Art and craftsmanship – 100 Years of Bauhaus

What are MeisterSinger-watches doing at a Bauhaus exhibition?

 Typical Bauhaus features meet single-hand watches inspired by historical timepieces (Photo: Olff Appold).
Typical Bauhaus features meet single-hand watches inspired by historical timepieces (Photo: Olff Appold).

stilwerk Düsseldorf is currently hosting the exhibition “Re:Form – Homage to 100 Years of Bauhaus.” It is the third and final stop of the exhibition that was previously shown in Hamburg and Berlin. In it a three-man artists’ collective – Olff Appold, Kai Brüninghaus, and Jürgen Sandfort – juxtaposes photographs, films, and animations on the theme with contemporary design among other things. Olff Appold combined MeisterSinger watches with classic “Bauhaus-style” motifs.

Photographer Stephan Gustavus was also inspired by Bauhaus and in his free work he closely links MeisterSinger timepieces with the spirit of the legendary “School of Art and Design.” He arranged a disassembled movement to create a “homage to Wassily Kandinsky.”

Bauhaus-inspired homage to Wassily Kandinsky, a pioneer of Expressionism (Photo: Stephan Gustavus).
Bauhaus-inspired homage to Wassily Kandinsky, a pioneer of Expressionism (Photo: Stephan Gustavus).

Geometric and black and white

Especially in the Bauhaus anniversary year the creations of many designers expressly invoke the institution whose name on a product sounds like a seal of quality, but can be used arbitrarily because it is not legally protected. The generally accepted consensus is that the design language of a “Bauhaus watch” is radically reduced to basic geometric shapes, black and white, and a sober, sans-serif typography. Until now, MeisterSinger has not seen itself in the Bauhaus tradition. The single-hand watches designed by Manfred Brassler in Münster were inspired by early tower clocks and old scientific measuring instruments. At first glance, some models have features that could be regarded as “typically Bauhaus.” But Gustavus’ photographs also include an elegant Pangaea with an ivory face that does not fit into the usual cliché and yet is perfectly in keeping with the theme.

Classic watches match classic Bauhaus environment: MeisterSingers N° 01 and Pangaea (Photo: Stephan Gustavus).
Classic watches match classic Bauhaus environment: MeisterSingers N° 01 and Pangaea (Photo: Stephan Gustavus).

Medieval ideals

Of course, the Bauhaus did not only use black and white, but developed its own color theories. What’s more, in Weimar and Dessau new typefaces were created, including some with serifs. But what MeisterSinger watches have in common with the Bauhaus maxims is more than a design language that consistently avoids prolific embellishment with no function. Rather, they share a combination of art and craftsmanship with close cooperation between specialists from very different disciplines. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius had the cathedral workshops of the Middle Ages in mind as a synergetic ideal (and name giver) and he wanted the structure of his school to correct the aberrations of modern times. The Bauhaus, for many the epitome of modernity, is also based on decisive criticism of modernity.

The elegant Pangaea does not fit into the usual Bauhaus cliché and yet fits in perfectly with the theme. (Photo: Stephan Gustavus).
The elegant Pangaea does not fit into the usual Bauhaus cliché and yet fits in perfectly with the theme. (Photo: Stephan Gustavus).

Reduce to the essentials

With the traditional cooperation between designers, watchmakers, and craftsmen under one roof, watch manufacturers come very close to the cathedral workshop ideal. And with MeisterSinger there’s something else: the large tower clocks of the medieval churches that inspired the timepieces from Münster got by with just one hand. And the reintroduction of this display principle in modern wristwatches also corrects an unfortunate development: as it became possible to precisely measure and display ever smaller units of time over the centuries, today minute and second hands all too often shoo people along, unnecessarily dividing the flow of the day into tiny pieces. MeisterSinger counters this with a different perception that has almost been lost and wants to show how attractive it can be to focus on the essentials. It is this kind of very careful reduction in every detail that links MeisterSinger watches and Bauhaus products. And explains why the Pangaea also fits so well into Stephan Gustavus’ Bauhaus motifs.

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