Home Accessories Leica Watch and the art of photographing impressive wristwear

Leica Watch and the art of photographing impressive wristwear

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Leica’s two watches, the L1 and L2, have now reached Britain and are up for sale at selected Leica stores, including the main outlet in Duke Street, Mayfair. The L2, which features a GMT dual-time-zone function, is definitely up my street. At least it would have been once upon a time.

Watch bore

Before defecting lock, stock and crown to Apple, I was a huge fan of elegant Swiss or German watches. For a time, I possessed quite a collection. A watch bore at the highest level; I even owned a watch-winder. Housed in a beautiful lacquered box, the four winding posts of this luxurious little Uhr-kennel would keep automatic watches fully charged, ready for the off at a moment’s notice.

While it’s something of a first-world problem, imagine the stress of remembering to wind up your automatic watches manually every couple of days. You definitely need a watch winder if you own more than one automatic.

I envy those who continue to sport their fine wristwear, although my head tells me not to be so daft. “Stick with Apple,” it says. And it is right, of course, not for the first time. My heart has had a lot to answer for over the years, but this time head wins. The Apple Watch does so much more, including health monitoring, that there is no comparison — at least for me. It even looks rather elegant in its modern, techie way. But enough of this heresy… we are here to talk luxury.

Let’s say that my devotion to the Apple Watch doesn’t stop me from ogling fine timepieces of a more traditional cut.

During the recent Leica Society International meeting in Dublin, I came across a fellow member, festooned with Leicas as we all were, but with one difference. On his left wrist was the very desirable Leica L2, looking even better than it does in the catalogue. I had a good ogle, but the old head, as usual, rapped my knuckles and told me to stop looking.

Watch photography

These days, ogling is all I do. That Apple Watch has saved me thousands by suppressing my watch lust. I just keep one mechanical watch, an IWC Fliegerchronograph, for old times’ sake and because can’t bear to cut the final cord. Yet I haven’t worn it for ages. It doesn’t warn me when I’m fibrillating or call an ambulance if I fall down the stairs.

So I stick to looking at photographs of watches. And watch photography is a specialised art, make no mistake. Our old Leica blogger friend, Ming Thein, is a master of his art. It was he who first introduced me to the pleasures of gazing at fine portraits of fine watches. Ming has now gone into the watch business with his own brand, Ming. Catch one if you can.

It’s also why I subscribe to the really rather fabulous Quill&Pad watch site. I’m particularly a fan of GaryG’s photography, as in his Daily Wearer article. I hear that Gary once did a master class on watch photography with Ming Thein, which doesn’t surprise me.

Just as photographers have a daily carry camera — the one that’s supposed to be in the pocket but seldom is — the watch enthusiast has to choose a daily wearer. It’s a hard life, but needs must. And in the case of Quill&Pad readers, it’s never going to be a battered old Casio. They’re a discerning and well-heeled bunch over there.

Admittedly, the Philistine might suggest that a Daily Wear watch ought really to be a Swatch, a clapped-out Casio from the last century, a Mickey Mouse Timex, or even a FitBit. But they’re all boring. In the same way that, deep down, we know that that daily camera is a smartphone and not a Leica. But it doesn’t get the juices running in the same way.

Watch this space

Yet none of this matters. There is a lot of sense in wearing or carrying an object that provides an injection of supreme pleasure, whether it be a watch, camera, fountain pen or other desirable but perhaps not essential paraphernalia.

For those among us who are smitten, no call for frugality or practicality is worth the breath. A little bit of what we fancy does us good and you know it makes sense.

Gary has kindly given us permission to reproduce some of his fine watch photographs, and I’ve chosen a selection from the Daily Wearer article.

I would recommend reading Gary’s many articles on Quill&Pad. If you would like to find out how to go about photographing watches, Gary obliges in this article.

Even old traitors such as me, wearing my modern smartwatch by choice, can gain comfort from the wonderful photography and the vicarious pleasures of imagining one of these timepieces on their wrists.

