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Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Review - German Bauhaus Watch

Posted on May 04 2022

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Watch Review

We all want to belong.

It's a basic human emotion. To be part of a community and to feel an attachment to a particular environment. This yearning for a sense of place is captured in music, art and literature.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Berlin, the German capital. It has over 400 art galleries and more than 100 museums. It's the centre of German innovation and creativity.

And as John F Kennedy said, wherever we live, we can all be citizens of Berlin.

The founders of Lilienthal Berlin wanted to capture that spirit. The aim was to show the world - through watch design - the authentic Berlin.

Their watches feel urban and modern, but with more than a nod to the German Bauhaus movement. It's been a successful combination, winning multiple design awards.

One of their watches really stood out to me. The Zeitgeist. It won German Watch of the Year in 2020 and attempts to express both the spirit of the times and a sense of place.

Let's take a closer look.

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Watch Review

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Automatik

  • 42.5mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Bead Blasted Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance
  • RRP - £468

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Automatik Watch Review


Lilienthal Berlin Automatik Watch Review

The Zeitgeist from Lilienthal Berlin is a German-made watch, powered by a Swiss automatic movement. That gives you two compelling reasons to take a closer look at this piece.

It boasts a Sellita movement matched with a case and dial proudly designed and built in Germany. Indeed, the brand is keen to clarify that second point. As they say - "designed in Berlin, made in Germany".

As I noted above, the brand was created to showcase the best of Berlin's artistic flair and to give more than a nod to the city's heritage.

In practice, that means that the Zeitgeist has an obvious Bauhaus aesthetic - the Bauhaus school being located in Berlin for a few years. It's a minimalist look that is elegant and refined. But as you'll see, there's a lot going on with the Zeitgeist that isn't obvious at first.

And it's those smaller details that make this watch a winner. Quite literally. The black version won the award for German Watch of the Year in 2020.

What were my first impressions of the Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist?

First was the quality.

This is a well-made watch with clean lines and understated matt surfaces. Swiss and German engineering has produced a watch with great workmanship and finishing.

And each element of the design is restrained. The watch has a subtlety that reflects the Bauhaus ethos of simplicity and effectiveness.

Take the colour for example. The only display of colour is the pastel blue second-hand. This becomes a nice feature and more noticeable due to its contrast with the simple grey and black palette of the dial.

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Watch Review

I probably shouldn't admit this, but the strap smells lovely.

It's a real plus for the Zeitgeist. And along with the curved lugs and recessed crown, it helps make this watch very comfortable to wear. I was concerned that the 42.5mm case may have been a touch too big. But on the wrist? It felt compact and unintrusive.

But remember, this watch wins because of the details, so let's take a closer look at those.

The Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Automatik Watch in Detail


I've noticed recently a penchant for excessive watch packaging. Admittedly, it's nice to feel that the watch you've bought has been presented in a manner that reflects its price.

But part of me also feels that it's unnecessary. With my own brand Northwind, I opted for a straightforward box and spartan leather wallet to carry the watch.

In keeping with the Bauhaus emphasis on minimalism, the packaging of the Zeitgeist could be described as utilitarian. It's simple, practical and does its job.

A white textured sleeve holds the black eco-friendly card box. Inside, other than the watch, there are a series of postcards featuring models, each wearing the watch. The card instructions and warranty card are compact and housed in a recess.

On a different watch, this may have felt a little underwhelming, but on a Bauhaus piece, it works surprisingly well.

At a glance, that simplicity carries over to the watch. But I do want to stress that you have to get hands-on with this piece to appreciate the less obvious elements.

Take the case. It is a beauty. The stainless steel has a fine bead-blasted finish that is both elegant and industrial. With a depth of 10mm and short curved lugs, it feels smaller than the 42.5mm diameter would suggest.

Both the plain bezel and the underside of the case curve inwards, giving the watch a flying saucer shape. Again, it negates the overall width a little.

Lilienthal Berlin Watch Review

But it's the dial that is my favourite part of the Zeitgeist. There really is more going on here than you'd expect of a minimalist watch.

For a start, it's a galvanised metal dial. It has a matt finish that compliments the case and the neat numerals and other text use a font that is the same as Berlin's street signs. Something I wouldn't have noticed without doing a little research.

Those outer numbers display the minutes rather than the hours. And this is where the dial really got me. There's an intricacy that confirms the attention to detail that has gone into the watch's design.

