Posted on November 15 2017
Founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 Bauhaus was an influential and revolutionary German art school.
Initially based in Weimar the school aimed to bring together the different disciplines of architecture, design and art to produce what they referred to as a 'total work of art'. The word Bauhaus means literally 'construction house', or 'School of building'.
The school's influences were varied. They included post-revolutionary Russian 'constructivism' and William Morris' idea of the marriage of artistic design and functionality.
Speaking of art Morris had said that it “should meet the needs of society and that there should be no distinction between form and function.” That's now a cliche often mentioned by watch brands, but it is still the basis for outstanding designs.
Teachers at the school included renowned artists Wassily Kandinski and Paul Klee.
Closed by the Nazi's in 1933, the Bauhaus influence has been immense.
Following the closure it's artists fled Germany, both before and during WW2.
Now when we think of a Bauhaus style we think of minimalism and very simple, functional designs. Most of all Bauhaus is regarded as uniquely German. Their expression of modernism – a departure from both classical and traditional designs.
However, modern Bauhaus styling is evident in our daily lives and in the design of many of our favourite products.
Steve Jobs, a Bauhaus fan, spoke of Apple's design ethos.
“What we’re going to do is make the products high-tech, and we’re going to package them cleanly so that you know they’re high-tech. We will fit them in a small package, and then we can make them beautiful and white, just like Braun does with its electronics.”
Watches are ideal for Bauhaus design.
A watch is a tool, with a mechanical base, that is often bought for its aesthetic qualities. Where the owner intuitively knows that both form and function are equally important. Like Apple's laptops, the design is as crucial as the performance.
Here I take you through ten of the best watches inspired by the Bauhaus school.
I've included German models that are true to the ideals of the Bauhaus movement. But there are also a couple that play with the Bauhaus style, adding their own modern twist.
Stowa Antea Klassik 390
The first Bauhaus watches appeared in the late 1930s.
German manufacturers Lange & Söhne and Stowa were among the first to release early designs. Stowa produced its first Antea watch in 1937.
The watch is a timeless design.
Today's Antea Classic, introduced in 2004, is a reissue of the original.
The watch comes in a range of sizes. The 35.5mm caters to vintage tastes and the 41mm is more in keeping with contemporary expectations.
It looks like a Bauhaus watch should. Plain, simple and with a touch of colour.
There is a beautiful contrast of a round case with angular lugs. The clean dial has a minimal amount of text and bold Arabic numerals. And there's a neat date window tucked away at 6 o'clock.
If you want an authentic German design, start here.
Stowa Antea Klassik 390
Nomos was founded in Glashutte, Saxony two months after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And the stunning Tangente is their most famous watch.
From the very beginning, the company began to produce Bauhaus inspired pieces. Each designed by Susanne Gunther. Since 2005 the range has been powered by their own in-house movements. A real achievement .
The Tangente and Tangomat models are most associated with the Bauhaus aesthetic.
They're both very similar to the earlier Stowa watches. Now viewed as a luxury brand, Nomos are more desirable to the average watch enthusiast. But that luxury label does come with a higher price.
The Tangente is the hand-winding version - using Nomo's Alpha Calibre.
It's a small watch. The case is just under 38mm. That may be too small for a dive watch, but it's fine for a dressy minimalist piece.
One of the main selling points is the movement. The Nomos uses the in-house Epsilon automatic movement. There are both white and black dialled versions - each with the Bauhaus aesthetic.
Like the Stowa it has a clean, legible dial and Arabic numerals. There's a sub-second dial on this model, adding a subtle complication.
Nomos aren't a particularly affordable brand. But they are German made and highly desirable.
Junghans Max Bill Automatic 027/3502
Swiss artist Max Bill is a notable name in Bauhaus watch design.
He was a student at the Bauhaus school during the mid-1920s. He then went on to produce work in different fields. He worked as an architect, artist, painter, typeface designer and graphic designer.
In the 1950s German watch manufacturer Junghans worked with Bill on Bauhaus inspired clock designs. By the beginning of the 1960s, he'd also began to design wristwatches.
The Max Bill range has been a mainstay of Junghans.
Indeed it's the series of watches that they're most famous for. Bill's design are less minimalist than the Stowa or Nomos but the appearance is no less impressive.
Where the previous watches have bold blue hands Junghans have opted for a more traditional stainless steel set. Again, the Max Bill range includes white and black dial options. There is also the Chronoscope - a chronograph model.
