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Design Icons: The Rolex Submariner vs. the Junghans Max Bill

Jorg Weppelink
Oct 23, 2018
Image: Bert Buijsrogge


In this series, we’ll be discussing watches that have made an impact on the watch industry and have become style icons. Today, we’ll be looking at the Rolex Submariner and the Junghans Max Bill. While the Submariner is the most famous luxury sports watch ever and set the standard for sports watch design, the Max Bill is a statement piece inspired by the Bauhaus movement that came to define classic functionality and design simplicity.


Rolex Submariner


Let’s start off with, arguably, the most popular luxury watch out there: the Rolex Submariner. Ever since its introduction in 1954, the Submariner has been dictating what it means to be a modern sports watches. Over time, the Rolex Submariner has turned into a true classic that is as at home in casual settings as it is at formal occasions. The Rolex Submariner is, quite simply, a statement of luxury.

As is the case for many of the classic watches, it all started with a practical question. In the early 1950s, Rolex director and amateur diver Rene P. Jeanneret challenged the company to develop a diving watch that could also serve an elegant, everyday timepiece. The company returned with their answer in 1953. The Rolex Submariner is characterized by its combination of precious materials, contemporary design, and functional features for divers.

The round stainless steel case and iconic Oyster bracelet mean the Submariner is comfortable on the wrist. A black dial and bezel contrast beautifully with the watch’s brighter elements. It’s further defined by its luminous bezel insert and distinct indices on the dial: There is a triangle at 12, hash marks at 3, 6 and 9, and large dots for the other hours. A pair of Mercedes hands rounds off the design. The amazing thing is that, alone, these elements aren’t particularly revolutionary. However, together they create the most iconic sports watch of all time.

A big part of the Submariner’s enduring success is Rolex’s dedication to the original design over the course of 65 years. Every generation has always been instantly recognizable as a Rolex Submariner. It is the archetypal sports watch, and it’s difficult to imagine sports watches looking any different. Nothing can compare to a design that has come to define an entire branch of an industry.


Junghans Max Bill


The Junghans Max Bill couldn’t be more different from the Submariner; however, it has its own remarkable story and outspoken design. Junghans is a world-famous clock and watch manufacturer. Its history stretches back to 1861 when it was founded as a clock component factory in the German town of Schramberg. Five years later, the company would decide to start producing their own clocks. In the late 1950s, Junghans teamed up with Swiss architect, artist, and typeface, industrial, and graphic designer Max Bill to design a range of clocks and wristwatches.

Max Bill was a student at the renowned Bauhaus—a German school of art and design—in Dessau from 1927 to 1929. He took what he learned there and went on to develop his own style. The Bauhaus movement focused on the use of clean lines, simple shapes, and different materials to create functional objects. It stood in stark contrast to the extravagant style of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements of the 1890s to the 1930s. The first Max Bill designs used by Junghans were for a number of highly recognizable clocks defined by their simple and technical approach to design. In the wake of this success, a range of wristwatches followed in 1961.

Bill’s wristwatches combined his views on design and his ability to create beautiful yet functional typography. Their minimalist appearance, simple geometry, and unique typeface were all typical of a Bauhaus design. The numbers on the dial are small and elegant. The hour markers are thin, and the luminous dots at 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock attract little attention. Slim hands complete the timepiece’s clean look. Despite its simplicity, this watch is still full of character and has gone on to become a fan favorite.

In 2010, Junghans decided to reintroduce a line of Junghans Max Bill watches, recognizing how relevant this classic watch still is today. Junghans kept as close to Bill’s original designs as possible. The result was a watch that looks and feels largely unchanged from its iconic predecessor.

The Rolex Submariner and the Junghans Max Bill are just two examples from a plethora of iconic watches. Both watches show just how diverse the world of watches truly is. Now it’s up to you to define your own style.


Read more:

The History of an Icon – The Rolex Submariner

From Le Corbusier to LeCoultre – Exploring the Links Between Modernist Furniture and Fine Watches

Five Watches a Watch Nerd Would Suggest


Jorg Weppelink
By Jorg Weppelink
Oct 23, 2018
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