Vaunted German camera brand Leica is getting serious about its horology. The brand first looked into watches as early as eight years ago and made its first foray in 2018 with two models dubbed ZM1 and ZM2. The letters stand for ‘zeitmesser’, which is German for ‘timepiece’. Now, the brand has expanded its offering with the introduction of the ZM11, which is intended to be a base model.
It’s been designed with a Swiss-made Chronode movement which Marcus Eilinger, co-managing director and creative director of the brand’s watches division, says will be a base calibre for future animations and complications. The ZM11 is offered in stainless steel with a midnight blue dial, titanium with a coffee brown dial, and a launch edition limited to 50 pieces with a red and black dial.
The double-layered dials are an interesting piece of work. They are chemically etched to create a grooved look akin to louvres, revealing a black lacquer layer underneath that nods to the interplay of light and shadow in photography. There’s also the signature Leica red dot, which is used on the back of the case as quick release buttons for the changeable straps.
According to Eilinger, watches at Leica are meant to be a category all their own. “I was taking care with the dial not to be too inspired by the cameras,” he says. “I didn’t want to reinterpret a camera.”
Instead, some of the finer, more subtle details on the watch are to do with Leica’s famed machining expertise. There’s a black ring, for example, on the inside of the sapphire glass that echoes those on camera lenses meant to reduce glare and distortion. And on the display caseback, the waterproofing and place-of-origin text is printed on the rear of the glass—exactly like on lenses—instead of the more common engraving on the case. “It applies a technique that we are experts in,” explains Eilinger.
This approach might be why Eilinger dared to move the red dot—perhaps Leica’s most recognised piece of branding—to the underside of the watch and out of sight. It may not be intentional, but it echoes how street photographers sometimes put black tape over their Leica cameras to make the devices more discreet and inconspicuous. “It’s not a shiny brand,” says Eilinger of the oblique style and appeal of a Leica timepiece. “It’s pretty serious, it’s German, it’s very discreet. It’s almost a bit of an odd statement.”
The Jan/Feb ‘Intentions’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 11 January 2024.