Hot-Take: The New Leica ZM 11 — Photographic Principles Applied To Horology
It has been just over five years since the announcement of Leica’s watch debut with the L1 and L2 in 2018. And though you might know the brand primarily for its high-end cameras and lenses, that’s not all that it has put its expertise in mechanical manufacturing into. To call it “dabbling in horology” would be a serious understatement. It seems that, in true German fashion, when the Wetzlar-based brand does something, it does it well. Now, long after the impressive debut, it’s time for something new in the form of the Leica ZM 11 collection.
These new watches from Leica take a more pared-back approach. Still, as you might expect, they have a trick or two up their sleeve. These include a clever bit of engineering in a new-to-brand quick-swap system for the strap and bracelet and a new concept for the dial (more on that later). Compared to the L1 and L2, the ZM 11 is a truly different beast. It’s futuristic yet versatile, niche yet with an undeniably broader appeal.
The new Leica ZM 11
The new ZM 11 is available in three flavors. The first is a brushed 316L steel variant with a midnight-blue dial. In addition, Leica has introduced two bead-blasted Grade 5 titanium models. The first has a “very Leica” black and red layered dial (with black lume), while the second has a warm coffee-black dial (featuring pink-gold-tone hands and indexes). The red and black launch edition model will be limited to 250 pieces. Pictured in the press images, we see only the butterfly-clasp steel bracelet, but a titanium version is also available. The titanium versions are pictured on either a vulcanized rubber or fabric strap with a pin buckle. Both of the ZM 11 models come in a 41 × 13mm case with a screw-down crown and a 100m water resistance rating. Inside is, the Chronode-engineered automatic Leica Calibre LA-3001. This is Leica’s first automatic movement. It’s rated to -4/+6 seconds per day (measured in five positions) and features a 60-hour power reserve.
As I already mentioned, the key difference with these new watches is that, as opposed to the rather complicated L1 and L2, these are time-and-date models. Also, instead of opting for standard lugs, the ZM 11 watches are the brand’s first to follow the popular integrated bracelet design. But that’s not all that’s new from Leica. We also see a new approach to creating a dial. In a rather poetic, photography-philosophy-inspired manner, Leica describes the dial as “the canvas, where light and shadow create depth.” This depth is achieved with a multi-layered shutter-like dial with different colors and finishes. Much like a photographer composing the perfect frame, you’ll have to look at the dial from different angles to appreciate it fully. You’ll do so through the double-domed sapphire crystal, which features hardened AR coating on both sides.
The finishing of this new movement certainly has the same uniquely industrial appeal that we saw in the L1 and L2 models’ hand-winding caliber. This is also reflected in the watches’ diamond-cut hands, uniquely blending sandblasted and deeply brushed finishes. I’ll reserve all thoughts on wearability and real-life quality for an upcoming hands-on review. For now, the new Leica ZM 11 represents an exciting new chapter in the brand’s watchmaking endeavors. The new case design and LA-3001 movement certainly pave the way for future models. And though it’s still odd to think that a brand with such a long history in creating a very specific series of products is now making watches, the care, thoughtfulness, and craftsmanship put into them are evident. However, they also do not come cheap. Prices for the ZM 11 start at €6,800 for the steel model on either the rubber or textile strap and range up to €8,150 for the full-titanium version on the bracelet. They will be available at Leica stores worldwide starting at the end of November.
What do you think of these new watches from Leica? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.