What do you think? Maybe you couldn’t care less about wristwatches, especially not expensive models? Do you still wear one of those black Sinclairs with the red LED display? Or are you a sybarite at heart, polishing up your Vacheron Constantin at every possible opportunity? Confession time…


28 COMMENTS

  1. I am with you Mike. I switched from expensively beautiful timepieces for the Apple Watch. The main reason was it was another way of making and receiving calls as an extension to my mobile contract if my phone was dead or whatever. I still have my Dads old Seiko and a TAG I bought 55 years ago for £200 a fortune back then for me. I do lust after the Leica like I lust after many fine watch’s but head over heart everytime. Btw any idea of how much the Leicas cost for interest sake – honest!

    • Thanks, Jack. The Apple Watch seems to combine quality and elegance with functionality and, so far, I don’t have many pangs in giving up my addiction.

      Not sure what you mean about the cost of Leicas since Macfilos is full of reviews and prices. One thing worth bearing in mind, though, is that Leica cameras (even the Panasonic rebadged “Luxes”) hold their value better than many competitor brands. People still buy M9s and all the subsequent Ms at very good prices when compared with the original cost. The same applies to the Q and Q2. While they are hefty investments, north of £4,000, the cost of ownership over a couple or three years is not so daunting when the high residuals are taken into account.

      Of course, the same applies to many fine Swiss timepieces. I wish I still owned all the watches I sold years ago. I would have sold them for double the price now. And then there are Leica M lenses. Someone once said that we should never sell an M lens and I’ve ignored that on many occasions. I now regret the decision.

  2. Nice shots! There are a number of really good watch photographers out there. One guy I’ve seen turning up to Red Bar events uses a Q2, his phone to light the watch, and a small cigarette packet-sized reflector to manage fill in and reflections. His shots are terrific.

    I still have a few nice watches I wear, but retirement means there are fewer opportunities to wear them. The Apple Watch gets worn most of the time to monitor exercise and sleep. When you put it on it’s like having another wife/husband/partner/parent: you’re short on exercise, you went to bed too late, drank too much Scotch (it can’t do that yet but I’m sure it will one day) you’re not breathing properly, etc.

    Sadly the Leica watches you show are not even close to the caliber of Langes, JLCs etc. who make their own movements in house, whereas the Leica’s use commercially made bought in and adapted movements. For Watch aficionados that’s B or C level watch making. Leica should stick to cameras…

    • Glad you also like the Apple Watch. I hadn’t thought too much about the movements in the Leica Watch but is reasonable that they use a bought-in movement. Some of the big names also do this, of course, and most people don’t notice or care. For the experts it does make a difference, although from what I’ve seen, the Leica Watches seem to have been well received in horological circles.

      It’s all academic since I’m not about to blow £10k-plus on a wrist watch!

    • ‘High end’ watch manufacturers have regularly used and still use “commercially made bought in and adapted movements”; the majority still use third party ébauche movements. Leica’s use of Lehman movements / ébauches is common sense because to design same ‘in house’ and ‘from scratch’ would be prohibitively expensive – especially as regards tooling. Lehman uses highly modified ETA ébauches and my research suggests the Leica L1 and L2 movements owe much to, and were developed from, the ETA 2892 base caliber. Vacheron + Constantin / Vacheron Constantin have used JLC ébauches; Patek Philippe have used Lemania and Valjoux ébauches; Rolex (which in some WIS’ opinions is not really high end) used a Zenith El Primero ébauche (and messed it up, but that’s another story). And more than a few other ‘high end’ Swiss chronograph ‘manufacturers’ have used the ubiquitous Valjoux / ETA 7750 as their base caliber. The point being made is that very few Swiss and German ‘high end’ watch manufacturers design and manufacture, 100% in house, their own watch movements – and they are far removed from the alleged: “that’s B or C level watch making”. Will Leica succeed? Dr Kaufmann is having a very good try. Good luck to Leica in the Company’s quest to dip a toe into the ‘high end’ luxury watch market. Would I buy a Leica L1 or L2? Only if I had the necessary funds and I considered the watches to offer investment potential. The one sure fact about Rolex “sports model watches” is that they nearly all appreciate in value if bought from accredited dealers at the RRPs – because demand exceeds supply – and that demand is fuelled by ‘fashion’. Will Leica watches ever prove to be really, really fashionable? Maybe – but maybe not. Que sera sera.

