Keeping an eye on the time: new releases in the watch world
Eterna has been around for almost 160 years, which places it firmly among the elder statesmen of Swiss watchmaking. It offers a range of watches, some with in-house movements and others, like this handsome new military-style Adventic, with automatic calibres from the specialist movement supplier Sellita. The Adventic comes with a 41mm stainless-steel case finished in black PVD.
What does the watch you see here have in common with a BMW 1500 from the early 1960s? They are both German, yes, but the connection goes deeper than that. The 1500 was part of the Neue Klasse of BMW, described by the design guru Stephen Bayley as “Bauhaus on wheels”, a car that established a “design language that was to last for 40 years”.
That spare, angular BMW – and the many others that echoed its sharp, Hofmeister-kinked lines – followed on from the functional design made popular by the Bauhaus school, which was established in Weimar when Germany was newly democratised in 1919, and ran until the country was rudely de-democratised in 1933.
One of the most notable alumni of the Bauhaus was the Swiss architect and designer Max Bill, who after the Second World War went on to run the influential Ulm School of Design. That school picked up where the Bauhaus had left off, making a science out of design and deepening the working relationship between designers and industry.
In the 1950s, Bill began a collaboration with the German clock and watch firm Junghans. A kitchen clock, complete with separate mechanical timer, was followed by a series of wristwatches. Although radical at the time, they were sketched out with such graphic purity that they still look fresh off
the easel today.
The clarity of design is a good antidote to the modern tendency among some watchmakers – and car manufacturers for that matter – to try to do too much. ‘Less is more’ is the most famous dictum to hail from the Bauhaus, and it is one that is still understood by Junghans.
The newly released watches in the Max Bill by Junghans range include the Chronoscope, with a self-winding movement, available with a grey dial and on a leather strap (£1550) or with black dial on a bracelet (£1590)
Arguments about who did what first with whom are as rife among watchmakers as they are among schoolboys. And one of the biggest disagreements, never to be fully settled, is over who made the first automatically winding chronograph. The contenders – with waters forever muddied by conflicting dates of announcement and production – are Zenith, Heuer and Seiko. They all made one in the same year that Buzz Aldrin made the mistake of letting Neil Armstrong sit closest to the door.
The one fact that nobody disputes is about the movement that had the most enduring appeal. Zenith’s El Primero has been fitted to countless different watches over the years, and has been continually refined ever since 1969. The latest watch to carry the celebrated movement is the Zenith El Primero Sport, a new 45mm sports watch with tachymetric scale that is water resistant to 200 metres. A new take on an old favourite that looks sure to keep the El Primero legend alive, even if the arguments will rage on.