While my sister Jeanne is a photographer, I really know very little, actually close to nothing, about photography. The pictures I take for this blog hopefully get the job done most of the time, but as you can tell they’re informative at best. My camera is not too bad, but I set absolutely everything to automatic, and any “post-production” (is that even how they call it?) is done using automagic recommendations in Google Photos. I have no idea how to use Photoshop.
Another thing you will have noticed if you’re a regular reader is that I typically don’t do watch reviews. There are several reasons for that, but it’s first and foremost that others do it very well and I don’t feel it’s where Made in Bienne can add the most value.
OK so let’s recap: I know nothing about photography and I don’t do watch reviews. And yet, this article is a review of a watch that’s all about photography. Something about the uniqueness and elegance, both in spirit and on the wrist, of the Lensman 2 brought me to make exceptions to my own rules.
Horage is an incredibly cool watch manufacture in Bienne. With a startup mentality, they do pretty much everything themselves, producing extremely high quality and yet relatively very affordable timepieces. Tucked away near the beautiful Taubenlochschlucht, they keep innovating, and, over the years, shifting from insider-only awareness to broader notoriety among the watch community.
I had visited Horage last year, and wrote about what I thought makes them so unique. Ever since, we’ve stayed in touch. I always knew I would want to do more with them. Their super-deep-yet-no-frills attitude towards watchmaking is exactly what I love about the hobby in general, and Bienne specifically. On that note, they are deeply committed to their belonging here, with not only the vast majority of parts in their watches coming from the city or very near, but also “Biel/Bienne” replacing the traditional “Swiss Made” on their dials.
In May of this year, as soon as I saw the announcement for the Lensman 2, I wanted to write about it. I reached out to Landon Stirling, Horage’s Marketing Director, also a former professional photographer and all-round great guy, to arrange a visit. With the summer vacation and back-to-school, we had to wait a bit, but I finally got my eyes, and my hands, on the watch last week.
The Lensman 2 is a fascinating piece. The design is unique. A tribute to mid-century cameras, it also looks great in its own right. That in my view is where Horage really succeeded: the camera inspiration is obvious but it’s not necessarily the first thing that pops. When you look at the watch, it simply looks great, both striking and low key.
Unlike its predecessor, the Lensman 1, a tourbillon of which I’m also a fan, the connection to photography in the Lensman 2 goes beyond aesthetics. It combines the looks with actual function: the bidirectional bezel serves as an exposure calculator.
How does that work? Well, the bezel shows ISO, and the rehaut indicates lighting condition. Once you align them, they show, on the other side, the corresponding shutter speeds and aperture settings to get the right exposure. If you want to go deeper on this to better understand and see it in motion, I recommend this great video by The Art of Photography.
One thing you may wonder, I know I did, is whether any of this of actual use in the real world. As in, would a photographer, amateur or professional, truly wear the watch as a tool when shooting? Well, there are different ways to look at it.
If you’re using a contemporary digital camera, then of course, no real need. It’s all there, and the calculation will be done for you. But if you’re using an analog camera, especially a vintage one (and many aficionados still do), then there is actual functional value in the ability to make the exposure calculations on your wrist. Older cameras used to have various cheat sheets, whether on paper or the camera itself, but a rotating bezel that’s always with you is definitely more convenient.
An obvious watch analogy that comes to mind here is diver watches: in today’s world, everyone uses a wrist computer. Diver watches today as many of us love them are first and foremost a nod, a tribute. They remind us of what used to be needed. The fact that they’re still fully functional as such is part of the mostly useless but no less wonderful charm of tool watches in 2023.
Here, the angle is a bit different. Such functionality on a watch is actually a first, an innovation. It may come decades “too late” from a purely functional perspective, but it is extremely legitimate nonetheless.
Moreover, as I mentioned, there are many people out there, especially professionals, who still do use vintage cameras for contemporary photography. They do it because those cameras not only have a great look and feel but also often better quality lenses, with good ol’ film bringing an organic vibe to the pictures that digital just doesn’t allow. Sure sounds a lot better than going under the ocean with vintage diving bottles!
Regardless of whether you use it as a photography tool or just a tribute, the Lensman 2 is a fantastic watch in its own right. Cased in grade 5 titanium and anodized aluminum, all milled by Horage themselves, it’s powered by the brand’s fully in-house COSC-certified K2 movement, with its signature micro-rotor and silicon hairspring. And because international photographers like me travel a lot (you never know, maybe it’s not too late!), the watch also has a central hand GMT function, in a lovely font.
I admire how the watch is able to look so good, I would even say so soothing, while displaying so much information. It looks like no other, and yet is very easy to wear on the wrist, both for her (thank you Marie for lending your wrist) and for him. It has clear retro-vibes but without overdoing it. It just feels right, at least to me.
The piece comes in different variants. Regular black dial is my favorite, although sadly it was not available when I came over to take pictures. There is also a yellow dial version, which I find cool but less to my personal liking. Finally, there is a rhodium dial special edition, the one in the pics, in collaboration with legendary photographer Brian Griffin: for an understandable premium, you not only get a platinum rotor in the K2, but also signed photographs by the artist.
Pre-orders are still available, and while I don’t want to appear to hype things up, the first and only other watch Horage produced with the same movement, the Supersede GMT, is sold out. For more info on the models and pricing, you can visit the Horage website.