Alfred Schopf: Valbray and the EL1 Chronograph

Leica Camera and Valbray, the renowned Swiss watchmakers, collaborated to produce to the EL1 Chronograph, a special limited edition celebrating 100 years of Leica photography. The Valbray EL1 Chronograph will be available only from select Leica Stores starting June 25th 2014.

We spoke with Alfred Schopf, CEO of the Management Board of Leica Camera AG and connoisseur of fine mechanical timepieces, to speak about the EL1 Chronograph and present photos from Michael Agel taken at Valbray Manufacturing.

Q: Where did the idea to produce a watch with Valbray come from?

A: Well, we’ve always been thinking about doing a watch and we had some ideas in mind, mainly that it had to be iconic. For a long time we couldn’t find something that would work. Finally, we found Côme de Valbray who has been a Leica enthusiast for a long time. It was a good fit because Leica and Valbray have a lot of like similarities like mechanical perfection and individually handcrafted products. The EL1 Chronograph was the watch that came out of it.

Q: How did the collaboration with Côme de Valbray work and how long did it take?

A: We visited him a few times. First we got to know the concept of the watch. We met in Lausanne and then he made the designs. There were some challenges and design hiccups here and there, but we were able to come to the right conclusion. We started working on this around November – December of 2013.

Q: The blade shutter is unique on the EL1 Chronograph, correct?

A: Yes! Valbray actually owns the patent for the mechanism. This unique shutter system acts as a cover for the face and can be opened and closed by turning the bezel. Its handcrafted from 16 single blades integrated on a rotatable bezel of 46 mm.

When completely open, the blades are hidden and reveal the specially designed chronograph of the watch. The hours, the minutes and the stopwatch function are all also readable when the diaphragm is closed.

Q: This is a limited-edition product. How many were produced?

A: The EL1 Chronograph is limited to 100 pieces. We have 50 pieces in sanded titanium and 50 pieces with a DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating. Each watches comes with a jewel case and two bracelets that can be exchanged with a special tool provided.

Q: Can you tell us about the engravings on the watch?

A: On the back, ‘100 Years of Leica Photography’ is engraved discreetly as this watch celebrates our centennial. Also, the Leica logo is featured on the crown.

Q: Is there a special meaning behind the the name EL1 Chronograph?

A: The initials of its name are chosen as a tribute to Ernst Leitz and Leica I, the contraction of Leitz and camera. The name of the watch, the special engravings and the design all come together to help celebrate Leica’s centennial!

Thank you for your time, Mr. Schopf!

- Leica Internet Team

Learn more about the EL1 Chronograph here.