Since its launch in 1994, the Lange 1 watch has been the “face” of Germany’s A. Lange & Söhne. The Lange 1, with its offcenter hour and minute dial and its patented oversized, double-disc date indicator inspired by the famous Five Minute numerical clock in Dresden’s Semper Opera House, has taken its place among horology’s design icons. For the past 15 years, that watch has been Lange’s most recognized and most important model.
Now, though, Lange is presenting a watch that it calls its “new face” and its most important launch since the Lange 1. At a series of events in Berlin during the first week of May, the Glashütte-based firm unveiled the Lange Zeitwerk to top international Lange retailers and the watch press, including WatchTime. The dominant feature of the new watch is its unorthodox presentation of the time via jumping hour and minutes indicators in windows on the left and right side of the dial. The large jumping numerals (three times larger than those on conventional watches) in the date windows on the Lange 1 have been reinterpreted on the Zeitwerk to present an unusual concept: a high-mechanical watch with a digital presentation of the time. Lange calls it “the first mechanical wristwatch with a truly eloquent jumping numeral display.”
The hours, minutes and seconds are presented on what Lange calls a “time bridge” that encompasses the bottom two-thirds of the dial. The top of the time bridge stretches across the width of the dial with frames on each side. The hour numeral appears in the left frame, the minutes in the right. Set on the bridge, between and beneath the frames, is a large subsidiary seconds dial. The time bridge is made of untreated German silver that Lange customarily uses in the production of its plates and bridges. In the upper portion of the dial is a power-reserve indicator in the traditional German UP/DOWN (AUF/AB) style. Fully wound, the watch has 36 hours of power.
One benefit of the Zeitwerk is the ability to tell the time instantly and easily thanks to the large numerals and large seconds dial in the time bridge configuration. Another benefit, Lange says, is that “it lets its owner experience a totally new sense of time. With a whispered click and within fractions of a second, the minute display advances step by step until the watch initiates the big jump at the top of the hour. At this point, all three numeral discs switch forward simultaneously and instantaneously by exactly one unit.” The jump hour display engages the ear as well as the eye. The wearer who listens carefully is able to hear the sound of the disc-switching action every minute and should be able to distinguish the difference in sound when all three numeral discs move at the top of each hour.
The watch has a diameter of 41.9 millimeters. It comes in yellow, white and rose gold versions priced at $54,500. Lange will also make 200 pieces in platinum priced at $75,600.
Zeitwerk (the name means “time mechanism” or “time movement” in German) is powered by a new in-house Lange movement, Caliber L043.1. The movement has such traditional Lange hallmarks as a three-quarter plate, hand-engraved balance cock, and screwed gold chatons. It also has a number of innovations required to operate the three discs that indicate hours and minutes. One is a newly developed and patented mainspring barrel with an extra-strong mainspring that Lange says “turns the classic wind/unwind principle upside down.” Another is a patent-pending, dual function constant force escapement that acts as a pacemaker for the jumping advance of the hours and minutes and also stabilizes the rate of the movement.
A. Lange & Söhne CEO Fabian Krone says that the firm will begin delivering the watches this fall.