New Releases Watches

Leica Finally Launch Their First Watches with the L1 and L2

Leica L1 and Leica L2

If you’ve ever dabbled with a camera, you’ll have heard of Leica. The German manufacturer has been getting the best out of photographers’ compositions for a good 150 years now, building a reputation as the camera of creatives, quirky, individual and invariably cool.

Throw in durable, over-engineered and good looking and  there’s a lot to love about a Leica camera – which the lens specialists is hoping to recapture in their new collection of timepieces. Collection meaning, in this case, two: the Leica L1 and L2.

Leica L2

Now, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen these watches in one form or another. The idea for the watches began in 2012 and in 2018 we saw the first prototypes doing the rounds. It’s taken another four years but they’re finally here. The question is, have they been worth the wait?

Both these watches are as close to a Leica camera as it is for a timepiece to get, in large part because they’re designed by Professor Achim Heine, a man that’s helped defined the brand’s aesthetics. On the surface level, the similarities are on the watches’ sleeve – the shape of the handset, the knurling on the crowns, the sapphire crystal that could double as a camera lens, it’s all relatively obvious.

Leica L2 case

Leica L2 case

But Leica went one step further. They tried to make it feel like a camera, too, by creating a patented push crown. Apparently, they wanted it to imitate the release button of a camera rather than the more typical pull-out crowns. Push it down and the watch stops, with the seconds resetting to 0, allowing you to accurately set the hands. Press it again and the movement starts again. I’ve yet to get hands-on with these pieces yet myself, but it sounds like a fun touch. The remaining pusher at 2 o’clock is an ever-useful quick-change date.

As I alluded too, there are two different versions of the watch, though the changes are incredibly subtle between them, with the main difference being that the L2 GMT adds a rotating 12-hour inner bezel, operable by an extra crown at 4 o’clock.

Leica L1
Leica L1 caseback

Leica L1

Otherwise, both offer solid 41mm steel cases with black dials, as pared-back and functional as you’d expect from Leica, with little touches of red on the small seconds and strap stitching. Aesthetically, it’s on point.

Of course, the L1 and L2 weren’t built in a vacuum. In order to keep things ‘Made in Germany’, Leica worked with Black Forest watchmaker Lehmann Präzision GmbH. That patented push crown? That’s thanks to Markus Lehmann and his team. It makes for an incredibly made and finished manual-wind movement with a solid 60-hour power reserve and (hopefully) a decent start to what could be a pretty interesting ongoing collection.

Leica L2
Leica L2 caseback

Leica L2

I would like to see a few more interesting riffs on the theme; you might not want to have too much fun with your camera, but you can afford to be a little less aesthetically serious with a watch. We did see a funky red-dialled take back in 2018, but it doesn’t seem to have survived the pandemic. But from an engineering and horological standpoint, Leica have nailed it.

The only negative in that case is whether you think a debut collection is worth the money: €9,500 (approx. £8,000) for the LEICA L1, and €13,500 (approx. £11,385) for the L2. Sure, they have a hefty price tag, but then so too do Leica cameras. Here’s hoping they’re just as worth it.

Price & Specs:

Model: Leica L1 and Leica L2
Case/Dial: 41mm diameter x 14.5mm height, stainless steel case, matte black dial
Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)
Movement: Calibre L1 (Leica L1), calibre L2 (Leica L2), automatic, 26 jewels
Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 60h
Functions: Hours, minutes, small second, date window, power reserve indicator (Leica L1)
Hours, minutes, small second, date window, power reserve indicator, second time zone GMT 12-hour bezel, day/night indicator (Leica L2)
Strap: Veal leather (Leica L1), alligator leather (Leica L2)
Price/availability: €9,500 (Leica L1), €13,500 (Leica L2)

More details at Leica.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.