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Bauhaus in Horology: What You Don't Know

Bauhaus in Horology: What You Don't Know

Minimalism is not Bauhaus. One of the things I see people do is think that the two are a synonym of each other. My answer to that is it's not ... but it's not your fault. Bauhaus was originally for a purpose and not just as an art form unlike minimalism is. In fact, art is only a subset of its many disciplines. There is also an element to consider however, which can muddle the distinction between the two further which is intent. That is, if the designer or creator who did the work take it to themselves that their influence is Bauhaus, then it is so.

Now going back to the watches of today. If it's said to be either, it's not necessarily of an informed awareness but because of marketing. With the influx of minimalist watches from hundreds of brands, the use of both words to market these watches made it catchy but confusing. So to help with distinguishing the two, it would be good to mention about important points in history.

Let's talk about Max. Max Bill (1908-1994) was a Swiss architect and industrial designer, among other things, who studied in the Bauhaus school of Dessau. His work was so influential that it still finds its way in modern items and not just in clocks and watches. And that's only a small part of what he's contributed to contemporary design.

To most of us in horology however, he's known to have done work for Junghans. Why did I mention him? It's because he single-handedly defined what is to be Bauhaus in horology that's different from what Nomos did.

Now that we've put a face and a name to a famous watch design. Let's go to the source of his discipline.

A clock designed by Max Bill for Junghans. The style of the hour numerals is based from Herbert Bayer's design called the Universal typeface

Bauhaus is a complete study. You see, as Max Bill himself knows it, Bauhaus is not just about neat lines and geometric shapes (Art Deco is kind of like that). It was created to industrialize art and design, and covered many aspects of building as Walter Gropius, the found of the school, envisioned it to be. What's not necessary like embellishments and decorative aspects are dropped in favor of ease in production. As you can see below, Bauhaus covers textiles, architecture, and engineering. The school in Dessau actually involves theatre and music in its departments as well.

In design, minimalism is a lack of details while Bauhaus is the implementation only of necessary details

The wondeful world of Alain Silberstein. Now let me introduce you to a guy named Alain Silberstein. If you think Bauhaus looks boring, clinical, and predictable, then check out what Alain did for his own line of watches. Remember when I said something about intent and art form? Mr. Silberstein did exactly just that and he's a watchmaker that makes timepieces categorized as haute horlogerie.

The rich colors and shapes that identify his works doesn't look like what Max Bill has done yet both fall under the same art movement.

Alain Silberstein's use of primary colors and shapes shouldn't be confused with the Memphis Group either. The latter, which is postmodern group of individuals that started in 1981, was involved in design and architecture but was never involved in horology. Not to mention Mr. Silberstein was never their member in the first place and as mentioned, are of differing area of interest.

  An original Bauhaus cover. You can see how it applies to Alain Silberstein's works 

Nomos and Stowa had the same design influence. If you've seen both the Nomos Tangomat and the Stowa Antea, you would think one is a copy of the other. Historically, Stowa has already existed decades before Nomos had so one can assert that Nomos copied what Stowa has already done before. In fact, it was A. Lange & Söhne who created the first variant of the dial.

For now, these are the most significant things I have gleaned on Bauhaus in the horological world so far. Hopefully these tidbits of information would aid the curious the next time they look at a watch. It may look simple and clean, but there are a lot of things behind it that made it such a desirable piece to own today.

Thanks for reading and see you in the next article!


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