Leica, one of the most well-regarded camera producers in the world, announced late last week that it was introducing an intriguing new product line into its portfolio. That’s right, the brand beloved by camera enthusiasts around the globe is crossing over into the watch world with two new timepieces, the time-and-date-only Leica L1 and the Leica L2 GMT.
Whenever a non-horologically inclined luxury brand ventures into the watch sphere, there’s usually a decent amount of skepticism among general consumers and the educated enthusiast. This is fair. There are a lot of expensive variables that go into watch production and it’s far easier to work out a licensing partnership, throw some branding on a Chinese quartz watch, and call it a day. We see this more than ever nowadays but, thankfully, Leica has used its technological know-how and niche appeal to create an exciting new entry into the watch marketplace that will attract not only the substantial amount of people interested in both fields but the average watch consumer as well.
The two new timepieces were designed in collaboration with Achim Heine, a German product designer of some renown who has worked with Leica many times before. There are a few recognizable Leica attributes to the watches that are immediately noticeable. The fluting of the crown and the cambered shape of the crystal is meant to recall a camera lens while the ruby set on the crown represents the recognizable red dot of the Leica logo. The scratch-resistant sapphire crystal is also anti-reflective on both sides and there’s an exhibition caseback displaying the hand-wound movement made in collaboration with Lehmann Präzision GmbH out of Germany’s Black Forest. Each 41 mm by 14 mm, stainless steel model also has a patented push-piece crown with a corresponding status display on the dial.
Leica said that maintaining the “Made in Germany” designation was extremely important so finding a local manufactory was one of the brand’s top priorities. The reason to unveil the watches this year, however, ties into the inauguration of the third phase of the “Ernst Leitz Werkstätten,” a new high-concept workshop for Leica designers and executives that will produce luxury goods that continue to deviate from the photographer-centric mindset with an emphasis on quality.
While the Leica L1 and L2 share a similar design language, the slight difference in functionality — the L2 has a GMT hand and a day/night indicator — almost provides the new initiative with a greater sense of grandeur. It would be easy to pass a one-off limited edition as a gimmick for the brand’s factory opening or something meant to excite the deep-pocketed, crossover watch and photography addicts; instead, we have two thoughtfully designed watches that effectively bridge the gap between the two mediums.
The Leica L1 and the Leica L2 will be available in select Leica Stores as well as at watch dealers worldwide beginning this fall. The L2 model will also be available with an 18k rose gold case. To mark the occasion of the “Ernst Leitz Werkstätten” opening, limited editions of the two stainless steel versions with a red dial will also be released at a future date.