After the famous Max Bill kitchen clock, which since the end of the 1950s has adorned the modern German kitchen like no other, a range of wrist watches from the Swiss Bauhaus designer was introduced on the market by Junghans. While initially widely unnoticed, this collection is regarded as the ultimate design classic with its three earlier designs in stainless steel and gold-plated finish. A classic collection that still has many misconceptions in circulating it.
Actually, there are a multitude of Bauhaus designs that existed long before the Max Bill era at Junghans, which are based more on Bauhaus style simplicity. German watches also have long used this type of design minimalism. A prominent Swiss-manufactured example is the Movado “Museum Watch”, developed by George Horwitt in 1947. It received its epithet because it was often exhibited in museums e.g. the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in a very short space of time. Generally, many old watches from the pre Max Bill era would today qualify as Bauhaus, simply because watch designs generally were cleaner and more reduced than today.
In fact, the Chronoscope is the only model in the collection that was designed after the death of its artist. The chronograph is no the only complication that found initial use in the second coming of the Junghans Max Bill, as the date display wasn’t originally a part of the watch either.
Max Bill wasn’t particularly fond of new german buzzwords. Therefore, the fact that the English word Design has become the most iconic dial signature on Max Bill watches bears a certain element of irony. Additional signatures to be found are Junghans, Junghans Automatic, and Junghans Meister. Unlike with the other signatures listed here, Junghans Design examples can undoubtedly attributed to Max Bill as no Junghans pieces that were not designed by the Swiss artist bear that insignia.
Due to their rarity, Vintage examples of the Max Bill collection are being sold at increasingly high prices on the used market. Nevertheless, there aren’t any discrepancies in the quality compared to the models from the most recent collection. As far as the watch case goes, the new models have a higher quality than the original because 316L stainless steel, a high grade and robust metal alloy, is used. In terms of the watches movements, there isn’t a whole lot of difference in terms of quality. Actually, it’s the total opposite. The ETA calibre has been largely produced untouched spanning a timeframe of decades and belongs to the most dependable movements out on the market.
There are different viewpoints concerning the actual duration of production. It’s often assumed, that Max Bill designed wristwatches for Junghans dating back to 1957. At the very least, it’s a sure bet that he first designed the grandfather and kitchen clocks. However, it can’t be ignored that in the early phases of his labours, he didn’t collaborate on some of the wrist watch designs. Junghans itself has only confirmed those mentioned previously in this article. According to most other sources, only 1962 is noted as the year when this wrist watch collection was first introduced. Often noted as 1961, as watch movements were incorporated that were already in circulation in 1961. Notwithstanding, at the time many movements were in-stock and were encased months or even years later and any indication that points to 1961 still remains unfounded.
Nowadays, he is often connected with watch designs on behalf of Junghans. At the same time, he devised watches for Omega and Movado. However, both models first went into production years later. The rainbow coloured Omega Max Bill is especially coveted by collectors and goes for market prices in the middle to high four figure Sterling range.
Many Junghans models, most notably those with the famous Bauhaus number four, are generally attributed to him. However, this signature design feature was used even before the Max Bill collection existed and is also found on models that were produced at the same time as the Max Bill collections during the early 1960s.
Luminous points aren’t necessarily a prerequisite to determine the validity of a Max Bill watch. Some of the original models with faceted index lines from the 1960s don’t have luminescent lines and also models from the first generation of reissued Max Bill models from 1997.
When an older watch has green luminous material, compared to the yellowish and older radium and tritium ones, it’s often assumed that these have been replaced at some point. Therefore, they would not be considered original. However, one thing has to be kept in mind: German manufacturers actually used phosphoric luminous materials that turned a green tint the more they aged. This was also true for Max Bill watches so that their lume spots are often greenly patinized. If one wants to check the authenticity of an older watches luminous spots, it’s recommended to test its illuminating power in the dark. If they glow a strong green, then the lume was certainly replaced, as original ones would have since burnt out.