Few watch manufacturers take the precision of their moon-phases as seriously as does A. Lange & Söhne. Last fall, the Saxon haute horologie brand even invited select media guests, including yours truly, to Scottsdale, Arizona for an astronomically themed experience whose centerpiece was the opportunity to learn about the lunar cycles and their effects on the Earth from a seasoned astronomer and to view, under a clear desert sky, landmarks on the moon’s surface through the lens of a powerful telescope. Only afterward was it abundantly clear that Lange’s watchmakers bring to the brand’s lunar indications the same dedication to detail and accuracy as they do to “sexier” complications like chronographs and repeaters.
The Saxonia Moon Phase, which debuted in 2016 in rose-gold and white-gold cases with a silvered dial, was touted by A. Lange & Söhne as containing the manufacture’s 16th in-house caliber with a moon-phase. While many of these predecessors’ moon-phases were included among a host of other complications, in annual and perpetual calendars throughout the portfolio, the one in the Saxonia Moon Phase was obviously intended to be (slight pun intended) the star, paired up with just one other complication, the big date display at 12 o’clock, a longtime brand hallmark. A new black-dialed version of the watch (with rose-gold and white-gold case options) debuted in 2018, and I had the opportunity to wear the white-gold-cased version of this model for several weeks — not long enough to cycle through an entire lunar month but long enough to give this elegant timepiece a thorough once-over.
Like its predecessors, the watch’s case measures a somewhat modest 40 mm in diameter and a relatively slender 9.8 mm thick. The narrow, sloped bezel has a shiny polished finish while the sides of the case are satin-brushed. The lugs are small, slightly curved and polished. The fluted crown is also rather small and set close to the case middle, but the fluted sides make it easy to grip and turn, even for large fingertips.
The crown pulls out to just one position, to set and advance the hour and minute hands. Lange was able to use such a simple crown because of the other two devices built into the case that control the setting of the non-timekeeping functions: an inset corrector for the moon-phase, subtly located south of the crown at 4 o’clock, and a pusher located at 10 o’clock, to quickly and easily advance the big date.
Traversing the elements of the handsome black dial, we find applied baton indices made of white gold at the 12 hour positions, doubled at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, the latter shortened to accommodate the subdial. These appliqués are subdivided by white minute markers along the periphery and swept over by lance-shaped white gold hands. Directly below the 12 o’clock index is the big date window, a feature that has been a mainstay of Lange watches since 1994, when the first modern collections, including the Saxonia, made their debut. Lange’s instantaneously jumping big date (which it refers to in its communications as an “outsize” date) is notable for its gold-framed double aperture and its space-saving configuration, with two separate display disks for the units and tens.
The date is, of course, eminently legible, which is wholly the point, but there’s a slight awkwardness to its look from day 1 through 9 of any given month. I am assuredly not the first to opine on this (not even the first in the WatchTime office), but it seems that a centered date window containing just one flush-left numeral next to a blank field for the first week-plus of the month messes with the dial’s otherwise exquisitely harmonious symmetry. I am sure Lange has its reasons for not adding a “0” to the hour disk for balance, but I’d still be curious to see what such a design might look like.
At 6 o’clock, we come to this Saxonia’s signature complication, an ultra-precise moon-phase indication in a snailed subdial which also hosts the small seconds. The moon-phase display is connected to the movement’s hour-wheel continuum and thus remains in constant motion, like the moon itself, so long as the watch is running. The moving moon-phase disk is made of solid gold that has been given an intense blue hue by a patented coating process, and is dotted by an astounding 852 laser-cut stars. Owing to its precisely calculated seven-stage transmission, it reproduces the period of new moon to new moon with 99.998 percent accuracy; assuming the watch runs continuously, the moon-phase display will require a manual correction of only one day every 122.6 years — obviously much longer than my allotted review period. For better or worse, the contrast of the blue starfield against this watch’s black dial is much less pronounced than the one offered by the silvered dials that preceded it; in low lighting the blue almost blends into the black of the surrounding dial.
The moon-phase can be manually advanced by the previously mentioned inset button in the side of the case. I was, of course, obsessed with keeping the moon-phase as accurate to real life as possible while wearing the watch, so at one point I took advantage of this functionality; the tip of a paper clip sufficed to easily move the moon disk in tiny, lightly audible increments.
Turning away briefly from the ebony dial and its sophisticated lunar display, we flip the watch over and spy through the sapphire caseback Lange’s manufacture Caliber L086.5, which powers the timekeeping, date, and moon-phase functions. Like all Lange calibers, its technical wizardry is matched only by its aesthetic beauty. The self-winding movement amasses a 72-hour power reserve in a single mainspring barrel and features a large central gold rotor with a centrifugal mass made of platinum and a luxuriously engraved “A. Lange & Söhne” name on its frosted gold surface. The edges of the rotor are chamfered and polished, and the platinum mass is attached to the gold main body by blued screws.
As in all Lange movements, other hallmarks of traditional Saxon watchmaking abound, including a three-quarter mainplate made of untreated German silver; a decorative, hand-engraved balance cock; a shock-resistant screw balance and free-sprung balance spring; and a host of lavish finishes, such as Glashütte striping and perlage on the plates and bridges. The sinks and screw heads are polished and a sleek, black, polished finish has been applied to the escape wheel bridge.
The watch comes mounted on a hand-stitched black alligator strap that tapers to a fairly thin width at its ends and fastens with a classical pin buckle, engraved with “Lange.” The strap was overall very comfortable and suitably elegant, though for some reason I kept loosening and re-tightening it by one notch throughout the day.
Sometimes the timing of a watch review is ideal. An exceptionally hot summer in the city, like the one that just now winding down often means lots of open-air and rooftop soirées, and this summer was no exception. With its luxuriously harmonious look, its reliable functionality, and its peerless horological pedigree, the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase (Ref. 384.029, $29,600) proved to be, in just about every respect, an ideal timepiece for formal and business-casual cocktails under the midsummer moonlight. And it will assuredly serve its wearer just as well under the harvest moon of autumn and beyond.