Philippine Daily Inquirer
LEICACAMERAAGCELEBRATES OPENING OF ITS NEWLEITZPARK COMPLEXINWETZLAR
The new Leica L1 and L2 wristwatches
Last June 15th, Leica Camera AG celebrated the opening of its new Leitz-Park complex in Wetzlar, Germany. In just two years after they broke the first ground on the Schanzenfeld site in the City of Wetzlar, this very unique complex has now been completed that unites all the buildings and structures in the Leica campus. The grey toned cement finish buildings provide a stark but tasteful contrast to the surrounding lush landscape and classic architecture of the nearby residential area. The complex will be home to Leica’s spectacular architecture with cultural highlights and the development of Leica’s pioneering technologies.
“My vision for the next few years is to use this facility to tell more to international travellers and customers about Leica and on the other hand, also to grow at certain elements the product portfolio in a direction where Leica is seen as a high-end premium luxury brand. The key part though, is always the lenses and optics. With all the technology behind our products, we want Leica to be a brand that reflects design and the love of photography,” said Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board who was present during an intimate and exclusive roundtable discussion during the event.
Some 1,000 invited guests attended the formal opening and among the VIPs included Boris Rhein, Minister for Sci- ence and Art of the state of Hesse, Martin Rößler, Vice President of the Giessen District, Wolfgang Schuster, District Administrator of the Lahn-Dill region and Manfred Wagner, Mayor of the City of Wetzlar and Matthias Harsch, Chairman of the Executive Board of Leica Camera AG, who welcomed the guests to the event.
Most large German corporations operate on a two-tier system, hence a supervisory board and an executive board. Dr. Kaufmann, whose family in- vested in Leica over a decade ago is the visionary behind the brand while the newly appointed Harsch leads the executive board.
“The new Leitz-Park constitutes a leading center of the optical industry. Here,
Dr. Andreas Kaufmann is a very friendly sort. Welcoming and friendly, he happily chatted with everyone that was at the Leitz Park complex in Wetzlar, Germany. But for the first day, in spite of having a very special and personal camera with him at all times ("There are benefits to being in charge of the company," he said smiling), he was talking about watches. This was because Leica had just brought out to the world two prototype models of a new Haute Horlogerie line of wristwatches. True to Leica form and history, their faces were clean and utilitarian while also being clearly well-designed and well-made. Also true to Leica form, their internals were as wonderful to look at as their externals. The difference? The watches had sapphire crystal backs allowing you to see the movement and the finishing. And while everyone was looking at the faces of the watch, the real enthusiasts were going over the back.
Leica went fully German for this new line of watches, with movements produced in Black Forest by Lehmann Prazision (in Schramberg, which should already be familiar to watch enthusiasts) and dubbed the calibres L1 and L2. The company kept their partnerships in the neighborhood, and the finishing of the movements makes that very clear. No surprise when you learn that they had help from people in another German watchmaking town, Glashutte. Dr. Kaufmann wanted to produce something unique, and he did. The combination of movement design and finishing as seen through the sapphire crystal back shows detail combinations you don’t see together elsewhere but which also do link to the iconic camera design in a subtle way.
Now this little (literally table-sized) global launch was not your normal event. It was more like a chat about things to come. When we asked about how many different processes were used for finishing for example, the answer was we will have to check on that one, we are still kind of new to this. The early released information didn’t even have the Leica red dial color listed. So this is all an ongoing project, and it is wonderful to see it progress. The L1 is a “simple” two-hand with a seconds subdial and a date, but it isn’t exactly simple. There is an aperture that shows power reserve via a window that actually has a closing indicator that operates somewhat like a lens aperture. There is a dot-shaped window that is either white or red, which tells you if you are in time-telling or time-setting mode. You need this because you don’t pull out the crown to set the time, you push it in just like the shutter button of a camera. This push resets the seconds hand to zero. You click again when you’re done. There’s a separate dedicated pushbutton at 2 o’clock to set the date. The L2 adds a crown that rotates a slim internal bezel with markers that allow you to use it to indicate a second time zone.
So all of this is different but functional, unique but not in a way that just wastes time or energy. Just like the cameras, the watches give you a different experience. They will be available (rather tightly released simply because production will be small) in 41mm stainless steel cases from very selected Leica boutiques, certain German Jewelry and watch shops and the new Leica boutique at the LeitzPark in Wetzlar. The boutique is in the Ernst Leitz Werkstatten, with is where the marriage of calibre and case will occur. The building is beside the new Ernst Leitz hotel and the new Leica Museum. So all this? Definitely worth a trip for the serious fans.
And the watches? While these two models will be available towards the end of the year with either black or red dial and stainless steel case, Dr, Kaufmann was already happily chatting away at what’s already in the works. Precious metal definitely. And L3 is set to be a sounding watch, an alarm but not what you may expect like a Vulcain or such.
Leica’s foray into fine watchmaking? They have succeeded in bringing their uniqueness and enthusiasm from the cameras onto the wrist, and they are clearly geared up for some serious future work. While there have been at least four other watch lines branded with the Leica name, this latest development brings together the workmanship, design and innovation--in a way that truly expresses what the company is all about.