Like the Nomos, there are two mechanical options. Junghans also have some more affordable Quartz models.
As I'm fond of saying, it's often the small details that make a watch. An example is the engraved Max Bill signature on the case back.
You don't see it. But it's there. A nice touch and a sign of quality that isn't obvious.
Junghans are affordable and a great introduction to German manufacturers.
Junghans Max Bill Automatic 027/3502
Braun may not be your first choice for a watch.
Shaving? Maybe. Radio's? Possibly. It's where the company started.
They're not a big name in the watch world.
But Braun designer Dieter Rams has created iconic and influential designs. As noted earlier, they inspired Steve Jobs and others.
Although not known as a watch brand, I want to show you a Bauhaus inspired model.
The BN0021 is a very well designed and very affordable alternative to the bigger names in Bauhaus watch design.
It has a black dial with simple numerals and indices. This watch is certainly a minimalist piece.
But there is some colour. The yellow secondhand adds enough to catch the eye. It doesn't overwhelm the plain dial or compromise the Bauhaus aesthetic.
The case diameter at 38mm, but the strap width is 22mm. So the proportions are a little different to most watches. It also has hidden lugs rather than the angular lugs of the previous three watches.
It makes for a quirky piece. I like that the company famed for shavers comes at the Bauhaus style from a different angle.
It's an inexpensive and fun watch.
This watch is a little different.
It's a Bauhaus inspired watch from a Swiss brand known as aviation specialists. I like that. An independent family-owned Swiss company taking design cues from Germany.
There are two main selling points for this watch.
First, it has those two important words at the foot of the dial. Swiss-Made. Zeno is a Swiss brand. Watch fans value that and place a big importance on watches built by Swiss watchmakers.
It's also very affordable.
It doesn't have the in-house mechanical movement of the Nomos, but it's a fraction of the price. Instead, Zeno has released an entry-level quartz model. The 3767Q-i2 gives you the vintage chic at a much lower price point.
The watch has a Swiss quartz movement and a 40mm case. The styling is as expected, although the bold black hands are quite distinctive. The dial and hands are protected by a sapphire crystal, and like most of the watches on the list, there's no date window.
This is an inexpensive way to get the Bauhaus look. The Swiss-made label is a nice bonus.
Dufa Van Der Rohe
I want to present the best colourful Bauhaus model. It's by a modern company that has revived a defunct German brand.
The inspiration for this model is German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He was the final director of the Bauhaus school.
It’s a fun modern quartz chronograph. The appeal is the contrast of bold colours and a plain black background.
The Van Der Rohe is busy for a Bauhaus watch. There are three sub-dials, one of which cleverly incorporates the date window. I enjoy the irony that Van der Rohe was well-known for his aphorism 'less is more'.
In this case, the watch benefits from pushing Bauhaus styling to its limits. Because Bauhaus was more than simple minimalism.
This Dufa comes at the style from a different angle. Concentrating more on the lively, colourful aspects. I particularly like the use of red, blue and yellow on both the dial and the strap.
The yellow number one and the top two dials create ‘100’. This references the 100 years since the Bauhaus school was founded. It’s a lighthearted touch that helps make this watch a fun model.
Like most Dufa models, this watch is modestly sized. It’s only 10mm thick and has a diameter of 38mm. It is powered by a Japanese quartz movement.
If you want more colour and flamboyant confidence in a Bauhaus watch, take a closer look at the Van Der Rohe.
Dufa Van Der Rohe DF-9002-0D
Nordgreen Native 40mm
Danish brand Nordgreen featured on my list of best ethical watch companies. They're a carbon-neutral business that emphasises sustainability and responsible manufacturing.
But that's not the first thing you'll have noticed. It's all about the design.
Junghans Bauhaus watches are notable because Max Bill was their designer. For Nomos, graphic designer Susanne Günther was central to the creation of their minimalist watches.
Nordgreen has Jakob Wagner.
He's an award-winning Scandinavian designer, best known for his work with Bang and Olufsen. Minimalism is his speciality. Nordgreen watches marry his design ethos with the brand's ethical stance.
The result? A collection of ethical and affordable Bauhaus influenced watches. The two-handed Native, three-handed Philosopher and the Pioneer chronograph.
Oh, did I mention that each one can be customised?
