German watches are gaining traction. This isn’t all that surprising, considering the fact that Germany boasts numerous manufacturers producing high-caliber watches. Whether you lean more toward pilot’s watches or diver’s watches, elegant watches or tool watches, there’s a lot on offer. But there is one specific style that is more or less home territory for German manufactures, and that’s Bauhaus. In general, the term is used to refer to minimalist watches. However, if we consider the roots of the Bauhaus movement, that doesn’t quite cover it. Bauhaus is not limited to aesthetics, it’s a philosophy that teaches us that beauty is a balancing act between aesthetics and functionality, or in other words, that form follows function. Walter Gropius, the German-American architect who founded the Bauhaus, hoped that the movement would pave the way for a minimalist future.
Although it’s fair to say that the watch industry is driven by the pursuit of greater and better things, these pared-down timepieces are still winning more and more fans. This phenomenon surely boils down to how easy they are to wear: Minimalist watches can be styled with any outfit, are easy to read, and generally fuss-free. But it’s also the philosophy behind them, watches for the sake of watches, so to speak, that draws in the crowds. These artful creations are quite different from what we watch enthusiasts usually look for, yet they underscore the true essence of a watch: showing the time as precisely and clearly as possible. In the watch cosmos, Bauhaus timepieces symbolize a minimalist stance, a world reduced to the essentials, and thus create order. This is exactly what we long for, at least to some extent – and not just when it comes to what we wear on our wrist. If you’re considering adding such a timepiece to your collection, there are plenty of beautiful Bauhaus watches from German brands to look at. Let’s dive right in!
- Junghans: Bauhaus Pioneers
- NOMOS Glashütte: The Personification of the Bauhaus Style
- Meistersinger: The Brand for Minimalists
- Stowa: Bauhaus and Modernism
Junghans: Bauhaus Pioneers
Many brands add the word “Bauhaus” to the description of their watches, but a rare few have actually collaborated with learned Bauhaus architects. One of them is Junghans, a German watch manufacturer founded in 1861, who counted Max Bill as one of their designers. Bill was a Swiss architect who studied at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany, and was thus well versed in this stylistic direction. He designed clocks and watches for Junghans that portray the symbiosis of high standards, minimalism, and high-quality materials. A wall clock from this collaboration still hangs in the MoMA in New York to this day.
The Junghans Max Bill resonated with fans when it was first released in 1961 and again when it was reissued in 2010. Its minimalist design and narrow hands are telltale signs of the Bauhaus influence. The dial is also stunning in its simplicity: The font was specially designed for the timepiece, and it features either small numbers or none at all, depending on the model. Thin hour markers and tiny luminescent dots at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock are other hallmarks of the watch. Nothing about the design is superfluous or distracts from the main function – displaying the time. This timepiece always makes for an elegant accessory, regardless of the occasion.
NOMOS Glashütte: The Personification of the Bauhaus Style
The NOMOS Tangente is characterized by linear, clean design cues. From a historical perspective, the depth of the relationship between this high-end German watch brand and the Bauhaus style is difficult to define. However, looking at the Tangente, there’s no doubt that they subscribe to the same philosophy. The model’s retro flair and stripped-back aesthetic is cherished by many watch enthusiasts. All in all, it’s a versatile timepiece and an ideal candidate for a one-watch collection.
NOMOS is an extremely enticing brand for collectors and watch enthusiasts, as the company strikes its own path to stand out from the monotony of the masses. Not only is NOMOS an owner-run, independent business, they also develop their calibers and technologies in-house. Their most famous development is the NOMOS swing system, an escapement perfected by the company’s own watchmakers, with all components, such as the balance, hairspring, pallet, and escape wheel, being built in-house. Ultimately, NOMOS delivers more than just Bauhaus-style watches: very few watch manufacturers reach this level of independence and offer such an intricate level of craftsmanship and artistry.
Meistersinger: The Brand for Minimalists
Although Meistersinger has only been around for the last 20 years or so, the brand is firmly rooted in the watch market. Their watches only have a single hand, and have thus revolutionized the industry. Some praised the concept for its elegance and minimalism, while others looked a little deeper, and saw it as a means to appreciate time itself. Without a second or minute hand, it’s much easier to focus on the present moment, and not be overwhelmed by time passing uncontrollably. A respite for many in such a busy world.
Meistersinger have no documented relationship to the Bauhaus, but they are often mentioned in the same sentence. Of course, the streamlined configuration of their creations is the most obvious evidence of their correlation, but there is a second, more philosophical argument that ties the brand into the Bauhaus tradition. Meistersinger watches only tell the time to the nearest 5-minute interval, and isn’t that exactly what’s required of a wristwatch in this day and age? Personally, if I need to know the exact time, I’ll look at my smartphone. The watch on my wrist, however, gives me an idea of what time it is, which helps me better appreciate the time at my disposal. The watches from Meistersinger echo back to the age of sundials, and make the perception of time as simple as it sometimes should be.
Stowa: Bauhaus and Modernism
Stowa’s history in high-end watch making stretches back to 1927. The company’s founder, Walter Storz, used the first three letters of his last name and the first two of his first to name the brand. During World War II, Stowa started producing the pilot’s and military watches that went on to earn the brand its international renown. However, their product range also included watches influenced by the Bauhaus style from very early on. In fact, the first models date back as far as 1937, making Stowa one of the trailblazers in Bauhaus watches.
In 2004, the brand relaunched their Antea collection, the design of which leans heavily on the original watches. The reissue was sensational: enthusiasts loved the traditional version with a silver dial just as much as the black and rose gold variants. The collection is also home to manual and automatic calibers, and different dial configurations with either central or small seconds – all of which were met with great favor. On the heels of this success, Stowa made a bold move by redesigning the Antea. The updated collection, Antea Back to Bauhaus, stays true to the original aesthetics of its muse, but pares back the layout even further: The minutes are marked with dots instead of lines, and dials in black, white, blue, green, pink, and light brown were added to the lineup. Both collections embrace the essence of the Bauhaus style and perfectly balance the relationship between form and function.
More Brands With Bauhaus Watches
If you’re into the Bauhaus aesthetic, there are countless brands to discover, including many affordable options. After all, one of the principles of the Bauhaus philosophy is accessibility, which also implies affordable prices.
If you’re looking for something a little different, I’d recommend Iron Annie. This brand is named after the famous Junkers JU52 transport aircraft produced from the 1930s though 50s. Watches from their Bauhaus collection are highly regarded by aficionados; the brand and its timepieces are jam-packed with history, and that’s felt on the wrist. Alternatively, you can check out Laco‘s Classics line; all models are made in Germany. Or you can dive even deeper into the market and learn about the many other brands offering beautiful and artistic timepieces. Believe you me, the search for the perfect Bauhaus-style “Made in Germany” watch is an exciting one!