Leica watches keep German watchmaking in the picture

The new Leica L1 and L2 watches nod to the design of the brand’s cameras

black dial Leica watches side by side
(Image credit: Leica)

Precision timekeeping meets German engineering in the Leica watch, with the Leica L1 and L2 marking the camera specialist’s venture into watchmaking. 

‘We have been working on [watch] design and production since 2014,’ says owner and chairman of Leica, Dr Andreas Kaufmann, referencing a previous collaboration with Swiss company Valbray. For the new Leica L1 and L2 watches, however, he notes a change of approach. ‘We decided to stop what we had been doing and do it ourselves, making [the watches] in Germany, and we had a partner who wanted to work with us and find out how it could be done.’

New Leica watches nod to camera design

Close-up of black dial of Leica watch with date window

(Image credit: Leica)

The partnership – with Lehmann Präzision – meant most of the watch components were developed and produced at the company’s manufacture in Germany’s Black Forest, an established watchmaking region. The watch itself, powered by Leica’s own mechanical movement with mechanical winding, nods to the distinctive elements of a camera in its design, from the knurled push crown and GMT crown inspired by the M-series camera’s control dials to the domed glass referencing the curve of a camera lens. ‘It looks simple, but it’s very difficult to make it look so clean,’ Kaufmann adds. 

Leica watch with black dial

(Image credit: Leica)

Functionality underlines this clean aesthetic, with details such as the push crown’s ability to reset the small second hand putting user experience at the forefront. ‘Together with [designer] Achim Heine, we expanded and fine-tuned the idea of the push crown,’ says Markus Lehmann, managing director of Lehmann Präzision.

‘In contrast to conventional designs – whereby the crown must be pulled out to stop the movement and adjust the time – we wanted the crown to be pressed down, like the release button of a camera. The moment you push down the crown, the watch stops and the small second-hand jumps to zero. Another click releases the movement again. This is an unusual detail that perfectly fits in with Leica.’

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Hannah Silver joined Wallpaper* in 2019 to work on watches and jewellery. Now, as well as her role as watches and jewellery editor, she writes widely across all areas including on art, architecture, fashion and design. As well as offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, Hannah is interested in the quirks of what makes for a digital success story.