I’ve an early M3 parked at home. Alas, it’s not a BMW E30 – although I’d love one of those – but an equally covetable 1959 Leica M3, which I shamefully have not taken out its leather case for over five years. Apart from the fact that this magnificent piece of photographic equipment is in need of a good service, I succumbed to the ease and instant gratification of the cellphone camera. History on repeat it would appear as this was a gift to me in my first year of architecture studies from my late grandfather who, then aged 66, had decided that his M3 was “too old fashioned”, opting instead for the latest digital SLR.
Although the last M3 was assembled in 1966, to most professional photographers, the M3 camera is still considered to be the World’s finest 35mm.
Leica is synonymous with exceptional build quality and technical prowess, premium lenses and optical devices so it came as a bit of a surprise at first when I read about the launch of their M3-inspired L1 and L2 automatic timepieces. But when you consider the speed and precision at which their camera’s mechanical bits capture images, watchmaking is not such an anomaly.
This is not the first time the company has dabbled in watchmaking: they partnered with Valbray in 2014 to celebrate the camera’s 100th anniversary with a limited edition chronograph featuring Valbray’s signature aperture-inspired dial. However, the brushed stainless steel 41mm time-and-date L1 and GMT-function L2 are the first they’ve developed alone and there is indication that more will be joining the collection later this year.
This is perfect timing for Leica to tap into the new generation of watch collectors and the burgeoning scene of young photographers who appreciate old-style equipment and the magic of the darkroom. Hopefully, with this will be a shift away from the omnipresent selfie to something more observant but less self-absorbed.