Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Short Guide: The Original Max Bill Junghans Watch Design from 1962

By Max Bill Fan

Recently I bought myself a watch from the current Max Bill wristwatch edition, manufactured by the German watch company Junghans. The advantages and disadvantages of these watches are discussed elsewhere, and this is not a promotional Junghans blog, although I am very happy with my purchase.

I wanted to buy a model from this collection which came as close to Max Bill's original designs as possible. Prior to my purchase, I therefore undertook some research. In this post, and this is also the purpose of this little blog I have created, I would like to summarize the results of my research. The bits and pieces of information can be found at various places of the internet, but I thought it would be a good idea to pull them all together and present them here.

I do not claim to be the ultimate authority on this subject. It is possible that the information that I will present here is not complete, or that the information is not entirely accurate. However, the results are in my opinion pretty straightforward. Still, anyone who is seriously interested in this subject should do his/her own research as well.

This short guide could also be helpful for those people who plan to purchase a used Max Bill vintage Junghans watch. Unfortunately, ebay and similar websites are filled with many "Junghans Max Bill vintage watches" which often do not deserve this title, as they have different designs. Junghans sold many other watches in the past which were probably "inspired" by Max Bill, but which are clearly very different to the originals.

I would also like to add that I am a big fan of Max Bill, who died in 1994 and who was a Swiss artist, painter, sculptor, designer, architect, teacher, author, as well as politician, and who was educated at the Bauhaus at the beginning of his career. Max Bill left a huge body of work. For anyone who is interested to know much more about Max Bill, his life and his work, I would like to recommend the excellent 2008 documentary film "Max Bill - The Master's Vision."

Especially interesting for readers from the USA: Max Bill's connections with the U.S.

Scenes from Max Bill's life (click on pictures to enlarge the images):

 Max Bill at the age of 17 in Paris, where his first works have been exhibited 
at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs 1925

 Max Bill's student card of the bauhaus 1927-1928

 Max Bill installing the first »kontinuität« sculpture, 1947

 Max Bill, end of the 1940s

 Max Bill with the model of the Swiss pavilion in Venice 1951

Inge Scholl (left), sole survivor of the murdered brothers and sisters Scholl, Walter Gropius, founder and headmaster of the Bauhaus Dessau, 
and Max Bill at the inauguration of the Design College Ulm 1955

These older photographs of Max Bill are appropriate for our subject matter, because Max Bill's designs for the Junghans wristwatches date from 1962.

Several pieces of documentation do exist with which we can establish the look of the original 1962 designs by Max Bill (click on pictures to enlarge the images).

The watch company Junghans themselves presented the following old excerpt from a 1960s catalogue, when they were being asked about Max Bill's original designs from 1962:

Junghans catalogue 1962 with watches designed by Max Bill

In addition, here is an excerpt from a German watch magazine from 2002, explaining some of Max Bill's original designs from 1962 (automatic and hand wind watches):

"Klassik Uhren" 2002 Magazine, original Max Bill Junghans watches explained

Another document, in which the original Max Bill design is being presented (source unknown, apparently from a book about design):

On the internet, quite a number of photographs of original Max Bill watches from the 1960s can be found.


Max Bill Junghans vintage automatic watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans vintage watches, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans vintage watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans vintage watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans vintage watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans vintage watch, original design 1962

Finally, a series of photographs which were taken by a watchmaker who serviced an old Max Bill Junghans Automatic, with the original Junghans J83E movement:

Max Bill Junghans watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans watch, original design 1962

Max Bill Junghans watch, original design 1962

As we can see, the original Max Bill watches had the following words printed on the face: "Junghans", "Junghans design", "Junghans Automatic" or "Junghans Meister."

Three different basic Max Bill designs for the face can be distinguished, as can clearly be seen from the catalogue, which were then offered with small variations, especially regarding the colour.

It is also apparent that Max Bill's original designs did not include a date window, and the Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope watches of the current collection were not directly designed by Max Bill, but are an interpretation or continuation of his work. This does not change the fact that all watches which are based on Max Bill's original designs are very beautiful.

After having done my research, here is the watch from the current Junghans Max Bill collection which I finally purchased (automatic, 38mm, Swiss ETA 2824-2 movement):

I hope that you enjoyed this overview about the original Max Bill designs for Junghans from 1962!


 Max Bill, "Kontinuität" ("Continuity"), Frankfurt am Main, Germany


Other industrial designs by Max Bill

"Patria" typwriter, his very first industrial design from 1944:

Junghans wall clock, Max Bill's design from 1957, this example bought in 1959 or 1960:

Junghans kitchen clock, 1957:

Photo showing a few original Junghans clocks which were designed by Max Bill (from a Max Bill exhibition) - kitchen clocks, wall clock, table clock: