[Update February 2022: Nearly four years after the initial debut in 2018, the Leica L1 and L2 watches are finally available in stores. In the US, they're only available at the company's store in Los Angeles. The L1 is priced at $10,000 and the L2 is $14,000.]
Leica, the German camera maker known for its high-end camera bodies and lenses, is officially in the watchmaking business. The brand announced that it will be launching a duo of high-end mechanical watches, the L1 and L2, bearing the famous Leica name.
Both watches feature 41mm stainless steel cases and utilize hand-winding movements with an interesting configuration. The crown, for example, is a “patented push-piece” design used to set the time, where the wearer pushes in the crown to put the watch in a time-setting mode, at which point an aperture on the dial turns red. Once the time is set, the wearer pushes the crown again and the watch goes back into its standard mode. Meanwhile, a separate pusher is used to set the date function. On most mechanical watches, the crown is pulled out and twisted to set both date and time.
The L1 will feature the time, date and power reserve functions, while the L2 will also feature a day/night indicator and a rotating GMT bezel. Both watches meet the standards to be labeled “Made in Germany”; in fact, according to Leica, all parts for the watch are made in Germany save the crystal. The movements themselves are not manufactured by Leica, but rather Lehmann Präzision, a precision machinery company located in the Black Forest whose products are used in the watchmaking industry (they’re also entirely exclusive to Leica).
German industrial designer Achim Heine was tapped to work on both the L1 and L2 and it’s a fitting choice. He’s worked on a number of Leica products in the past and he did an excellent job of subtly alluding to various Leica designs throughout. The crown, for example, is set with a red ruby, reminiscent of the iconic Leica red dot logo. Meanwhile, the reserve indicator aperture on the dial features gradually-closing blades to indicate the diminishing power supply. The power reserve meter itself is modeled after a gauge on the Leicameter light meter made for the Leica M3.
The project spans back to 2012, when the company’s main shareholder, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, had first started exploring the idea of a Leica watch. It should be said, though, that the L1 and L2 aren’t the first watches to bear the Leica name. As recently as 2014, Velbray watches — which created a shutter-like watch display — produced a Leica limited edition for the brand’s 100th anniversary. But the L1 and L2 are the first watches built from the ground up to be sold by Leica exclusively. What’s more, Leica has more watch models planned for the future.
Pricing starts at around $10,000 for the simpler L1, and they'll initially be available at seven different Leica stores worldwide. These aren’t numbered limited edition pieces per se, but they will be made in relatively small numbers.