A Moment in Time: Junghans Meister Driver Handaufzug
How I got this watch: I asked one of the US distributors for Junghans, Junghans Watches USA, to spend some time with one of the Meister Driver pieces. I was sent this watch and the Max Bill Chronoscope for two weeks. This is not a paid review.
The Junghans Meister Driver is a beautiful tribute to classic cars
I've written before that I'm the furthest person from a petrolhead there is. I have no patience for carburetors and no interest in horsepower or torque. Yet there are a few cars that I can appreciate for their aesthetics and the Maybach DS-8 Zeppelin is one of them. The production of the DS-8 started in 1932 and there were only ever 25 cars made. The Zeppelin was the definition of a luxury car and it's the kind of car you would expect Jay Gatsby (Or Jay Leno now) to drive. Weighing in at 6600lbs, you might expect the Zeppelin to move as fast as its namesake, but a hefty V12 allowed it to speed along at a top speed of 106 miles per hour
Junghans is not the first watch brand you think of when associating cars and watches. They made dashboard clocks in their Schramberg factory from in the 1920s and 1930s but there is little professional association with Junghans and any car company. Yet the link between cars and Junghans is far stronger when you look at the people behind the brand, not the brand itself.
The two sons of the Junghans founder, Erhard Junghans, were both car fanatics. In 1905, Dr. Oskar Junghans developed and patented one of the world's first speedometers. His brother Arthur bought a Maybach which was personally delivered by Mr. Wilhelm Maybach himself. The current owners of Junghans, Dr. Hans-Jochem Steim and Hannes Steim, are avid car aficionados and their collection spans 110 years of automotive history.
When Dr. Steim wanted an automotive themed watch, he wanted something that would have a genuine place in the history of Junghans. Drawing from the company's past, he decided to base the Meister Driver series off the Maybach DS-8, a car currently in his collection. The dials of the two handwound Drivers, one in cream and the other in grey, take inspiration from the Maybach's dashboard speedometers. The cream version, Ref. 027/3608.00, has emphasized the minutes and pushed the hours to a thin white chapter ring. The black version, Ref.027/3607.00, has the opposite with emphasized hours and reduced minutes. Both of these versions can be purchased at junghanswatchesusa.net which provided me with a piece for this review.
In the past I've not been a fan of emphasized minutes in watches. They are distracting and work against the contemporary look that most watches go for. I'm pleased to say that their use in the Meister Driver is pitch perfect. Thin black borders around the white numbers provide extra clarity and the subtle Art Deco motifs add the right amount of character. The numbers are small enough to not dominate the dial but large enough to be legible.
The same cannot be said for the thin chapter ring that contains the hours and individual minute markers. At arm's length it is impossible to discern any detail of the stylised hour markers and you have to bring the watch much closer than normal to read them. This is a real shame as I love the continued Art Deco style of these numbers, especially the number 7, but you can't read them at a distance.
The larger minute numbers aren't applied but are raised from the dial with a slight embossed look to them. To combat the dial from looking too flat, Junghans recessed the subsidiary seconds register at 6 o'clock. This sunken section is a touch darker than the main cream dial so looks deeper than it actually is, thus increasing the perceived amount of depth.
It's a great decision and makes the watch more wearable
The sword hands are a good point of deviation away from a straight 'dashboard to wristwatch' copy. I'm sure there are many beautiful speedometer hands out there but it was a wise decision to use sword hands over a more traditional speedo hand. It looks better. All the minute markers and hands are coated in white superluminova that glows green in low light. I was unaware of this and it was a real surprise when I turned off the lights after finishing photographing the watch. The inclusion of the lume isn't necessary but a modern watch owner expects its inclusion in one way or another.
Thankfully something that wasn't included is a date window or any automotive themed complication. Whilst the Bremont x Jaguar watch is something I'm interested in looking at, I do prefer the very simple and clean look of the Meister Driver. By not being a Maybach x Junghans project, the Meister Driver is able to slip past the usual criticisms of co-branded watches. 'Why did Brand X make a watch with Car Y?" "Car Y never had Brand X dash clocks, they only used Brand Z" etc, etc. . The Meister Driver was made for the love of classic cars from the 1930s.
The 37.7mm case would have seemed humongous in 1932 but today it is the perfect size for a vintage inspired manual wind watch. Those not familiar with vintage sizes will find the watch bafflingly small. The thin cases, thin movements and domed plexi-crystal will only compound this. If that description sounds like music to your ears then the Meister Driver is for you. 37.7mm is small but the interesting use of alternating dial colors emboldens the watch to stand out on your wrist.
This size also means that the watch would be a perfect choice for male or female wrists as cream is a gender neutral color. It doesn't scream machismo or femininity and will look handsome on either gender. It is worth noting that Junghans classifies the Meister Driver as a men's watch and do not make a branded ladies cream strap. The smallest men's size might work depending on wrist size.
The Meister Driver is pure. No frills. No branding. Just an expression of love.
The movement seen through the sapphire crystal display case is the J815.1 Caliber which is a modified Peseux 7001. The modifications are some simple finishing, blued screws and a branded bridge. Those familiar with German watches will recognize the Peseux architecture as the basis for Nomos' first in-house caliber, Alpha. The J815.1 has a 42 hour power reserve so you can forget to wind the watch for just under two days before it will stop. If you find a manual wind movement too much hassle, then the automatic Meister Driver chronoscope will what you're looking for.
The Junghans Meister Driver Handaufzug is a charming watch that I greatly enjoyed spending time with. For those that love to add a hint of vintage into their daily wear, the Meister Driver is a perfect choice as the modern movement makes this infinitely more convenient than any true period piece.