      • Thanks for clarifying this, Dunk. It’s basically what I recall from my watch days although I’d forgotten the detail.

      • I would disagree with the top manufacturers using bought in movements. Patek used to use Lemania ebauche for their chronographs but that changed about 5 years ago. Lange, in the modern era, have never used bought in ebauche. Every Lange movement was designed in house and built from scratch in Glashütte. Audemars Piguet also switched to complete in house movements. If you go down a tier then Rolex is all in house as is their sub-brand Tudor.

  3. I like apple tech products iPhone, iPad, Mac) but I’m not a fan of ‘disposable’ which I consider their products to be as they are replaced and rendered obsolete every 6-12 months.

    Watches to me are very personal and I chose manual, or automatic mechanical watches built to last a lifetime over any disposable tech. Something that needs charging every day or lights up at night, has ‘apps’ or beeps/vibrates is just about my worst nightmare for a watch.

    The L1 and L2 don’t really do it for me either despite being cleverly engineered or just because I’m a fan of Leica cameras. I read about them as it’s a topic I’m interested in, but at no point thought about owning one.

    I associate Leica with cameras and have enjoyed using their cameras and lenses for many years. I am not about to by a watch just because it’s got the red dot on it.

    I’m sure they will appeal to some folks. It’s nice that we’re all different. Some folks will have red dots on their baseball caps, t-shirts, lapel badges, camera bags, cameras etc etc. It’s all good but not for me 🙂

    • That reminds me… the Leica Watch guy in Dublin said he would buy any luxury item with the Leica brand. I’d mentioned Montblanc, saying that I preferred a “proper” watch brand rather than one spun off from another product. He said he would definitely buy a Leica fountain pen if the company made one. As you say, we’re all different.

  4. Hi Mike, thanks for the article and the reflections on mechanical watches versus an Apple Watch. I am one of those indecisive people who wears both! I appreciate the convenience of quickly learning time and date from a glance at the Apple Watch, as well as being able to track speed and elapsed time while jogging, and having easily accessible data on calorie burn, heart rate and accumulated exercise time. On the other hand (or rather, wrist) I love looking at the dial and steady rotation of second hand on each mechanical watch in my small collection. I own mostly non-household name brand watches, such as Sinn, Nomos, and Christopher Ward. I could not face parting with the cash required to purchase watches from the big Swiss brands. I do own a Longines, because I could not resist its Panda dial and cushion case, and I was given a Zenith, complete with cutaway window for observing the movement, as a gift when leaving a previous company. I decided several years back that I would rather spend my money on cameras and lenses than watches. Cameras, especially Leicas, can be beautiful examples of mechanical engineering too, and much more functional and productive than watches. $4,500 spent on a Q2 rather than a Breitling opens up a world of enjoyment that in my view cannot be matched by owning a watch. Cheers, Keith

    • Thanks, Keith. I’ve sometimes considered wearing one on each wrist but thought I might look ridiculous. But perhaps it makes sense…

      I always listen after a Sinn but never got round to buying one. I did, however, own a Zenith Chronomaster El Primero and it was wonderful. I wish I’d kept it. Still, for all its tricks, it can’t beat a Q2 for practicality.

      • Hi Mike, I wear one on each wrist. My apple watch on my left wrist and my nice mechanical watch on my right wrist. Women wear all kinds of jewelry so why not me? I used to be concerned about what people thought of me but now I just enjoy being the authentic unique me. The hyphen on my gravestone is getting toward the end so I want to finish strong and happy.

