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Friday, January 27, 2012

SIHH 2012: A. Lange & Sohne novelties

Lange novelties for SIHH 2012 revealed.

This year's SIHH lacks real horological punch. Yes, there were many beautiful timepieces being shown, but no horologically exciting developments. Many were revisions of golden oldies.

Audemars Piguet celebrated their 40th anniversary of their Royal Oak and showed many new and very beautiful pieces. Vacheron Constantin revised their Malte line, making them even more elegant. Richard Mille showed an watch which is tagged to sell at US$1.7Million, whose case is sapphire glass and frankly reminds me of the watches made by Hong Kong company Toy Watch.

And Lange also revised some of their golden oldies. But, as is typical of Lange, there are some interesting twists.




Guests getting excited trying out the novelties at the LOG hosted presentation during the show.

The A. Lange & Sohne booth was interestingly decorated this year. A huge...no immensely huge watch adorns the reception announcing the arrival of the new Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar. To many who attended the show this year, this was "The Watch of the Show". More later.


And inside, they brought a piece of Germany right into Switzerland...


A 3.5 ton piece of rock, from the Ore Mountains where Glashutte had its industrial start some 170 years ago adorns the sitting area. In the picture above, behind the rock, next to the group of people having a discussion (brownie points if you can recognise who those people are) is a bar...and in addition to serving champagne, coke, coffes, they also have a station serving Radeberger...the beer from Saxony, vom fass...from the tap for a nice refreshing draught beer. And pretzels. Nice touch.

I have covered the monumental rework of the new Datograph Auf/Ab in the earlier unveiling article when I spent some time photographing and getting close and personal to the new Datograph Ab/Auf, so I won't cover that in any detail.

So let me start with the groundbreaking new Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar.


Magnificent looking watch. At first glance, looks like a Lange 1...um...no Daymatic...the automatic version of the Lange 1 with the time dial on the left, so it peeks out of the sleeve to reveal the time. But wait...there is an added dial around the main dial. This is the Month dial, which moves instantaneously at the end of every month, jumping one click forward...as do all the other day/date indicators...all jump instantaneously. At 9 o'clock one spies the day of week indicator. And of course the outsized date. Beautiful, elegant. Uncrowded...and perpetual calendar too.


The size is slightly enlarged...to 41.9mm...very slightly up from the regular 38.5mm on the Lange 1 or 39.5mm on the Daymatic. But as seen above on my wrist, it is a nice fit.

The movement, is of course, pure Lange...


Click on the image above to see the wall paper sized 1920 pixel wide photograph to appreciate the details of the movement.

Magnificently finished in traditional Glashutte style. Finishing is a hallmark of Lange watches, and after photographing thousands of watches, not many will stand to the scrutiny of the high magnification photography that I do. Magnified from 30 to 100 times its original size, in print, every flaw becomes visible. But even at this magnification, I remain always impressed with the finishing of Langes. I would venture to say that it is the best finish I have seen in a industrial production watch...meaning almost all watches you see in the market today, safe a few hand made examples done in small quantities by the master (one such example is the Dufour Simplicity).

In the Lange, everything is magnificently finished. Anglage is beautifully executed. Glashutte ribbing perfect. Bridges are laid out in an aestetically pleasing manner. The beautiful, relief rotor is arresting to the eye. The blued screws, chatons, and the hidden tourbillon...only visible from the back for that extra bit of discreteness is resplendent. And the wonderfully hand engraved cocks which hold the tourbillon is very nice.


Not only is the new Caliber L082.1 beautiful to the eye, it is also technically amazing. Not satisfied with the regular perpetual calendar...the old design used in almost all perpetual calendar watches (including Lange's Langematic Perpetual) is discarded as the module would add thickness to the movement. The Lange design team of Tony de Haas and Tino Bobe came up with an ingenious idea of a totally integrated perpetual calendar.

One which not only lives on the outer perimeter of the movement, but also features instaneously jumping of all indications (except moon phase). And one which is programmed to go from last day of the month to the first day of the following month without intervening numbers...for eg Nov 30 at midnight will jump to Dec 1, and not show Nov 31...which many perpetual calendars (including said Langematic Perpetual and Datograph Perpetual as they use the same calendar module) will do. Also on leap years, the display will jump instaneously at the stroke of midnight from Feb 28 to Mar 1. The only other perpetual calendar I am aware of which does that is the flash calendar from H. Moser's Perpetual 1.

The perpetual calendar also brings to mind an interesting anecdote...during the unveiling of the Langematic Perpetual in 2001, I was unimpressed with the dial layout of the Langematic Perpetual. I expressed this to Gunter Blumlein. Too common...too similar to the Patek 3940, I said to him. I challenged to make a perpetual calendar, but to have it in a Lange 1. "Impossible", he declared...and went on to explain why technically it is impossible to do so. But yet, today in Geneva on SIHH 2012, Lange unveils the Lange 1 with a perpetual calendar. Bravo Tony! Bravo Tino! You have done what was impossible in 2001...and Blumlein is surely smiling as he looks down from his resting place.

But wait, that is not all...as I entered the SIHH booth, I was caught by Wilhelm Schmidt...CEO of ALS...he pulled his sleeve and showed me his watch...he grinned..."new watch"...I looked at it and I said..."um...old watch...its a Lange 1". He grinned even more widely and said, "no, new watch"...


I said again, staring at the watch..."um...no...old Lange 1"...when he broke out..."its the new Grande Lange 1"...wow! The proportions were beautiful...looked exactly like the old Lange 1.


I consider this a triumph in the redesign. The original Grande Lange 1 was wrought with criticism. The movement was not enlarged...merely the case and dial was bigger. As a result of the enlarged dial, the pivots where the indicators were anchored in the center of the dial. To relieve the cramped center, the designers did the unspeakable...they overlayed the subdials within the Lange 1...breaking the design code which created the Lange 1...no overlapping indication. Despite that, the watch had its supporters.


In this redesign, Lange did not take the easy way out. The doppelfederhaus...double mainspring was replaced with a thinner mainspring, giving a power reserve of 72 hours instead of 96 hours...still very respectable. The case is enlarged from the regular Lange 1 to 40.9mm, though reduced from the former Grande Lange 1 which was 41.9mm, but more importantly, much thinner at 8.8mm.

The dial layout now is supremely well balanced, and invokes the feel of the original Lange 1...hence my failure to recognise it when I first saw it. The outsized date is now enlarged. The overlapping dials are gone. Perfect.

The Lange 1 and Saxonia Thin will also now be available in white gold, but otherwise no major change.

In conclusion, I think this has been a great year for Lange. A year of evolution instead of revolution. A year where they re-looked at their classics and very successfully updated them. Enlarged the Datograph. Reduced the size of the Grande Lange 1, and reworked a new perpetual calendar in the Lange 1 format, complete with stop second tourbillon. And such magnificently finished products. Well designed. Great year Lange. Cheers to more.

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