Bauhaus watches seem to be everywhere nowadays. But few brands have as legitimate a connection to this popular design philosophy as German Junghans with their Max Bill collection. Now, the brand has recently announced two new Junghans Max Bill Edition 2017 watches that feature a whimsical and colorful piece of Max Bill artwork on the case back. As an added bonus, the models will be available in a limited edition package featuring a table clock.
There is a lot to unpack here, but I wanted to touch on the relationship between Max Bill and Junghans, as well as shed some light on who Bill was and why he’s still involved with the brand. Beginning as a student at the Bauhaus art school in Germany, there isn’t a lot that the Swiss artist wasn’t – sculptor, painter, graphic designer, architect… Notably, he later co-founded the Ulm School of Design and designed some of the main buildings there himself. Max Bill (we can’t bring ourselves to write “max bill”) got involved with Junghans in 1956 when he designed the first designer wall clock for the brand (which is actually really cool and can still be found for sale on their website, though with modern upgrades to the movement), and naturally, in 1961, he borrowed those elements to design his first wristwatches for Junghans. That spiraled into table clocks, dial designs, and artwork in addition to the traditional wristwatches. Easily recognized by the minimalist – or “purist,” as Junghans likes to call it – Bauhaus designs, Junghans and Max Bill have always seemed like a perfect fit – to me, anyway. The Max Bill Chronoscope was the entry to my interest in the collection, and the Junghans Max Bill Edition 2017 is a solid addition.
The watch will be available in two different dial designs: the traditional Bauhaus lined index dial and the Arabic hour markers around the inner indices on the dial. While the Chronoscope made good use of the numbers around the inner indices, I think the lined index dial fits the watch and its style much more clearly. Both versions have the same specs with the stainless steel case measuring in at 38mm, making this a reasonably small watch. Both watches use a J645.33 quartz movement with a small date window at 3 o’clock. Both watches are “splash resistant,” which likely means 30m or less, and both feature a domed hard acrylic crystal – a nod to watches in 1961. On the topside, this feels like a very sober and conservative watch, but when you flip the piece over, the artistic nature is apparent.
From the front, the stainless steel case and minimalist dial are accented by a black leather strap – I’m not saying it’s boring, but it is definitely classic or traditional. When flipped over (a la Alice in Wonderland), the bright colors and artistic designs are front and center. The black strap is reversed to a bright blue or green, and center-case back is a unique piece of Max Bill art. The piece is called Variation 1 and is from Max Bill’s grafische reihen, or “graphic series,” and features a colorful play of shapes. Starting with an octagon, each side is the mathematical length of the one-less-sided shape inside of it (I know, confusing to explain in text). Created in his early years, Max Bill claimed this piece’s sole purpose was to “delight with its existence.” Sure, you can probably say that about a lot of art – and it is a little pretentious-sounding – but as someone who appreciates whimsical artwork, it’s hard not to feel joy about the geometric shapes in bright colors and how they contrast with the solemn and monotone design of the front.
Junghans has created another appropriate timepiece for the Max Bill collection that adds a little bit of fun to an otherwise traditional design. While no Mr. Jones Fantastic Exploits in the extent of its whimsy, it is both tasteful and charming, and I think the inclusion of the option for the collectors set and table clock is going to make it particularly appealing for nerds like me who enjoy the tick, tick, tick while sitting at my desk.
The Junghans Max Bill Edition 2017 watch will be priced at $545, and the collectors set, limited to 222 pieces, doubles the price at $1,089. junghans.de