The craft

In the Lehmann watch factory, managing director Markus Lehmann explains just how much Leica DNA went into the new watches.

Mr. Lehmann, how did the connection between your company and Leica first come about?

When Leica began to pursue watch projects a few years ago, we were asked whether we would generally be interested in a joint endeavour. In the preliminary meetings that followed, it quickly became clear that we could have a very fruitful collaboration.

How did you find this collaboration?

Because our company has built high-precision machines for Leica in the past, I found it very interesting to now work together in an entirely different capacity. The watch project is very close to my heart. Over the past two years, the connection between the two brands has been repeatedly reinforced.

The movement of the Leica watch is a complete in-house development. What makes it so particular?

The Leica watch has some really unique features that you will not find in any conventional timepiece currently on the market. We have created a watch that is characterised by Leica’s DNA, but is autonomous in its design and execution. It is a truly exceptional product on the watch market. In terms of mechanics, the challenge was not only in the construction of the movement, but also in the production of specific parts that had never existed in this form before. 

One example is the patented push-piece crown with separate position indicator on the dial – which, in turn, is coupled with the zero position of the small second hand. All of the movement parts have been designed by our own team and are largely produced in-house. We also carry out the surface treatment, assembly and adjustment of the movement. Being able to manufacture the majority of components in-house is a great advantage, and it means that we even craft the casing, the dial and the hands of the Leica watch ourselves.

The Leica watch has some unique features that you will not find in any conventional timepiece currently on the market.

What can you tell us about the patented push-piece crown of the Leica watch?

Normally, you have to slightly pull out the crown of a watch in order to adjust the watch hands. In other words, the crown has two positions: one for winding the watch, the other for setting the time; often, a quick-set mechanism for the date is also integrated. On the Leica watch, however, we have implemented a push-piece crown that has been coupled with a column wheel – not unlike on a chronograph. As soon as you push the crown, the small, circular status indicator on the dial turns from white to red, and you are able to set the time. The date, by contrast, is adjusted via a separate push-button. Integrating this mechanism into the construction of the movement proved to be a particularly challenging endeavour.

Even at the premium end of the market, there are thousands of timepiece products to choose from. What is it that sets Leica watches apart – in other words, what turns a watch into a Leica watch?

Aside from the example I described, it is also the visual design that distinguishes the Leica watch from other products on the market. This is what I was referring to when I talked about integrating Leica’s DNA. For example, the shape of the watch body echoes that of a camera. Similarly, the power reserve indicator is reminiscent of the curved blades of an aperture: when the watch is fully wound, the indicator is open and white; at the end of its running time, it is closed and black. The push-piece crown alludes to the function of a shutter release. In essence, the designers set out to create a watch that is both technically accomplished and aesthetically pleasing – and I feel that this has definitely been achieved.

The product design industry has coined the famous expression, “form follows function”. Coming from a more artisan perspective, how would you say this applies to watchmaking?

This is another point in which our collaboration was extremely positive. From the outset, Leica put forward the watch’s proposed functions, such as the power reserve indicator and the second time zone in the L2, as well as the introduction of the pushpiece crown. We then drafted a preliminary design, and I examined if and how it could be realised in practice. Anything that was feasible was implemented; otherwise, we made adaptations. This is how both models were developed. A good concept must make sense in terms of the watch’s inner workings, and involve parts that are realistic to produce.

How much “Lehmann” is in the Leica watch?

Our company was involved in the development process from the very beginning, so the Leica watch also has many Lehmann characteristics. We designed, built and tested numerous prototypes before finally presenting the end result. It was important to me that this collaboration with Leica would yield a truly excellent and extraordinary timepiece. I take great pride in the Lehmann watches we have been manufacturing for a number of years now, and which are a testament to our competence as watchmakers. With the Leica watch, we have entered into a partnership that is mutually beneficial and advances the evolution of both brands, despite the fact that we each occupy such different fields.

Markus Lehmann - The parent company “Lehmann Präzision” supplies high-precision parts for the construction industry, as well as machinery for the watchmaking industry.