Timepiece Chronicle

In-depth, passionate and entertaining articles that explore the stories behind great watches

A Moment in Time: Junghans Meister Calendar Ref. 027.4200

A Moment in Time: Junghans Meister Calendar Ref. 027.4200

How I got this watch: I contacted Junghans who referred me to the distributor for the United States, Junghans Watches USA. I chose the Junghans Meister Calendar and spent a week with it.

Nestled in the valleys of Schramberg and covered in the shadows of the Black Forest, an independent watchmaker has been dedicated to producing some of the world's most precise and functional watches for over 150 years. Once the largest clockmakers in the world and third largest producer of chronometer grade movements Junghans have continued to combine and perfect minimalist design with ergonomic functionality. In the 1960s and 70s designer, artist and architect Max Bill designed some of the brand's most iconic watches and even today his influence is seen in almost all Junghans watches. 

Despite being nearly half a century old, the eye catchingly simple yet always functional designs produced by Junghans haven't aged a day and now their Meister family of watches are both utterly modern yet retro at the same time. The Meister Calendar is the best example of the German design philosophy that Junghans has to offer and I was lucky enough to have a moment in time with one.

Inside the Meister Calendar is the J.800.3 Caliber, an ETA 2824-2 base with a Dubois Depraz 9310 moonphase calendar module added that has been modified by Junghans. Before I go any further I want to admit something; I used to be an in-house snob. Anything that wasn't in-house was no good and it was only brands capable of manufacturing a watch entirely under one roof that I thought deserving of your money. It started when I was selling Omega watches and in my defense my job was to sell Omega and their ascent from ETA movements to in-house co-axial calibers made for a great sales pitch. The best lies are ones we believe ourselves and now a few years later I can see just how wrong I was. 

The greatest watches in the last fifty years didn't have in-house movements and whilst the prestige of an in-house is undeniable it should not be the end all and be all . Ultimately what the brand does with a base movement should be the defining point of critique, not the fact they started with a base movement. For example the Habring2 Jumping Second is based on a heavily altered ETA 7750, a movement seen in watches from Christopher Ward, Hublot and IWC, and has seen huge praise from industry critics for adapting a chronograph movement into a jumping seconds.  

What Junghans have done with the ETA and Dubois module is really excellent and really should be commended. Most calendar watches have small flush buttons on the case side which when pressed adjust the calendar and moonphase dials. To preserve the pristine case edge these pushers are now on the case back just beneath where the lugs join the case. It might seem like a minor change but it perfectly encapsulates the Junghans approach to design.

Looking carefully you might be able to see these pushers from the side but they are hidden by the tapered case and are invisible compared to other calendar moonphase watches. I never did quite get the hang of adjusting the calendar functions with the face facing towards me however and had to hold it dial down to get the right angle. This is down to my cack handedness rather than a design flaw but those with larger hands might struggle to get the right angle to correct depress the button.

The movement itself is finished in the traditional Cotes de Geneve pattern with a interesting swirl pattern deep in the movement catching the light beautifully. Several blued steel screws contrast nicely against the movement with the deep relief of the Junghans logo and name on the rotor is a really nice touch. 

The design of the Junghans Meister Calendar is pure minimalism with every inch of fat removed to leave a watch with just the beautiful essentials it needs to function. Larger than its Bauhaus inspired design implies (40.4mm), the subtly convex dial focuses the eye towards the center with the subtle shadows on the lower edges making the watch appear smaller. The domed hesalite crystal adds a millimeter or so to the height of the watch (12.0mm) that flat sapphire wouldn't have but the thin bezel and case presence ultimately render those extra millimeters moot. The crystal has been coated with Sicralan (only seen on Junghans watches and automotive glass) which increases UV resistance, protects the luster and increases scratch resistance. 

The choice of hesalite might be controversial to some as despite keeping the cost down (both initial retail and eventual replacement) it does scratch far quicker than sapphire. The Meister line is influenced by classic Junghans watches from the 1960s but there is no direct horological ancestor to this watch to warrant the use of hesalite for heritage reasons. That being said I've never had an issue with hesalite crystal as $5 spent on a tube of Polywatch and some elbow grease will remove most scratches and any capable watchmaker should be able to replace the entire crystal at a cost infinitely less than cracked sapphire. This is not a watch intended for sports or hard labor and will most likely be worn at a desk or events where chances of damage are low. 

The steel dauphine shaped hands frame the dial wonderfully with the minute and second hands having just the slightest bend at the tip to accommodate for the sloped dial. What appears to be a cut-out in the center of these hands is actually a very thin strip of super-luminova which allows for a modicum of night-time visibility. I was honestly surprised to see lume on this watch and whilst I had to really lean in close in a pitch black room to read it I do appreciate the token gesture of functionality. 

The main draw of this watch is of course the moonphase calendar function which at just over $2000 is significantly lower than other brands. At ten and two two small rectangular apertures display the day and month with the moonphase above six o'clock. The day/month apertures are lowered within a larger horizontal relief that focuses the eyes easily and is surprisingly readable given their small size however in low light conditions you might struggle.

The moonphase disc is a deep blue with silver stars and moon with a singular self-indulgent addition of an eight pointed star with J in the center (The Junghans logo since 1888). I would have preferred for the moonphase to be slightly larger but with a design that is so meticulously balanced I'll leave the details to the experts. The more you gaze at the dial the more you see how perfect the proportions are; the Junghans name and logo that seem small to begin with work together with the apertures to balance the moonphase from overpowering the dial, the pencil thin hour markers the push your eye to the hands, it all just works. The "Made in Germany" at six o'clock is a carefully placed P.S., the final word for this watch that speaks both its origin and the design philosophy behind it. 

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