You could buy a Leica camera (or two) for the price of these new Leica watches
Teased back in 2008, the Leica L1 and L2 watches are now available for a cool $10,000 and $14,000, respectively.
After a four-year delay, Leica has finally launched the L1 and L2 watches. There’s obviously a certain overlap between high-end mechanical timepieces and cameras, but it’s still an interesting step for the brand.
Here’s all you need to know.
Wait, Leica is making watches?
Yep. The marketing website calls the collection “the perfect combination of more than 150 years of Leica’s brand culture, visionary design, and unmatched quality.” Leica first announced them in 2018 but it’s taken a while for them to launch.
And, to be honest, it does feel like a somewhat natural product extension. Both Leica cameras and expensive watches are valued for their engineering and sold to the same (often wealthy) crowd. Also, the watches—designed by Professor Achim Heine who has worked on Leica products in the past—take some genuine design cues from the company’s products and history.
The Leica L1 and L2
The Leica L1 and L2 are very similar watches, with the only difference being the L2 has a GMT complication (which means it can display a second time-zone on the same dial).
Both watches are mechanically wound with a 60-hour power reserve, a small seconds dial, and a date window. They have a case diameter of 41mm, which is on the larger side for this style of watch, but the lugs (where the strap attaches) are short so it should be very wearable for most people.
The most unique selling point is that the watches feature a patented push crown with Leica’s red dot on it. While most watches have a crown that pulls out, Leica’s, inspired by a shutter button, is pressed instead. This disengages the movement, changes a “mode dial” to red on the watch, sets the small seconds hand to zero, and enables you to change the time by rotating the crown. Pressing it again reengages the movement. (As a watch fan, this actually sounds incredibly satisfying.)
There are some other Leica camera-inspired details too: The sapphire crystal is domed like the front of a lens, the power reserve indicator closes like shutter blades, and the knurling, double-layered anti-reflective coatings, and general design are all clear nods to Leica’s history.
Are they any good?
Leica has gone in hard on its two watches. This isn’t just slapping a red dot on a nice case with a commercially available mechanical movement inside.
The watches were designed from the ground up in collaboration with Lehmann Präzision GmbH, a precision engineering firm in the Black Forest region. So they can truly be claimed as “Made in Germany,” and a proper representation of the Leica brand.
And while this certainly makes the Leica L1 and L2 interesting and unique, it does come with a couple of caveats.
First up, the watches are expensive: $10,000 for the L1 and $14,000 for the L2, according to Leica Rumors. There is clearly a huge R&D bill that needs to be recouped across a limited number of timepieces.
Second, while Leica’s camera pedigree is second to none, its horological pedigree is nonexistent. It’s clearly put a lot of resources into this watch, but it remains to be seen how good it is, and how committed the company remains to the whole project. For that price, you could buy most models from Rolex, Omega, Grand Seiko, and a lot of other classic watch brands.
Finally, mechanical watches can last decades if properly serviced. But a big part of that is access to parts. Unless Leica is committed to providing spare parts for its custom movements for the next 50 years, services will be expensive or impossible.
How to buy a Leica watch
The Leica L1 and L2 are available now from eight Leica stores around the world:
- Leica Store Shanghai Xintiandi in China
- Leica Store Raffles Hotel Arcade in Singapore
- Leica Store Tokio Ginza in Tokyo
- Leica Store Los Angeles in the USA
- Ernst Leitz Werkstätten Store Wetzlar in Germany
- Leica Store Wien in Austria
- Leica Store Moskau GUM in Russia
- Leica Store Dubai Mall in the United Arab Emirates
According to Leica, the RRP is €9,500 for the L1 and €13,500 for the L2, but things will obviously be priced in equivalent local currency, $10,000 and $14,000 in the USA, for example.
(Though, for what it’s worth, I’d probably buy a German-made watch from Nomos Glashütte and with the savings, buy a Leica camera.)