Generally speaking, when I hear the term “bauhaus” used in conversation the speaker is employing the term to describe their newest Ikea purchase or as a synonym for minimalist and sleek design. Bauhaus is actually a German school of design which was founded in the 20’s and has seen its values and aesthetics woven into modern architecture, furniture, art, fonts and even clocks and watches. Bauhaus is Germany’s interpretation of the international style and promotes unity between the artist and the craftsman in an attempt to improve the aesthetic qualities of manufactured goods. Being comprised of many artists and designers and having a huge effect on typography, graphic art, and architecture, Bauhaus can be hard to define along any one passion or effect.
The Swiss designer Max Bill was trained in the Bauhaus tradition during the late 20’s in Dessau, Germany. Max Bill would go on to lead a long and creative life with many different design outlets including architecture, typography, graphics, sculpture, and timepieces. In the early fifties, Bill founded the Ulm School of Design in Germany and expanded on his Bauhaus roots while teaching in design theory.
The 1950s also saw Max Bill and his students working to design clocks for the German manufacturer Junghans. Unsurprisingly, these clocks are functional, clean and exceedingly legible, very Bauhaus. Bill’s design saw use in Junghans wrist watches by the early 60’s is still employed today in both a line of clocks and a range of watches including both three handers and chronographs. Sharing similar design roots as the Nomos brand, it’s easy to see fundamental similarities in their design including sparse and functional dial details, thin hands and highly legible typeface.
The model that best exemplifies the style and simplicity of the Max Bill design is the 027/3500.00 (above right). This 38mm white-dialed watch features a minimal stainless steel case with short lugs and an extremely thin bezel. The crystal is acrylic plexiglass and the watch is powered by the automatic Junghans J800.1 (ETA 2824-2). Junghans line of modern Max Bill watches are fairly authentic reinterpretations of the 60’s era models, there is even a 34 mm option (above left). Our preference would be in the 38mm model with the date feature (027/4700.00, seen right) which can be found online for as little as $870 USD. We like the white dial version as it should suit many different strap colors and should make for a very flexible daily wearer providing you don’t wear a wetsuit or a tux to work. The acrylic crystal will likely attract a lot of scratches but can be re-polished and should instill a vintage feel to the Max Bill auto, even when brand new.
The Max Bill designs should find a great home on your wrist if you’re a fan of Bauhaus design but find the Nomos models, and their lovely in-house movements, a bit too pricy. With models starting just under $650 USD the enduring Max Bill aesthetic is available to nearly any buyer. While we understand the use of any acrylic crystal from a design and authenticity perspective, we don’t know how well they will hold up to the average daily grind.