A Moment in Time: Junghans Form A
How I got this watch: I asked one of the US distributors for Junghans, Junghans Watches USA, to spend some time with some of the new releases. I was sent this watch and the Meister Hand-Winding for two weeks. I did not wear the watch. This is not a paid review.
The Junghans Form A is a fantastic gateway to those getting interested in watches.
Those who follow the releases from Baselworld might have picked up on a trend emanating from within the great halls. No, not vintage re-issues, the other trend. Affordability. As the noose around the watch industry continues to tighten, brands are finally realizing that they need to give themselves a little breathing room between the gold limited editions that look lovely in a display cabinet but rarely get taken out. Whilst the Swiss Industry is teetering on the edge of the gallows, the German industry is having a new lease of life. Right from the start these brands realized that making well-designed, reliable and affordable watches was crucial to survival.
Junghans watches have always been affordable but the Form A takes it to the next level
Nothing represents more value for money that a German watch. There are Swiss watches that are good value but time after time you'll keep coming back to German brands for quality engineering and timeless design. Before the release of the Form collection, the cheapest available mechanical Junghans watch was the Max Bill Automatic at $965, now it is the Form A at $924. This Reference 027/4730 is one of the new releases and is available now at junghanswatchesusa.net who provided a watch for this article.
But what do you get for less than a thousand dollars? Turns out when you buy Junghans, you get a whole lot.
For decades Junghans have had the minimalist Bauhaus watch market cornered with their Max Bill line. Yet as the years pass by, the name Max Bill begins to have less cultural cache. Kids these days don't know their mid-century Swiss designers! The Max Bill collection will continue the retro futuristic style in the modern age, but the Form collection is a new entry point for younger audiences. This is still bauhaus design so don't expect any unnecessary flourishes as form continues to follow function, but enough changes have been made to make it different.
One of the most noticeable changes is the lack of domed crystal. The Form A is the cheapest watch that Junghans makes with sapphire crystal on both sides of the watch rather than the usual domed plexiglass crystal on top. This makes the Form A look a lot more modern than the Max Bill and it should put a few concerned potential customers at ease for worrying about scratching the plexi. Having worn a vintage plexi for almost a year now, I can say that those worries about breaking the crystal are completely unfounded.. The bending of light and the subtle distortion of the hour markers that you get with a plexiglass crystal is replaced by the peace of mind knowing that you can't scratch it.
The brushed matte white dial has been described as concave but I can't see any curve perceptible to my eye. The Form A has a center seconds hand along with the usual hour and minute hands that have a thin strip of lume for night time reading. The hands might seem simple at first but upon closer inspection you'll see subtle contouring where lume meets steel. This addition of lume, along with the date window at 3 o'clock, is a concession that Junghans have made to accommodate the needs of a younger audience. The recessed date window is one of the more tasteful windows I've seen on a sub-$1000 watch.
The limitations on price are evident upon closer inspection of the dial but there are a few design elements that I wasn't expecting. There are no applied elements as all hour markers and digits are painted on but I was surprised at the square recessions that run around the dial between the five minute markers. They aren't visible at a glance but become more noticeable the longer you take in the dial. It's deceptively simple design that rewards a diligent viewer. Once you notice the squares, you'll notice how the light falls into them to create small shadows like a miniature, and slightly ineffective, sun dial. It would have been easy for Junghans to not bother with these squares for the sake of lowering that RRP but I'm very glad that they chose to include them.
Inside the Form A is the automatic Caliber J800.2
The J800.2 is a modified ETA 2824-2 base, a work horse movement that you'll find Hamiltons, Tudors and of course, Junghans. It's one of those movements that has been around since time immemorial and it's a quality movement for the price. It's a hacking movement with a 38 hour power reserve, it's slim and well proportioned for the case (something that is frustratingly hard to find in lower end mechanical watches).
Whilst there is a customized Junghans rotor with the brand name engraved on it, there is a lack of decoration compared to other Junghans models. There is little to no embellishment on the movement but it's hidden behind smoked sapphire crystal so the bare facets of metal are hard to see. This is the second watch I've reviewed this year with smoked crystal, the first being the Christopher Ward C8 Regulator, and I understand the use of smoke crystal much more here than it the other watch. There it was a strange theming decision to keep the all black look of the watch but here it's used to hid the lack of decoration whilst allowing the movement to still be seen. To someone entrenched in this passion after years, the movement looks quite plain but to someone who is only familiar with quartz watches, it will be a joy to try and sneak a glance at a real mechanical movement.
The case is 39.1mm but looks a lot larger
Much like the Meister Hand-Winding I'll be talking about next week, the Form A is deceptively larger than its measurements suggest. The large white dial and thin narrow bezel open up the watch despite how the case overhangs on the strap to make a smaller footprint on the wrist.
The strap is a very simple black calfskin that fits snugly between the lugs. By snugly I mean there is no gap between the end of the strap and the case. The width is 21mm which will limit the purchasing of after market straps but I would think you'd struggle looking for a strap tin enough to fit regardless of its width. There are other colors available, a light brown and light blue, that you could buy from Junghans if black isn't your thing.
I'm very impressed with what Junghans has been able to do for under $1000. There are concessions made for that price to be possible but the Form A is as stylish as a watch twice its price from a less consumer minded brand. What it lacks in applied markers and movement decoration, the Form A makes up for in accessibility and opportunity for someone new to watches to begin their passion.