Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Review

Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope Review

Today we’re looking at one of the most iconic classic watches of all time. It’s the Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope by the German watchmaker.
Junghans is one of the biggest watchmakers in Germany and Max Bill is their flagship series. Probably the most well-known models from their range are the Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope and the Junghans Max bill automatic.
While smartwatches are all the rage these days, classical watches still haven’t lost their appeal for many. Specifically for the reason that most smartwatches still fail in the looks department. One notable exception being the Nokia Steel, that we reviewed just recently. In this Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope review we’ll look if it’s good for you.

Currently the Max Bill prices range from $550 to $1890 depending on the model, look and functionalities.

Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope
Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope

History

Junghans was already founded in 1861 by Erhard Junghans. They choose a site in the Lachterbachtal valley as the ideal location for their factory where their ineffective oil mill still stands.

However, the company still had ways to go before it made their first complete watch. That’s because the components they were producing at the time were for the Black Forest clocks, which included hands, bronze signs, wooden cases, wire hooks, glass doors, hinges and pendulums.

They started producing clocks first and moved to wristwatches in 1927. The model name “Max Bill” is an homage to a renowned swiss Bauhaus designer Max Bill. In the beginning of 1950-s he designed several watches for Junghans, that were not only remarkable by their looks but also the precision of the movement. Max Bill also worked on wall clocks, most iconic and well known of them is on exhibit in MoMa.

For over 150 years now, Junghans has been one of history’s most esteemed watchmaking brands that is globally renowned for its creative and pioneering innovations as well as long-standing tradition. It is fair to say that the name Junghans is interchangeable with quality, precision, reliability and passion.

It is by pertaining to the ideology of blending pioneering ideas and precision that has allowed Junghans to always push the envelope for introducing new products with state-of-the-art designs and functions. This is how they are constantly able to surprise and sustain their audience’s interest for many years up to this day and age.

Max Bill

Max Bill

Max Bill (22 December 1908 – 9 December 1994), was a Swiss-born artist, painter, architect, industrial designer, typeface designer, graphic designer, but was more renowned for designing watches.

Between 1924-1927, Bill trained as a silversmith at the Zurich “Kunstgewerbeschule”. However, after being influenced by architect Le Corbusier’s work, he began studying architecture at Germany’s most profound school of design, Bauhaus. In fact, he also studied under Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, Paul Klee and others where he eventually developed skills for stage design, painting and metal work from 1927 to 1929.

In 1930, Bill moved to Zurich where he opened his own studio and focused on painting, sculpture and architecture, where he would also earn his living by designing advertisements. Then in 1937, he formed a group called the Allianz, comprising of Swiss abstract artists. He later became increasingly active in industrial design in 1944, where he would create a wide range of diverse products such as chairs and wall sprockets. His use of austere geometric forms reflected his Bauhaus training.

Bill co-founded and was head of the Ulm School of Design, Germany between 1951-1956. He not only designed the structure of the school, but also planned its curriculum and was even director of the department of product design and architecture.

Bill was the single greatest driving factor of the Swiss graphic design that started off in the 50s due to his progressive work and theoretical writing. As an industrial designer, his work would be attributed by precise proportions and clarity of design. It is here where he started designing elegant clocks and watches for Junghans. One of Bill’s most well-known product designs was the 1954 “Ulmer Hocker”, which is a stool that could also be used as a speaker’s desk, shelf element, a side table or a tablet.

Later, between 1967 to 1974, he served as a professor of environmental design at the State Institute of Fine Arts, Hamburg. In 1987, he became the recipient of the Frank J. Malina Leonardo Award for lifetime achievement. The award was presented by Leonardo/The International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology to those who had “achieved a synthesis of contemporary art, science and technology.” Then in 1993, he received the the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for sculpture.

Chronograph vs Chronogram vs Chronometer

This terminology has always confused me, so my guess is that you’re confused as well. Dictionary tells us that a “chronograph” is an instrument for recording time with great accuracy. A “chronometer” is an instrument for accurately measuring time.

Sounds like the same thing, right? Turns out that not quite. A chronograph is a watch that has a built-in stopwatch feature. But a “chronometer” has passed intense precision tests over a 15-day period and has obtained an official rate certificate from the COSC, which is the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute. These tests measure the movement of the watch towards a set of accuracy. In order to receive this certification, the watch must remain within +6 and -4 seconds per day. In layman’s terms this means that a chronometer is a very accurate watch.

This watch however is a Chronoscope. After some digging around this reveals to be just an alternative name for chronogram. My first reaction was to suspect that then the Max Bill isn’t very accurate. Fortunately this turned out not to be the case. In our own unscientific test it only diverged +3 seconds in 24 hours. Other sources confirm this level of accuracy.

To sum it up, you’re getting an accurate watch plus a stopwatch. That’s enough terminology for now.

Design

The Bauhaus Movement was all about radically simplified designs with a specific focus on functionality. The main aim was to have functionality while also moving away from modernism, ornamentation and that function must never be separate from form.

Max Bill was tutored by the great minds of the Bauhaus school in Dessau like Kandinsky, Schlemmer and other well-known artists at the time. Bill would later become one of the most influential Swiss graphic designers of his generation. His work spoke volumes on austere mixed with functional design, which were then applied to watches and clocks of Junghans in the 50s.

