Life through a lens

The name Leica may be synonymous with important photography, but the brand’s new timepieces are putting its own iconic codes firmly in the picture. 

Founded in 1867 in Wetzlar, Germany, Leica is the granddaddy of cool photography. Beloved of Henri Cartier-Besson and Sebastiāo Salgado, Leica’s compact snappers were hip before hipster was a thing thanks to their practicality, portability and the downright beautiful images they produced. From Alberto Korda’s immortal 1960 portrait of Che Guevara and Alfred Eisenstaedt’s celebratory 1945 VJ Day Times Square kiss, to the haunting Vietnamese napalm attack image of 1972 by Nick Út, Leicas have been present at all manner of global events – and remain popular to this day.

With photography experiencing similar challenges to those posed by the quartz crisis to watchmaking in the 1970s, the advent of digital, and then smartphone photography, more or less put paid to film. But for those with a passion for Leica, their dedication never diminished. And in true forward-thinking style, Leica also rose to the digital challenge, with its high-tech cameras some of the best on the market. And in a ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ move, Leica even released its Leitz Phone 1 smartphone and the new Leitz Phone 2 in Japan at the end of last year, with supreme clarity and a great big lens ready to capture those shots in a way that’ll blow the others out of the water.

The company’s adaptability has now extended to a new market too – with the launch of its first watches, the L1 and L2, in early 2022, the company’s distinct colourways and lines made their debut in timepiece format. With a case resembling the classic Leica lens cap in a palette of silver, black and red, it was a camera made watch. Quickly following on from the popularity of those first watches, which gave off plenty of Leica’s signature quirk and individuality, the release of the new ZM 1 and ZM 2 – and the ZM 1 and ZM 2 Monochrom editions, recently launched in tandem with the M11 Monochrom camera – take that feel even further. 

Inspired by the principles of black and white photography – contrast and light – all colour and silver tones are removed except for the iconic Leica red dot, revelling in a minimalist design that’s pure cool for cats. A triumph of German engineering, the mechanical hand-wound movement, the same one carried by the original ZM 1 and ZM 2, is fully developed and produced in-house. The patented push-crown complication, which carries a pleasing shutter-like ‘click’, stops the movement instantly and resets the second hand to zero to enable simplified time-setting. The ZM 2 Monochrom has a further complication in its slick GMT with day/night indicator, making these two worthwhile additions to any mechanical watch fan’s repertoire – not to mention being another way for devotees of Leica’s mean machines to pledge their allegiance.

As with all things Leica, an element of rarity only adds to the allure. The watches are stocked in select stores worldwide, but lucky for Middle East-dwellers the timepieces arrived on our shores earlier this summer – at the Leica Store Dubai Mall in the UAE, and the Leica Store Doha in Qatar.

The charm of Leica is all too easy to understand – a masterclass in German craftsmanship and industrial design, the feel is classic but the technology, for 150 years, has been nothing short of innovative. In this step toward adding further timepieces to its modest collection, Leica has solidified its position as no mere hobby horologist, but with an intent toward continuing this journey in serious watchmaking. You couldn’t be blamed for ‘snapping’ one up.