Fratello Friday: Reviewing the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater

In my book, a minute repeater is the ultimate complication. Of course, a tourbillon is a feast for the eyes, and a perpetual calendar dial filled with apertures for day, date, month, year and moon phases is brilliant, but a minute repeater, to me, offers the most sensational experience. Most minute repeater movements have hammers hitting gongs to indicate the hours, quarter hours and minutes. This year, however, A. Lange & Söhne came out with a decimal minute repeater, which strikes every 10 minutes instead of on the quarters, as you have likely guessed. The watch — A. Lange & Söhne’s Zeitwerk Minute Repeater — is not the first timepiece that uses this concept; other brands such as Breguet and Seiko have also created decimal repeaters, though they remain exceedingly rare.

So, let’s have a look at this new wonder from Glashütte, Germany, built by the manufacture that moves so many watch enthusiasts. Whether they can afford one or not. many aficionados hold a special place in their heart for A. Lange & Söhne, not least because the company is run by passionate Germans determined to compete on the elite level of their Swiss peers. We at Fratello Watches are big fans of this brand, so let’s take a look at this latest version of the already beautiful Zeitwerk timepiece.

The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater works a bit differently from most other minute repeaters, and most other decimal repeaters as well. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is activated by a pusher instead of a slide. It consumes the necessary energy from the mainspring so it doesn’t need to wind an alternative power source for the minute repeater function. Unless the remaining power reserve is less than 12 hours, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater will strike the hours, 10-minutes, and minutes in low tones — double strikes for the 10-minutes, and high tones for the single minutes. For maximum pleasure, you need to set the time to 12:59. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater will take approximately 20 seconds to perform all 31 strikes (12x low tone, 5x a double strike (=10), 9x high tone).

A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater - front

The power reserve of the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is 36 hours, so the wearer is limited in the number of minute repeater activations. The beautiful dial of the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater shows, besides the digital display of the time, a power reserve indicator with the German ‘Auf’ and ‘Ab’ indications. The power-reserve scale of 36 hours also has a small red dot at the 12-hour mark to indicate whether you can still use the minute repeater complication without additional winding of the movement.

A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater - Dial CU_560
A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater - angle

According to A. Lange & Söhne’s head of development, Anthony de Haas, it was very challenging for the brand to translate the digitally displayed time into corresponding chimes. The struck time will always correspond to the digitally displayed time. After the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater does its job, the disks will advance to the current time — especially interesting to witness when you activate the decimal repeater at 59:59, for example.

Besides being a mechanical wonder, the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is also very pleasing to the eye. The platinum case measures 44.2 mm in diameter and has a thickness of 14.1 mm. Although it is a large watch, it is the weight of the watch that surprised me. It is a heavy piece of engineering on your wrist. The dial is made of solid silver and has digital indicators for hours and minutes. A subdial for the seconds is located at 6 o’clock and the power reserve indicator is located at 12 o’clock. As you can see, the ‘time bridge’ as Lange calls it, is made of a different material than the rest of the dial. This is black rhodiumed German silver. Also visible through the sapphire crystal are the hammers and the gong.

A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater - date CU

As with all A. Lange & Söhne watches, the mechanism is as beautiful as the dial. The hand-wound caliber L043.5 has a lot of depth when being observed through the sapphire case back. This movement is decorated and assembled by hand and features the famous 3/4 plate made of German silver. There is hand-engraving on the balance cock of course. The L043.5 movement has the patented constant-force escapement, which delivers the same amount of energy during the entire 36 hours of power reserve.

A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater - back
A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater - caliber CU

As you can see on the photo above, the balance wheel has six eccentric poising weights. These weights can be rotated to adjust the “poise” (balance) of the wheel. The balance spring is manufactured in-house at Lange. The L043.5 movement consists of a whopping 771 parts in total, including 93 jewels. Finally, the movement has a rate of 18,000 beats per hour.

The price tag on this stunning Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is €440.000. It will not be a limited edition; the only limitation is the watchmaking capacity of A. Lange & Söhne to create these pieces for its customers. The complexity of the movement requires highly skilled and specifically trained watchmakers: something which takes time.

This Zeitwerk Minute Repeater from the Glashütte village in Germany was, for me, one of the highlights of this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva. I have a weak spot for A. Lange & Söhne watches and basically all the timepieces in its catalog are beautiful. This is a rarity, as I normally tend to select only a few pieces from watch manufacturers that I truly like and enjoy. In that respect, there is no other brand that operates at the same level as A. Lange & Söhne that offers so much magic to me personally. The Lange  Zeitwerk Minute Repeater only reinforces my feelings about the brand.

A. Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater - reclining
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  1. Pedro Maiz

    Funny. the power reserve tells you, through a red dot, if there is enough power to activate the min. repeater. But isn’t the whole idea of the minute repeater to tell time in absolute darkness?

    • ..the 36 hour run time would mean at least 12 hours of sunlight within the movements winding. So the red dot reference could be of use. Also keep in mind the repeater can be activated under a shirt sleeve in daylight hours to hear the chimed time indication.

  2. Henry Stone

    At the end of the day if you wanted a digital watch, you buy a digital watch.

    The concept of the analogue watch in its traditional form allows the user to estimate time visually and understanding time elapsed or, in the near future with inherent user experience at a split second glance rather than actually having to calculate the time as required by this piece. Our brain understands instantly what the traditional time piece will look like at any minute or hour without calculations.

    Hour and minute hands are the visual representation of time, like a signal, clearly understanding where they came from and where they are going.

    Lange & Sohne have created a mechanical marvel reminiscent of the original mechanical calculator, already obsolete as time will reveal.

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