Myth „Bauhaus-watches“

Klaus Botta, 01.09.2020

One point straight away: I am very delighted that since the Bauhaus anniversary year 2019 (the Bauhaus School of Architecture and Design was founded in Weimar in 1919), the terms Bauhaus and design have suddenly become more familiar (see also: blog article Product Design – 100 Years After Bauhaus). This is because architecture and the new discipline of product design have shaped our everyday life much more than most people are aware of. Especially the "German Design", which can be found in many modern industrial products up to Apple devices, has significantly influenced the global product culture.

The Bauhaus has played a very significant role in this remarkable development. With its design theory, it made a crucial contribution to a new design language of the then rapidly developing industrial mass production.

Watches that never existed

On the other hand, it strikes me that since then there seems to be a (new) reference to so-called "Bauhaus watches" in the watch industry everywhere.

But strictly speaking, as far as I know, there is not a single watch that was designed at the Bauhaus at that time. Neither a wristwatch nor a wall clock.

Even the often quoted Max Bill watch was not created during the limited creative period of the Bauhaus from 1919 to 1934, although Max Bill was a student at the Bauhaus from 1927 to 1928. However, he did develop the above-mentioned watch by Junghans only in 1956, initially as a kitchen watch, followed by the well-known wristwatch in 1961.

At least these two were from the pen of a real Bauhaus student.

Bauhaus watches in the literal sense do not exist. However, BOTTA watches are strongly influenced by the Bauhaus philosophy and transport it into present times

Pseudo Bauhaus as pseudo-value

The reference of many new watch labels seems much more artificial to me. While before 2019 they often spoke of "minimalist design", since then they like to call it "Bauhaus design".

I suspect that behind the cover of the alleged "reduction to the essentials" there is in reality the "simplicity of manufacture".

If one takes a closer look at these so-called "Bauhaus watches", one notices above all the minimized effort required to manufacture the components. Extremely simple and unimaginative cases are enhanced with euphemisms such as "minimalist design", "reduced to the essentials" or "clear form". The same often applies to the dials and hands, which repeat the same patterns. Low value and arbitrariness are often described here with terms such as "Affordable Luxury".

Obviously a reduced design in general and the name Bauhaus in particular is misused for marketing purposes to give simple mass products from low-wage countries the appearance of value.

Made in Germany is not available at bargain prices

From my own 35 years of development experience, I know how long it takes to develop a new concept to market readiness and how comparatively complex and expensive it is to produce sustainable quality products.

In my experience, a real in-house development "Made in Germany" is not realizable below 400€ sales price even with quartz drive.

BOTTA watches rely on the production location Germany and offer quality "Made in Germany“

The development process can be drastically shortened by saving on conception and development (plagiarism). The purchase of existing components and mass production without significant quality control and service allows production at incredibly low prices. Remember - we are not talking about fair prices or environmentally friendly production. Shortness of life and/or harmful ingredients are often accepted here. This is then the price that must be paid in reality for the "very low prices".

The terms "minimalist design" or "Bauhaus design" are then the marketing backdrops that are supposed to give such characterless and interchangeable products the nimbus of something special.

In addition, the term Bauhaus is also often used when the design concept of the respective label consists of conceptlessness. Or, as the renowned watch expert Gisbert Brunner aptly puts it: "If you can't think of anything else, people today like to add Bauhaus to it.

What is "Bauhaus design" really?

In fact, such "me-too Bauhaus watches" are in direct contrast to the actual Bauhaus philosophy. The design school around Walter Gropius was committed to "creating innovative, contemporary products for a new age". Copies of existing or even past products outlawed themselves.

The form and the colors used should always have a deeper meaning and never be an end in themselves. In general, the design maxims at that time were strongly influenced by functionalism (form follows function). Walter Gropius attached great importance to the fact that craftsmanship, art and function come together and lead to new types of products with the help of modern materials and technologies. Not short-lived consumption, but the human being was the focus of his considerations.

At Bauhaus as well as at BOTTA, man and nature are at the center of the design

Creating such products that are really new, logical and functionally useful is a real challenge and requires a high degree of creativity - especially if these products are to be contemporary and sustainable.

At this point at the latest, the chaff is separated from the wheat. Short product cycles, short-lived components that are difficult or impossible to maintain do not correspond at all to the ideals of Bauhaus.

Ergonomic design and ultramodern materials such as titanium are characteristics of BOTTA watches

Not to forget the technical life span and the design life span. Fashionably short-lived articles become unwearable after a relatively short period of time and thus become waste and ultimately an unnecessary burden on the environment. In contrast, durable, high-quality products with a fashion-independent design are a sensible contribution to the responsible use of the world's resources.

Originality and innovation are important core values of BOTTA watches

The ideals of the Bauhaus were and still are significant and relevant today. In order to design and develop successful, contemporary products, however, a certain amount of effort is required to translate the values developed at that time into the present day. This is far more difficult than simply adopting design features. Contemporary product design requires comprehensive creative and technical knowledge. However, this is ultimately the only way to create truly sustainable new and contemporary products.

Good design always involves visionary thinking, high ideational standards and moderate integration of the prevailing zeitgeist. This was the case a hundred years ago and still applies to the same extent today.

At least that is my opinion. How do you assess the situation? Write me your opinion and experiences. I am very curious.


Klaus Botta

1 comment

  • Harry

    I agree completely with what you’ve written, and thank you for publishing this widely. Someone needed to say this!

    However, I would like to provoke more thought on the subject since watches have changed in purpose, at least in my mind, given the ubiquitous cell phones with their almost perfect time-keeping in the last twenty years. Phones are the new pocket watches, cameras, telegraphs, maps, calculators, music players, tv, credit cards, note pads, calendars, etc. (in addition to being phones!) In addition, they can have every watch complication known to man as an app. And, so I think maybe the role of the wrist watch has changed, and signalling that you appreciate Bauhaus inspired design—that this is something dear to you in some way—is now part of the role of the watch as design element to one’s overall appearance but worn on the wrist.

    Thank you again for your article, and I hope my words have given you something to think about!

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