The Native for example comes in a series of case sizes. From a tiny 28mm to a comfortable 40mm. There are four choices of case, with silver or gunmetal being my favourites.
They also offer vegan straps, sustainable packaging and a giving back program.
So what did I choose for the watch above?
I built a 40mm version of the Native in a plain stainless steel case. I opted for the white dial. I added an olive NATO strap and gave my minimalist watch a military vibe.
The final watch is recognisably Scandinavian. But the Bauhaus influence is clear. It's a slim, inexpensive quartz model, that I've made less formal with the canvas strap. Like the Dufa, it's a fun watch.
The guys at Nordgreen have offered my readers a 15% discount. It doesn't expire either. Use code 'CHRON'.
Nordgreen Native 40mm
Aristo Dessau 4H144Q
Most Aristo designs are clearly German. They have several aviation-style models. Each influenced by the classic German Flieger design.
Bauhaus watches are an obvious choice for the brand and fit seamlessly into their range.
Aristo is a company with history.
Founded in the early 1900s, they were there when Bauhaus was a new art movement. They're now owned by Vollmer - a German strap and bracelet manufacturer that has worked with Arito since 1927.
The Dessau is an affordable quartz watch in a 39mm case. That's a nice size. It's comfortable for today's tastes but still true to the original Bauhaus designs.
All the elements of a successful Bauhaus piece are here. The clean white dial, simple numerals and the discreet date window. The addition of a mesh bracelet works well and sets the Dessau apart from similar models.
Although it now sounds like a cliche, Aristo uses the old Bauhaus 3F principle. Form Follows Function.
There's also an automatic version of this watch. But this Swiss quartz model is the least expensive way to get an Aristo Bauhaus watch.
Aristo Dessau 4H144Q
This is another German-made watch.
And again, it's an inexpensive quartz model. An easy option for your first Bauhaus piece.
You may already be familiar with the brand. They have an unusual backstory, that includes one of my favourite watchmaking nations, Russia.
Ruhla was based in East-Germany before the Russian occupation. Following the split, it was absorbed into the Soviet Union's industrial machine. It was a difficult period for the brand.
The company built watches and clocks for the Soviet state. But didn't achieve the cult status of Vostok, Sturmanskie and Raketa.
Their production ranged from wristwatches to aviation clocks. Both built for domestic use and export. The fall of Communism resulted in the demise of the company.
The brand has since been revived.
The 91234M is an affordable and attractive Bauhaus design. The hands give this watch its a unique character. They're not the usual Bauhaus style and there is also a sub-second dial.
It adds enough flair to grab your attention.
Otherwise, it's a straight forward watch. 42mm wide and with a Swiss-quartz movement.
But remember, it's also German-made.
In 1925 The Bauhaus school moved to Dessau. The same city that housed the Junkers aircraft factories.
Hugo Junkers was an early Bauhaus supporter. But it was a two-way process. Junkers engineers helped Bauhaus artists and Junkers incorporated Bauhaus design into their cockpits.
The modern Junkers watch company has paid homage to Junkers aircraft and the Bauhaus school.
I’m a big fan of their Bauhaus watches. They’re simple but without the bland design of current minimalist watches. It was a little tricky to settle on one Junkers Bauhaus piece - but this was my first choice.
This watch has more going on than some other Bauhaus designs. It has a sub-dial for the second hand and gold accents. The dial is busier than most, with numerals for hours and minutes.
Those numbers, along with the logo and markers are all small and neat. With a thin depth of 9mm, the watch has a refined appearance. It’s slim, subtle and, to a degree, understated. For me, this is what I want out of a Bauhaus watch.
It also powered by a hand-winding mechanical movement. This retains some of the authenticity in a watch designed to have a vintage appeal.
Junkers Bauhaus 6030-5
German Bauhaus design has been hugely influential.
Your Apple iPhone or Braun shaver? They took inspiration from this Northern European minimalism.
It was inevitable that it would have also informed watch design.
And there have been some really successful Bauhaus watches. Particularly those designed by Bauhaus school students. Max Bill's Junghans watches are a great example.
More recently, brands have taken inspiration from the movement in general. Dufa, for example, is a brand built around all things Bauhaus. There are also watches that reference a particular designer.
My list includes something for everyone. Inexpensive quartz models and luxury German-made mechanical watches.
If the minimalist designs appeal to you, go for it. But remember, with Bauhaus you can still have colour and flair.
As ever, add your own thoughts below.