Mechanical Masterpieces: A Closer Look at A. Lange & Söhne’s Richard Lange Minute Repeater

A grande complication rarely reveals its secrets and sophistication at first glance, because even to the expert eye, the complexity of the inner mechanisms is not immediately apparent. This rings particularly true for the minute repetition, whose appearance emphasizes pure understatement. The new Richard Lange Minute Repeater from A. Lange & Söhne which debuted at this year’s Watches & Wonders is as a textbook example of the genre.

Contrary to the Grande Complication and Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, the Richard Lange Minute Repeater is exclusively dedicated to its namesake complication. While the former in 2013 combined the acoustic complication with other highly sophisticated functions such as rattrapante chronograph and perpetual calendar, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater brought together the mechanical digital display of hours and minutes and the repetition.

720 Sequences in Twelve Hours

The platinum watch, limited to 50 pieces, faithfully pursues the classic sound scheme. After actuating the slide integrated into the left flank of the case, the striking mechanism chimes the hours, quarters and minutes. In doing so, it completes a mechanical program that can reproduce 720 different sequences with two differently gongs, one for each minute in the twelve-hour cycle. The hours are chimed in a lower tone, the quarter hours with a double one, and the minutes that have elapsed since the last quarter hour in a lighter one.

While the sequence of chimes sounds like music to the ears, the meticulous choreography of the mechanism consisting of 191 parts is also a feast for the eyes. A glance through the sapphire crystal caseback reveals how the mirror-polished gong hammers execute their respective sequences on the two-tone springs that are placed around the movement. All the bridges of the striking mechanism are visually united by a sunburst finish. The bridge above the centrifugal governor is skeletonized. Through the extensive openings, one can spot the centrifugal governor, balanced with two highly polished gold weights, which rotates at a speed of more than 2,000 revolutions per minute when the striking mechanism is running, thus guaranteeing a smooth operating speed.

Three additional technical features distinguish the striking mechanism. One of them is a pause elimination feature. It skips the otherwise common pause between the hour and minute strike when no double tone must be struck for the quarter hours in the first 14 minutes after the top of the hour. To prevent possible damage to the striking mechanism, it is also equipped with a safety mechanism, so that the minute repeater cannot be started when the crown is pulled out. Vice versa, the crown cannot be pulled out, as long as the striking mechanism is active. Finally, the patented hammer blocker system ensures that the hammers remain in their initial position for a fraction of a second after the mainspring is struck. This prevents the rebounding hammers from resonating and striking the mainsprings again.

The Perfection of the Sound

The art of crystal-clear sound, accurate to the minute, is not just the perfect sequence of all parts, but involves a lengthy fine-tuning process similar to that of a musical instrument. A bright, clear and reverberant sound is provided by the gongs, which harmonize perfectly with the sound characteristics of the platinum case material. As for the hammers, in addition to the material, shape, size, weight and hardness, the most important thing is the strike. All components are carefully tuned to each other by a Lange master watchmaker. To accomplish this, they must be disassembled, reworked, reassembled, and then tested several times.

While at first glance the dial with railroad minute markers, black Roman numerals and blued hands may seem rather simple, the watch face is also created in an elaborate process in the manufactory. Crafted from white enamel, it has a solid gold core and is a three-piece design. The outer ring and the central part of the main dial, as well as the sub-dial of the small seconds, are individually handmade before all three parts are assembled. This architecture lends the watch face a subtle depth effect that further accentuates the timeless appeal of the watch.

A New Manufacture Caliber

Behind this simplistic beauty beats the new hand-wound caliber L122.1 with a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour, amassing a power reserve of 70 hours. It is already the 69th manufacture movement from A. Lange & Söhne and, in addition to the exquisite craftsmanship, features some of the technical characteristics for which the manufacture is famous. These include the three-quarter plate of untreated German silver decorated with Glashütte ribbing and an artistically engraved balance cock bearing the swan-neck. Despite its complexity, the L122.1 which comprises of 455 parts is housed in a 950 platinum case that is only 9.7 mm high and 39 mm in diameter. Price is available upon request.

To learn more, visit A. Lange & Söhne, here.

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