Tested on the timing machine, the Saxonia behaved quite well at first, although the amplitude of its balance was a tad low in the hanging positions. The balance unfortunately swung so far when the watch was tested in the “crown left” position that it nearly knocked, and the deviation of rate skyrocketed to a gain of eight seconds. The greatest deviation of rate among the several positions was 11 seconds and the average deviation of rate was +1.5 seconds. On the wrist, the gain was about five seconds per day.
The Calatrava performed significantly better. On the wrist, it gained less than one second per day. And the timing machine revealed nothing but excellent performance: the rates in the several positions differed by a maximum of just four seconds. The amplitude also remained stable in all orientations. The calculated average deviation of rate was +0.2 seconds per day, thus confirming the good results from the wrist test.
Nevertheless, master watchmaker Rainer Merath, who conducted our rate tests, gives the edge to the Lange watch. “With six screws on the back,” he says, “this watch’s case has a more modern construction and a sapphire crystal through which to view the gorgeously adorned Lange caliber. Patek Philippe’s Calatrava with its polished pressure-fit back simply can’t beat that. Patek’s movement remains invisible to the purchaser. Furthermore, the Calatrava’s movement has no stop-seconds function And the Saxonia is a nose ahead in several details, for example, the refined clasp that guides the strap excellently and has a stabilizing crossbar. Only in the rate results does Patek Philippe outdo A. Lange & Söhne.”
These are inarguably luxurious wristwatches, but are they worth the considerable expense? Lange’s model sells for $19,000; Patek Philippe’s for $23,600. Except for the tiny Arkade, the Saxonia is by far the lowest-priced watch in A. Lange & Söhne’s assortment. Patek Philippe, on the other hand, has several watches priced similarly to the 5196, including other Calatrava models and the steel, self-winding Aquanaut with date.
In addition to the white gold, black-dial model we tested, the Saxonia is also available in white gold with a silver dial, in yellow gold, and in two rose-gold versions with silver or dark gray dials. The palette is similar at Patek Philippe: we tested a rose-gold model, but the Calatrava is also available in yellow or white gold with hands and indices made of the same color gold as the case. There is also a platinum version with Arabic numerals.
Both watches are expensive, but they offer good cost-benefit ratios. After all, the quality of all the components is truly exemplary. Where else are cases, buckles and even the watch’s hands so meticulously polished and so perfectly freed from every last trace left by the processing tools? Where could one pay less money and still get movements with such exquisite handcraftsmanship? Patek Philippe and Lange & Söhne deserve their reputations as the crème de la crème of haute horlogerie. Although both watches are among the least expensive made by their respective brands, no corners were cut in manufacturing them, not even in the smallest details. Faceted gold indices and golden hands add gleam to each watch’s dial. And the overall height of slightly less than 8 mm puts these mechanical timepieces in a category currently occupied almost exclusively by quartz watches.