But even though he was a long-time designer for Junghans, Bill himself never designed the Max Bill Chronoscope series. Instead, these watches were an inspirational extension of the man’s iconic three handed watches. And indeed, much of the design held true to the designer’s original intent, including the distinct rendering of the Arabic numeral ‘four.’

Max Bill wasn’t just a professor of design, he was also a very influential individual for design in general and the Chronoscope serves as direct proof as to how powerful his influence really was. As a designer myself, I get a captivating sensation as to how this timepiece perfectly harmonizes the elements of art and design.

In terms of design, it brilliantly channels Bill’s minimalist and simplistic approach, which is reflected very well with its flying-saucer case and its dial-centric watch face.

The buttons are sharp and their rounded plunger design excellent reflect the era they came from. Everything looks clean and polished and it blends well with the matte textured dial.

On the inside, the Valjoux 7750 movement uses every millimetre of available space, which allows the Max Bill Chronoscope to fit very well. It can also go right under a shirt cuff without trouble, even with its big domed plexi crystal protruding from the top. And with this case-to-movement ratio, you can also feel the “rotor wobble” that the Valjoux 7750 is known for.

The caseback is closed with a decorated Max Bill signature, but the polished finish is not susceptible to scratches or etching, so you better be prepared for that. Perhaps if the designers went for a brushed finish on the flat part of the backside, it could certainly help conceal the tiny scratches that come from putting your watch on the bedside table at night.

One of the Max Bill Chronoscope’s most interesting features is that it is very lume, which is quite faithful to the original 1961 design and gives feels great when it lights up.

The dial is quite the sight as well. In broad daylight, the dial appears white, but in shady areas, the tone turns more greyish. This means that the dial, much like a chameleon, tries to match its colors with the surroundings, which is a real nice touch.

The Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope is one of the brand’s most renowned models that excellently showcases the architectural and mechanical prowess of the legendary eponymous painter, sculptor and inventor. The watch is a testament of Bill’s unmatched attributes of clarity and precision in design that makes it a viable entry in the Max Bill watch collection.

The Max Bill Chronoscope’s sleek stainless steel case measures at about 40mm in width and 14.4mm in height. Within the steel case lies the self winding mechanical J800.2 movement. The face of the watch is neatly polished black dial set that consists of a minute track and luminous hands masked by a convex hard Plexiglass with scratch-resistant Sicralan coating. Completing the look is a Milanese style mesh bracelet or an unpadded classic leather strap.

As we said in the history chapter the design is heavily influenced on the Bauhaus movement. The lines are very clean and elegant and the quality is just excellent. It has a round 40mm stainless steel housing with polished stainless steel base, curved hard plexi-glass crystal dome – which makes the watch extremely shock resistant – and it is held by a leather bracelet. Furthermore, the clockwork of this timelessly beautiful watch functions completely automatic.

The plexi-glass dome is definitely the standout feature of this watch. A nice touch are the luminous hour and minute hand that come in handy in nighttime.

And no, you don’t have to worry, they aren’t using radium. Seems that a lot of people are worried about this, although the last luminous watch hands to use radium were produced around 50 years ago.

Max Bill Automatic

The “smaller brother” of the Chronoscope is the Automatic.

At the heart of it, the Automatic follows the same design principles of Max Bill from more than half a century ago. The clear dial comes with one’s personal choosing of svelte Arabic numerals or long stick markers, plenty of negative space and a tiny touch of hume.

There have been updates to the color scheme, with soft semimatte gold-coloured case with PVD treatment and and a subtle grey-colored dial that emanates high chic value and low contrast. PVD gold cases are a magnificent way to add some gold-toned flair to a watch, but the results comes off a bit brash and shiny. Fortunately, Junghans doesn’t do brash, so the soft, matte finished coating is a perfect compliment to the shiny gold, which also goes well with the very light gray dial and a gray strap.

Thanks to all of these magnificent design features, the Max Bill Automatic watch became the recipient of the 2018 Red Dot Award. Over 6,300 products by various manufacturers were submitted for this category and examined by an international jury of experts. As a result, this Junghans Max Bill model will have the honor to be displayed in the Red Dot Design Museum, which is the largest museum for contemporary design.

As an admirer of elegant designer watches, especially those from the Max Bill lineup, I believe this model deserves to be included in the collection. Having a date window is certainly more user-friendly and the chic gold and grey color-scheme is a symbol of regality for formal dressers everywhere.

Competition

Nokia Steel
Nokia Steel

There are a number of interesting competitors to the Junghans Max Bill Chronoscope. Mainly the choice comes down to price. If you’re looking something stylistically similar then you have several good and cheap alternatives.
For alternative smartwatches our pick is the Nokia Steel that we just recently reviewed and really like. At just over $100 it’s also really affordable right now. However if smartwatches are not your cup of tea, we suggest turning to Daniel Wellington. You can even get them for under $90 right now. There’s a sacrifice in quality and polish, but overall it’s a decent watch with a reliable quartz movement.

That said, if the Max Bill Chronoscope doesn’t break your budget then this is the obvious way to go. Such a classic quality watch, that has stood the test of time exceptionally well. If anything it’ll only go up in value. To see it’s current price in Amazon click here.

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Also be sure to check back here soon for our Junghans Max Bill Automatic review!