MeisterSingers Astroscope wins the German Design Award 2021

What all MeisterSinger watches have in common is that they display the time with only one hand, like the first mechanical timepieces, and thus literally tell the time. They are watches for people who like to remember that the moment in the here and now is our true reality. A reality that we should not completely alienate ourselves from - quite the contrary.

Even with the Astroscope - the second model with an astronomical theme in the history of the company after the successful moon-phase watch Lunascope - MeisterSinger remains true to itself. The watch already caused a stir when it was presented at this year's Inhorgenta, as it shows the days of the week in a coherent and catchy new way: with reference to the celestial bodies that have been assigned to you since time immemorial.

Until now, design at MeisterSinger was purely a matter for the boss. All watches bear the signature of the company founder Manfred Brassler. When he offered the young employee and Art Director Jens Bierwirth to try his hand at designing a MeisterSinger, he could not foresee that it would not only deliver a well-designed product, but also a complete concept behind it.

First work with concept

"Jens Bierwirth's task in the company was originally the maintenance and implementation of our corporate design", explains Brassler, "but he has also become increasingly involved in product development". A little more than a year ago he was asked to think about his own MeisterSinger and decided on an unusual indication for the common day-date complication. According to designer Bierwirth, the path to the concept was basically a logical conclusion: "The new advertisement should not only be balanced and clearly designed, as is customary with MeisterSinger, but should have 'a good reason'. I found that reason when I studied the history of the days of the week and their astronomical equivalent, with celestial mechanics, so to speak.

That the weekday-transforming stars could be seen together in the sky this year of all years only became apparent in the course of development. "I changed the final design again at short notice in order to make the constellation really correspond to the picture in the sky this summer. Otherwise Mars and Saturn would have been reversed; I literally could not leave it like that", the graphic artist reveals.

A conclusive idea

It is the sun and the moon that divide our time for all to feel and observe: Day and night, in twelve months per year. However, the division into seven-day weeks does not follow any astronomical principle, but has a mythological background. It goes back to the Babylonians and was associated with the seven celestial bodies in the firmament, which are particularly clearly visible.

With these celestial bodies and their corresponding symbols, the astroscope on the dial does not show the days of the week in a linear fashion, but back and forth through a bright dot. Exactly in the order in which they appear in the southern night sky.

"This was a new, different way of reading the information," says Manfred Brassler, "and it earned us great respect from everyone at MeisterSinger.

Design awards number 29 and 30

The design committees probably saw it the same way. After the red dot award 2020 Jens Bierwirth now also receives the German Design Award 2021 for his 'first watch'. At MeisterSinger you can be sure that there will be more to come.

What are MeisterSinger-watches doing at a Bauhaus exhibition?

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.”

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.

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.

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.