German brand Leica‘s expertise (and beautiful design) in cameras and other optical instruments has been well-documented for over a century. But in recent years, the brand has signalled that it has serious intentions of expanding into the horological scene, as seen with the 2018 announcement of its debut collection of watches, the L1 and L2 (though those has since been renamed ZM1 and ZM2).
(Leica has previously dipped into watches through licensing partnerships or one-off collaborations with other brands; it never produced its own timepieces.)
The three 41 mm variations of the Leica ZM 11 watch.
Further expanding Leica’s horological ambitions is the upcoming ZM 11 watch. For one, the sporty-chic design distinguishes itself with an automatic movement made just for Leica by Swiss specialist Chronode SA (which has worked with a bevy of watch brands from MB&F to Hermes).
It’s called the Leica Calibre LA-3001, and the movement is on par with industry standards, coming in with precision of -4/+6 seconds per day and an impressive 60 hours of run time.
The 41 mm watch, which is water-resistant up to 100 metres, comes in three options: the Steel Midnight Blue design (pictured in the middle) has a beautiful midnight blue dial, a steel case and a comfortable integrated bracelet, while the other two come with titanium cases matched with rubber or fabric straps, and are known as the Coffee Black (right, with a brown gradient dial) and the Launch Edition (left, with a black dial with red on the edges of the cutouts).
A closer look at the ZM 11 Launch Edition, which looks black from head-on, but “turns” red when you tilt the watch.
The latter is especially noteworthy – Leica says the Launch Edition is the first gradient watch face of its kind that is created not through mere printed visuals but meticulous mechanical craftsmanship. The Launch Edition actually boasts a dual-layered dial – the bottom layer is black, while the upper layer comprises a grill that’s red on the edges of the cutouts, allowing it to “turn” red when you tilt the watch.
According to Marcus Eilinger, co-managing director of Leica’s watch department, this unique feature was inspired by rays of light filtering through his window blinds, and indeed, light peeks through to the under layer depending on how you view the watch, allowing a tiny glimpse into its inner workings. Such a considered detail is presumably why Leica is producing a limited run of only 250 pieces for the Launch Edition.
The ZM 11 Coffee Black version is a more casual, everyday-friendly design with its hardy fabric strap and warm-brown dial.
And while watches are a relatively new department for Leica, there are many subtle nods to its legacy in image-making. Take for instance how the ZM 11 watch comes with a custom Easy Change locking system – just press the red buttons located on the lugs on the underside to release and switch straps (stainless steel, titanium, rubber, and fabric options are available). The red buttons are designed so to recall the release button on a traditional Leica camera.
The watch markers are another reflection of Leica’s reputation for precision-driven details. They are brushed with polished edges and have a luminous filling so that you can see them clearly in any lighting condition, while the hands are diamond-cut and have a combination of deep brushed and sand-blasted surfaces, which makes them reflect light beautifully.
For SG fans – you’ll have to wait till November 23rd when the ZM 11 watch launches exclusively at Leica Store Raffles Hotel Arcade. The steel model goes for S$9,200, while the titanium models (in both colourways) goes for S$9,900.
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