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Bauhaus Watch

The metal dial also has an inner circle. The hour hand follows that path exactly and the minute and seconds (matched in length) follow the outer minute track.

The inner circle is cut into four. The essential text and date window are housed at the quarter hours - like the numerals. At the top is the logo, at 45 and 15 the model name and at 30 a discreet date window.

Between the galvanised metal dial, the Berlin typography and the beautiful symmetry and text placement, the overall effect is stunning. It just isn't obvious until you look.

The two main hands are lumed, and of course, it's all protected by a sapphire crystal.

Turning the watch over, you'll notice two things - the crown and the exhibition back.

Had you noticed the crown on my first couple of photos?

Probably not.

Lilienthal Berlin Bauhaus Automatic Watch

You can see it now. It's recessed, and from the front, barely visible. From the side, it's clear and the styling is based on the Berlin World Clock at Alexanderplatz. Again, a subtle reference to the city that gave birth to the brand.

The case back is also impressive, with four screws creating a symmetrical break between the extensive engraved text.

And the movement?

The Swiss-made Sellita SW200 is a nice addition at this price-point. Lilienthal Berlin has opted for a contrasting black signed rotor.

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Watch Review

The German-made leather strap finishes the watch off well. It's of great quality and features the quick release feature that I rely on more these days. Aside from the beautiful smell, the other detail I missed at first glance was the stitching on the rear of the strap.

It's pale blue, matching the second hand.

I really like that. It's a detail that can't be seen when you're wearing the watch. Unnecessary if you wear your watch to impress others. But here - along with the natural tanning process - it's a small detail that adds to the watch's overall appeal.

Lilienthal Berlin German Made Watch Strap

And that sums up the Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist. It's an attractive watch that does the details well. And it's those small touches - the blue pastel hand, the Berlin typography, the matt finishing - that make this a real competitor to Bauhaus watches from Junkers and others.

Who are Lilienthal Berlin?


Lilienthal Berlin is a young watch company based in Berlin. Their watches are minimalist, urban and influenced by Bauhaus design.

Importantly, they produce quartz and mechanical models, both of which have won design awards.

The company is less than a decade old, having been founded in 2015 following a night out in Berlin's Tempelhofer Feld. The two founders - Jacques Colman and Michael Gilli - wanted to create a watch brand that reflected the urban and artistic elements of their city.

The result is a small company, with around 20 employees and 9 watch collections.

Taking their name from Berlin's early pioneer of flight, Otto Lilienthal, they built the brand on design cues that reference Germany's capital.

And it's not that the watches take inspiration from Berlin as a sales tool.

There's a real authenticity to Lilienthal Berlin. Their team includes talent recruited from the area and the brand has supported local charities. A quick look at their ambassadors reveals an eclectic mix of chefs, dancers, musicians and green architects.

That sums up the brand well. A mix of influences from typography taken from Berlin's street signs to design elements referencing Berlin's architecture.

Lilienthal Berlin Watch Review

At the core of the brand's ethos is a desire to produce its watches sustainably. In 2017 they were awarded the Green Product Award. The strap on the Zeitgeist is a great example of this. It is sustainable and environmentally friendly, having been made from natural German leather and tanned using plant extracts.

Lilienthal Berlin watches are primarily sold online and are available here.

Where are Lilienthal Berlin Watches Made?


Lilienthal Berlin watches are made in Germany. Those two words are displayed at the foot of the dial. They're keen to note that the watches are designed in Berlin.

Whilst the design of the watches is carried out in Berlin and other components are German-made, the movements are supplied by Swiss manufacturers like Ronda and Sellita.

Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist Automatik Review

Conclusion


The Lilienthal Berlin Zeitgeist is a bit of a dark horse. Some of its best features aren't evident until you're wearing the watch.

The bead-blasted case, the galvanised metal dial and the recessed crown are all attractive features that set this watch apart from other minimalist watches. But you need to see them in the flesh.

And of course, the movement is a crucial part of the package. It's a reliable Swiss-made Sellita calibre, with a signed rotor.

If the 42.5mm diameter seems quite large for a Bauhaus influenced piece, remember the elements I've mentioned that allow this watch to wear a little smaller.

Taken together, all these details make the Zeitgeist a real contender if you're after a high-quality mechanical Bauhaus watch. And if like JFK, you want to be a citizen of Berlin, this is an ideal first step to take.

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