Leica makes cameras, right? For the most part, this is correct. Apart from a range of binoculars and other similar products, — plus some tasty collaborations with companies including Huawei and Master & Dynamic — you’ll find the Leica name on a camera. Its latest product, however, is a wristwatch, and it really is designed by Leica.
There are two models, the Leica L1 and Leica L2, with the difference between them being a GMT movement on the L2. This, through a complicated second dial system, shows a second time zone. The stainless case is the same size on each — a modest 41mm — while sapphire crystal glass covers the face and the back, exposing the manual movement.
It’s the movement that’s really interesting, because it has been developed entirely for Leica by Lehmann Präzision, a German manufacturing firm that already produces its own watches. The movement is built at Lehmann’s factory, and it’s finished at Leica’s workshops in Wetzlar, Germany. For the overall design, Leica turned to Achim Heine, who worked with on the company’s 1999 design identity overall, before moving on to concentrate on watches. The face says Leica Wetzlar, and for good reason. These are true Leica watches.
Many will argue it can’t be a Leica product without a red dot, and despite claims they didn’t want to make such a feature a big deal, there are two red dots on the L1 and L2 watches. The first is the most obvious — a ruby on the crown — while the second only appears on the face to indicate when you push the crown to change states, almost like pushing a camera shutter release. This motion sets the watch apart from others, as it stops messing around with pulling the crown and finding different positions to alter times. Another Leica design nod is the power reserve indicator, which resembles an aperture readout.
The L1 and L2 haven’t been cooked up in an instant. Leica has apparently been considering a watch for decades, and included one in a technology licensing agreement signed in 1996. It began talks with partners on the project in 2012. There’s the same level of passion, appreciation for mechanics, and strong German design in the L1 and L2 as you’d expect to find in a Leica camera.
As with owning a Leica camera, you’re going to need a healthy bank balance to wear a Leica watch. It only intends to build up to 400 watches over the next year, and the cheaper L1 will cost up to 10,000 euros, or about $11,550, according to watch expert Hodinkee. The watches will be sold through the 10 Leica boutiques around the world later this year.