Junghans uses the expression ‘impeccable lucidity’ to describe the stark effectiveness of the new Junghans Max Bill Black and White models. And, as you obviously know from your studies of the Algerian/French existentialist Albert Camus, he presented what was considered an ‘impeccable lucidity’ for the absurd.
Where Camus believed that to understand the absurd is to understand that the fit between our conception of the world and the world itself is fraught with uncertainty, by contrast, the work of Max Bill is characterized by a lucid clarity and distinct design. Precise proportions are the order of the day, with everything in perfectly-considered minimalist order.
The initial inspiration for the design of these watches was adapted directly from an Exacta kitchen clock originally designed by Max Bill — including the numerals and font — in the mid-’50s. It was one of the earliest examples of Bill’s designs to be produced and is still considered a classic work of postwar ‘good design’ in everyday objects. Nothing about this new series of watches is superfluous or fanciful, and, in accordance with the rules of Bauhaus, nothing overwhelms the primary function of the product — which in this case is, of course, to tell the time.
At one point, Junghans was the largest clock manufacturer in the world, with over 3,000 employees. And in 1972 they were the official timekeeper at the Olympic Games in Munich — the first, and so far only, time for the brand. These new models, clad in gunmetal color casing, are made of stainless steel and matte anthracite PVD, and focus entirely on the contrast and aesthetics of a stark and simple black-and-white layout. The black of the case, the hands, and the luminescent numerals stand out in sharp contrast to the pure white of the dial, and it’s this that ensures optimum legibility at all times.
You can bet some will argue that the date window at 3 o’clock is unnecessary and unbecoming, but there’s enough clean white real estate on the dial for it not to appear cluttered. The black and white series comes in a choice of four versions: three automatic and one quartz.
Max Bill Automatics
This three-hander with date is available in two sizes, 38mm and, unusually, a 34mm variant known as the Max Bill Kleine Automatic – ‘Kleine’ meaning small in German. They run on the J800.1 self-winding movement with a power reserve of up to 42 hours, and the ETA equivalent is the ever-reliable 2824-2. These two automatics are priced at US$1,195 for the 38mm and US$1,095 for the 34mm.
Max Bill Chronoscope
The 40mm chronograph is powered by a J880.2 self-winding movement with a power reserve of up to 48 hours. It’s based on the trusty ETA/Valjoux 7750 movement and features hours, minutes, and small seconds with the date complication at 3 o’clock. It’s the movement Junghans turns to every time they produce an automatic chronograph. The chronograph will sell for US$2,095.
Max Bill Black & White Quartz
The fourth and final watch in the series is a 38mm variant looking identical to the automatics, only powered by a Swiss quartz movement. The price for the quartz version is US$625.