It goes without saying that all watches are designed by a person or a group of people. The Junghans Max Bill was designed by whom some would consider one of the most influential industrial and graphic designers in modern history, Max Bill. Junghans was a long-term client of Max Bill and the brand’s modern timepieces still echo his design influence.
Built with Bauhaus style in mind, the Max Bill carries timeless proportions, a beautiful typeface, and a minimalist design that transcends trendiness. There is a lot of hype surrounding the Junghans Max Bill and on paper that hype is rightfully granted. But does the Max Bill put form over function, or does it strike a balance that makes it a truly great dress watch? Let’s find out.
On the Wrist
The Junghans Max Bill is a watch I heard a lot about before trying one on. Coming in multiple dial layouts and color options, the Max Bill attempts to cater to almost any taste. Its overall dimensions of 38mm wide, 40mm lug-to-lug and 10mm thick also make it appealing to contemporary watch buyers looking for a small, slim dress watch. When I finally strapped the Max Bill on my wrist, it all made sense.
Almost having a bubble shape, the Max Bill’s lines are elegant and pristine. The caseback curve slightly mirrors that of the crystal. The watch finds its home as it nestles into the natural shape of your wrist. It is as unobtrusive as a watch can get while being worn. Given that it is only 10mm tall with a relatively short lug-to-lug distance of 40mm, the Max Bill isn’t loud on the wrist but doesn’t completely disappear.
The Max Bill is almost all dial. The lack of a bezel and the shape of the crystal give the illusion that the watch’s dial is part of your wrist rather than just being worn on top of it. The simplicity of the dial makes it easy to read. The only challenge I faced trying to read the watch was indoors under fluorescent lights. The crystal distorted the light in such an extreme way that it made the dial difficult to read. I did not experience this problem in softer lighting indoors or direct sunlight outdoors.
As my own personal watch tastes have evolved, I have been placing more credence in the overall comfort of a watch. Versatility and looks are important, but they don’t matter as much if you don’t enjoy how the watch feels on your wrist. The Max Bill is a prime example of a watch that looks good, can fit into a variety of situations, and maintains its comfort on the wrist. I often forgot the watch was there but was glad to see it whenever I checked the time. There is a certain magic the Max Bill brings to wearing a watch, it feels as though it is from a time long gone.
On the surface, there isn’t a lot to discuss about the dial of the Max Bill. Arabic numerals with minute hash-marks and narrow hands make up the face of the dial. However, there is more to the Max Bill than those simple elements and that is part of the design.
The dial is anthracite gray, which can appear a light gray to almost black depending on the lighting conditions. It’s a beautiful shade of gray that aids the versatility of the watch. Junghans and Automatic are printed in white at 12 o’clock.
A nice touch are the slightly curved minute and seconds hand. They each curve down slightly toward the end to match the curve of the crystal and dial. While this was probably done for them to fit properly in the case, it adds a small point of visual interest to the dial.
The markings are a mix of metallic and matte gold printing. The hash marks are metallic and depending on how the light reflects off the crystal, they can appear either gold or bright silver. The numerals are matte. The numerals are what many would consider to be the Bauhaus typeface. The typeface has its own unique flair that tends to dip its toes into the retro category but still looks modern, part of the beauty of Bauhaus design.
There is no denying the dial of the Max Bill is beautifully crafted as one would expect from someone whose profession was design. The spacing of the dial, simplicity of the hands, and font choice all lend themselves to a watch that is a joy to look at.
Case & Strap
Unfortunately, there is an elephant in the room when it comes to the Junghans Max Bill, and that is the crystal. Junghans opted to fit the Max Bill with an acrylic crystal, a fine choice given the overall design and nature of the watch. However, the acrylic is coated with sapphire to aid in scratch resistance. The rub when it comes to sapphire coating is that it is not the same as a sapphire crystal. It can be scratched more easily than a 100% sapphire crystal and cannot be polished like a standard acrylic crystal. This leaves the wearer with all their scratches and no way to get them out. It’s a shame there isn’t an option for an acrylic crystal with no coating.
As I mentioned before, the Max Bill has a short lug-to-lug distance and the shape of the lugs complements that dimension. The short, angular lugs get slightly thicker as they extend outward from the case; this is visible from the side of the watch. They fit perfectly with the overall design of the watch.
The 20mm leather strap that is included with the Max Bill is soft and pliable out of the box. One thing to note about the strap is that the color matches the color of the numerals perfectly. It’s a nice touch that isn’t evident on first glance.
The caseback is simple and polished, displaying that the watch was designed by Max Bill. There is a slight dome to the caseback before it flattens out in the middle, giving it a slight convex shape which aids in comfort.
While not necessarily a cult classic, the Max Bill is a watch that most in the larger watch community will recognize and respect. It is beautifully designed and wears even better than you would expect. The Max Bill has remained largely unchanged since its introduction in 1961 and for good reason. Good design just works. There’s only one other watch I can think of off the top of my head that has had a run of unchanged style like that and it’s been to the moon.
It’s rare that you get to wear a piece of art, especially at this price point. The Max Bill certainly isn’t a watch that you would want to wear to any occasion but it’s one that would fit in at any occasion. Its elegance and timeless design are things you are not going to find in many other watches.
|Lug-to-lug Height||40mm||Lug Width||20mm|
|Crystal||Acrylic Crystal with Coating||Strap||Leather Strap|
More Images of the Junghans Max Bill
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