A. Lange & Söhne is one of these watch brands that is hard to not love. They produce about 5,000 watches per year, each crafted with an attention to detail that even the non-initiated will recognize. Just go to any authorized dealer and ask to see a Lange 1, Datograph, or Zeitwerk and ask to see the case back after admiring the dial, try it on (if possible). It never fails.
It was this feeling, experienced many times over the years as I got deeper into collecting watches, that had me purchase my first haute horlogerie watch from the brand in 2018. I own a rosé gold Lange 1, I wear it every chance I get, and I eagerly look to do an in-depth review of this watch here soon.
But for now let’s take a quick look at the novelties from A. Lange & Söhne at the 2019 SIHH. After all, the company is celebrating 25 years since introducing, perhaps its most iconic model, my watch: the Lange 1.
Lange 1 Anniversary
Few watches are so representative of the place and heritage of its maker than the Lange 1. When it was introduced 25 years ago it not only announced the resurrection of an iconic watchmaker, it also was the revival of an entire region of the watch world. The Glashütte region of Germany, near Dresden, is one of the top watchmaking region in the world, and if I had to pick a representative watch for that region it would be the Lange 1.
After 25 years and countless awards, Lange introduced a limited edition of the watch celebrating 25 years since its released in 1989. The new model (reference 191.066) is instantly recognized but is different enough to make collectors want to add this one to their stable.
Keeping the dimensions of the classic watch: 38.5 mm diameter and 10.7 mm thick, this limited to 250 version only comes in white gold with blue accents on the dial in what Lange calls: argenté. However, Lange points to various releases during the year, so perhaps there will be other editions...
As you may know (or perhaps not) every Lange watch is made of gold (or platinum) and uses German silver for its movement. And with the treatment that Lange does (Glashütte ribbing on the main plates as well was gold chatons and blue screws) every Lange watch is completed with a unique engraving on the balance cock.
This is unique to the watchmaker that assembled the watch. And for the 25th anniversary you are treated with a 25 engraving with the same blue accents as the silver argenté dial. And in typical fashion the font and numbers match the grande date that all Lange watch with a date use.
And as an added bonus the case back of the Lange 1 now includes a hunter caseback in white gold with an engraving of the original Lange chateau (dating 1873) and an inscription of the names of Walter Lange and Gunter Blümliem who spearheaded the revival of the brand after the fall of the Berlin wall.
The Lange Zeitwerk is perhaps Lange's most surprising watch. It’s the one that seems to be the odd child out of the bunch. It’s a digital jumping hour and minutes watch with a constant force escapement. When it was released in 2009 it was the first of its kind with both hour and minutes aperture moving instantaneously. Lange had to devise a constant force escapement mechanism for its realization.
And best is that it’s historically significant since it is based on a 5 minutes digital counter from the Dresden Semper Opera House, which still exists and operates today. But what could Lange do to improve on this classic design? Well two main issues with the current model are: first, the power reserve on the Zeitwerk is about 36 hours and second, the Zeitwerk does not include a date.
Well for 2019 the new Zeitwerk Date (reference 148.038) fixes both of these shortcoming. First the new Zeitwerk includes a date. And it’s not a jumping date as you would expect. That would likely create too much distractions and clutter into a perfectly balanced dial.
So instead, Lange engineers decided to have a peripheral date that are cut out and barely visible until the underlying cut our glass disc with a rotating red marking aligns itself to show the current date. And in true Lange fashion this happens instantaneous at midnight along with hour and minute indicators. Two new pushers at 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock allow the owner to quickly adjust the hour and date as needed.
To address the 36 hours of power reserve, Lange did not increase the size of the main barrel or add a new one or increased the size of the already well proportioned white gold Zeitwerk (44.2 mm case and 12.3 mm thick) but instead Lange engineers redesigned the hairspring and escapement to make it more efficient. The result is Lange new movement L048.8 that surprisingly adds a full 36 hours extra of reserve, doubling it, to give the watch a full three days of automation!
Richard Lange Jumping Seconds
The Richard Lange (reference 252.029) is probably my least favorite watch that Lange makes from an aesthetic point of view. It looks like an oversized Lange 1 that has lost its symmetry. And while it would be the last watch from the brand I would add to my collection, it comes with serious technical chops. First this is a watch designed for precision. The regulator layout emphasizes the three dimensions of time: seconds, minutes, and hours, in their own dial with the seconds most prominently featured.
The seconds sub-dial actually jumps precisely in 60 steps to complete one rotation. In classic Lange over-engineering the L094.1 movement includes a constant force to help guarantee the jump to happen precisely as the mainspring is unwound. At 39.9 mm and 10.6 mm think with classic black dial with red accents this is a great dress watch for the connoisseurs and those wanting something completely different from the brand's main line.
Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon
When you are Lange and have a tradition of releasing extraordinary timepieces every year at the show you cannot let a year go by without something special. And for this year, the most impressive release for me, though not entirely new, was the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon. This is the second variation on this incredibly complicated 729 parts watch that yet remains wearable at 41.5 mm and 14.6 mm thick.
The key change for this new reference 740.056 is the pink gold dial which really make it standout. You might think it’s overkill but in person it just works. The rosé gold of Lange is subtle but enough that it can be recognized at a distance. Any other color would not help this special watch differentiate itself enough from the already popular and lust-worthy chronograph.
As a true convert to Lange watches, perhaps these words are filled with my biases. However, I truly can say without reservations that independent of my owning one, this was one of the most satisfying meeting with a mainstream brand (non-independent) at SIHH. The range of their collection while also not going overboard, just made it for me.
With the 25th anniversary of the Lange 1 they celebrated an important milestone with a watch that does not deviate with the source but adds enough to make it special. The 25 engraving on the balance cock should be a constant reminder if you forget where this came from in 10 or 20 years from now. With the Richard Lange they are satisfying the purist who are into Lange for the little technicalities that only a few in the world care or pay attention to, but that are so important.
The Zeitwerk is a natural evolution of a watch that was already great. It’s now better with a new feature and added power reserve. And with the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, Lange produces a masterpiece just because it can. Lange also introduced a version of their Langematik Perpetual Calendar, reference 310.050, but I did not get a chance to try it on. It's the same as previous Langematik Perpetual but done in that unique yellow gold alloy that Lange calls honeygold.
And that in a nutshell is Lange. It’s a world of no-compromise, purity, technicality, and pushing the limits of horlogerie. As a new Lange owner I am already knee deep. And I am sure I will be adding more, in time, from them in my collection. It’s hard to explain but once you go Lange, you don’t go left nor right, you stay Lange. alange-soehne.com