Precision, May 2016

Keeping an eye on the time: new releases in the watch world by Richard Holt


The mental picture painted by Junghans is very evocative. It is the final decade of the 19th century in the Black Forest, deep in the south-west corner of Germany. Arthur Junghans, whose father Erhard had founded the clock company 30 years earlier, was hugely enthusiastic about the fact that heady technological advances meant the carriage was about to dispense with its horses. 

He had a social circle within the combustion chamber of this petrol-powered revolution; his friends included auto pioneers Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler. In 1892 Junghans bought one of the very first Daimler test cars, personally delivered to him by Maybach. Junghans often used to discuss innovations with his house guests, who also included fellow German luminaries Robert Bosch and Ferdinand von Zeppelin.

The Junghans company went on to develop clocks for cars, and in 1905 patented an early speedometer. Despite this early enthusiasm, Junghans did not go on to develop wristwatches with a strong motor sport association, as so many did. Junghans is perhaps best known for the clocks and watches it developed in partnership with the progressive Swiss designer Max Bill. 

Now, however, Junghans is owned by Dr Hans-Jochem Steim and his son Hannes, who share their predecessors’ passion for all things automotive. The Steims have a collection of more than 100 vintage cars, and they have drawn on some of their favourites for the design of a new watch, the hand-wound Meister Driver.

One car described as a “muse” for the new watch is the Maybach DS 8 Zeppelin, the eight-litre masterpiece from 1932, of which just 25 examples exist worldwide. The dial displays a combination of dark anthracite, cream and light grey – colours taken from the Maybach, but popular with a number of ’30s cars. The numbering pays tribute to speedometer design and the padded strap with contrasted stitching and perforated lining is a nod towards period sports car seats.

Attempting to pay tribute to past greats is not necessarily a recipe for success, and it all comes down to how the ingredients come together. But although many watch companies have tried to get a bit of traction by associating themselves with the car world, few have done so with such a handsome end result.

Richard Mille 

The founder of this eponymous watch firm is fully immersed in the world of motor sport. Richard Mille has an enviable personal collection of Formula 1 cars and recently announced partnerships with both McLaren-Honda and the new Haas F1 team, as well as a design and sponsorship partnership with Aston Martin. Mille has long expressed admiration for automotive technology, and takes a similar, highly technical approach to his watches, which he describes as “racing machines for the wrist”.

Bell & Ross 

For Bell & Ross, the inspiration is not cars but aeroplanes, with the signature square case and round dial being a horological take on a cockpit instrument. The French company has four stated principles to which it adheres with all its watches: legibility, functionality, precision and water resistance. The new BR03 Desert Type was designed to meet the specifications of air forces operating in hot countries, hence the sandy hue, like the uniforms of pilots on desert missions. It also has an anti-reflective coating on the crystal and is water-resistant to 100 metres. And it looks pretty cool, even if you don’t intend to take it anywhere near a desert.