        • Hi There Brian
          How nice to find something we agree on. I do exactly the same thing – except I wear the apple watch on my right wrist.
          My nice mechanical watch (usually a silver ochs und junior moonphase) is on my left wrist – much nicer to tell the time with, but not as good at checking your exercise!
          all the best

          • Hi Jono, I much prefer my mechanical timepiece as it is gorgeous to look at and will not need to be upgraded. I own the apple watch as i need to monitor my health as I have a few issues going on. You will probably think I am crazy but I have a Leica m 90/1.5 coming later today – I could not wait for Christmas. I gave up waiting for your expert review. Still patiently waiting for your M11 monochrom review.

  5. Only rich soccer players use them these days. I’ve heard they all have a sack full of gold Rolex. I think Apple Watch put you in contact with the beyond, even so I never had one. No way for me to use a wrist watch, only when I go to dentistry, or if I have an appointment with Elon Musk (perhaps all Twitter’s close accounts)

  6. Hmmm – Just looked at the A. Lange & Söhne Pour le Mérite Tourbillon illustration. Pleased to see I’m not the only watch enthusiast wearing a shirt with a frayed cuff – it’s a WIS’ occupational hazard you know! (Well that’s my excuse!)

    • A frayed left cuff is common, isn’t it? I made the mistake of buying an Apple Watch strap, forget the name, but it had lots of tiny links. Over a few months it ruined the cuffs of most of my favourite Thomas Pink shirts. I had to swap straps and get the cuffs repaired. Hazard of the game…

  7. I thought about buying an Apple watch but I realized..
    1) Honestly, the only function I really need is to know the time, which my mechanical watch does already without constant charging.
    2) It can monitor my health, but to stay healthy I have to do physical things anyway like exercise and watch my diet, which I already do.
    3) It doesn’t make tea 🙂
    4) Wearing one doesn’t make you look as cool as you think. No, it really doesn’t. Stop fooling yourself!
    5) It will have a short shelf life before it is terminated by new software and a company that considers vintage to be about five years.

    • I accept the short spell of life and that doesn’t worry me. Its the same as the comparison between a digital Leica and a film Leica. I change my iPhone every two years and wouldn’t expect an Apple Watch to keep me satisfied for much longer. I’m currently on Gen 5 and will upgrade next year. They do have a good resale value and, of course, the initial cost is trivial compared with a typical Swiss watch.

    • Hi Stephen
      I felt like that about the Apple watch (exercise, diet etc.) until my doctor pointed out how many lives it had saved of people with unrecognised heart problems (which the watch picked up) – So my wife and I both wear them for that reason.

      • Hi Jono, I purchased my apple watch because it could detect if I fell down. I fell down a number of times as I had severe balance issues after a traumatic brain injury from being rear ended by a distracted driver 4 and a half years ago. I have fallen quite a few times since. One time, I fell off a five foot height backwards and received another concussion and had to go to emergency. More recently my apple watch told me I had afib. I got tests and have severe afib and one other heart issue was diagnosed. Starting a month ago, I am now undergoing treatment for multiple heart issues that I would not know about if it were not for my apple watch. I initially thought I did not want a relatively disposable apple watch instead of my lovely timepiece, but got it because of the balance issue. However, it may have saved my curmudgeon life so I wear my apple watch on my left hand as I check it for my exercise goal. My lovely mechanical timepiece is on my right arm to enjoy.

        • Hi Brian
          I’m sorry to hear about the accident and the heart problems. But pleased to hear another story where Apple has actually saved a life!

          I had to turn off the ‘fall over’ warning as splitting logs makes it go completely bonkers (as you might imagine!). All the heart stuff is absolutely switched on though.

  8. Nice article Mike
    So many people are polarised by this problem, but I reckon that God clearly gave us two wrists so that we can wear a mechanical watch on our left wrist (much nicer to tell the time with) and and Apple watch on our right.

    As for looking ridiculous, I already look ridiculous so I don’t give a damn!
    all the best
    Jono

    • I am thinking of a new Apple Watch, although I am still satisfied with my Series 5 — the first with the always-on display. I looked at the Ultra and couldn’t make up my mind. I believe it will not fit any of my current straps, so that’s a problem. On the principle of “if in doubt, do nowt”, I’ve put off the decision day. Would be interested in your opinion of the Ultra visa-vis-the traditional steel model.

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