the guiding principles of quality and design, functionality and durability, engineering excellence, and vision to long term”. This is the brand’s first watch collection.
The Leica L1 sells for $10,000 and the Leica L2 for $14,000. Leica says it will produce 500 a year. They will be available in the United States at select Leica stores, starting with the brand’s store and gallery in Los Angeles.