It seems as though the accessibly priced watches that best exemplify great value all come from one place; Germany. Whether affordable in-house movements, specialized metals, super-tough cases, high water resistance or clean design is what you seek chances are you can find a great, if not the best, example comes from Germany. One German brand that has been around for a long time, though hasn’t been adequately covered in these pages is Junghans.
With a history that goes back over 150 years, Junghans is no stranger to the watch world. Founded in 1861 by Erhard Junghans, some of their achievements include being the 3rd largest producer of chronometers in the mid 50’s, the iconic Max Bill series and the first radio-controlled watch. Their current line up includes a few lines of both modern and classically styled watches. Their Meister line is of particular note as the styling pays tribute to their watches from the early 20th century, yet have a modern dress appeal as well. Though the line consists of several models with similar vocabularies, domed dials and curved hands, we’re going to just look at three that demonstrate the range.
The Meister hand-wind is an exercise in simplicity. Powered by the J815.1 movement, which is an ETA Peseux 7001 base, the watch features central hour and minutes as well as a sub seconds above 6. The spacious dial is broken up by thin grey lines and applied polished markers for a look that is incredibly restrained and speaks to the Bauhaus influence of their Max Bill watches. Perhaps my favorite detail is the concave sub seconds dial, which serves as a focal point on the face of the watch. At 37.7mm, it is fairly small by today’s standards though dress appropriate, yet its all-dial design likely makes it wear large (we’ve not had the pleasure to try it on).
Building on that foundation, the new Meister Kalender adds a complete calendar function to the design. Inside is a modified ETA 2824-2 with a Dubois Depraz 9310 module, which they’ve redubbed the J800.3. Though the watch adds day, date, month and moon phase to the ultra clean Meister design, they’ve managed to implement everything very smartly as to not be overwhelming. At 6 is a sub dial with a date index that is indicated with a small hand. Through an aperture within this sub dial, the moon phase disk is visible. At 10 and 2 are deeply chamfered, but relatively small, windows for the day and month. Everything is clear, balanced and legible. The Meister Kalender is a touch larger at 40.4mm, and likely thicker due to the automatic movement. $2,581 – $2,841
No collection is complete without a good chronograph and the Meister Chronoscope does the job. Powered by the J880.1, which is a renamed Valjoux 7750, the Meister Chronoscope utilizes three concave sub dials for the minute and hour totalizers as well as the active seconds. The added indexes and dials do make the watch much more busy than others in the line, but the vocabulary of markers and overall aesthetic take to it well. As a dress chronograph with a conservative yet stylized design, this is quite a nice piece (check out these great pictures to see the depth of the dial). That said, the Max Bill Chronoscope at nearly the same price is a genuine classic. $2,063 – $2,322
While the prices of the Junghan Meisters are high, though half as high as they could be, the quality of the design speaks for itself. Subtle, restrained and modest yet unique and classic, these are watches that could be your “go to” for formal and business occasions. There is one caveat, and that is that they all feature acrylic crystals with Sicralan coatings. This might upset many people who expect sapphire on anything above a couple hundred dollars, but I happen to think it’s stylistically the right choice and that acrylic is under rated. Though a topic for another article, acrylic adds a certain sheen and a touch of distortion that when used on the right watch adds a ton of character. Often, I find it preferable aesthetically to a domed sapphire. That said it carries the stigma of being less expensive.