With its first stainless-steel model, A. Lange & Söhne seeks to gain a foothold in the world of luxury sports watches. How does the Odysseus, which bears the name of a legendary hero from Greek mythology, perform in our test?
Sports, like so many things in life, are a matter of taste and talent. One person may choose to compete in the Ironman challenge while another considers chess to be a sport. The latter is in good company because the International Olympic Committee agrees with him.
Eager to woo adherents of both viewpoints, A. Lange & Söhne advertises its new Odysseus, our test watch, as a “sporty, elegant watch for very active people.” The elite manufacture has given this new watch plenty of features that make it more robust and enlarge its field of activity. Choosing stainless steel as the material for its case already helps quite a bit because this alloy is much less susceptible to scratches than the precious metals gold and platinum, which Lange has used exclusively in its watches. And unlike Lange’s typical crocodile-skin straps, this model’s stainless-steel bracelet doesn’t mind a dip in a lake. Furthermore, wearing this watch while enjoying activities that raise a sweat doesn’t mean you’ll have to pay €290 plus VAT (around $375 total) to replace a stained but otherwise high-quality leather strap.
A Supple Stainless-steel Bracelet with a Sophisticated Clasp
High temperatures or physical exertion can also cause your wrist to swell slightly, but that’s not a problem for Lange’s Odysseus thanks to the clever adjustment system in its clasp. The circular logo on the buckle can be pressed down, thereby lengthening the strap in fine increments to add a maximum of 7 mm. Simply push the strap back into the buckle to shorten it. This practical mechanism works very well and we used it more often than we’d initially expected.
Alongside stainless steel as the material for the case and bracelet, the case’s increased resistance to pressure qualifies this watch to participate in a wider range of activities. The Odysseus is the first Lange watch that can withstand pressure of 12 bar, which corresponds to water pressure at a depth of 120 meters. Strictly speaking, the pressure resistance to a depth of 30 meters that Lange typically provides isn’t even suitable for a shower or a swimming pool. Thanks to its screw-down crown, the Odysseus can easily survive a dive from the deck of a sailboat. A sporty watch should be easy to read, both in the light and in the dark. The Odysseus meets this requirement with luminous material on its hour hand, its minutes hand and its large indexes; only the small seconds hand remains dark.
With all of these new features, is the Odysseus still recognizable as a Lange watch? There’s no cause for concern here because the manufacture has retained important characteristic features. This applies to the lance-shaped hands and to the seconds hand with its skeletonized counterweight, to the typeface used for the calibrated scales and, to a certain extent, to the case, for example, the shape of the lugs and the polished bezel. Of course, Lange’s big date display also contributes to recognizability. The large width of the bracelet at the lugs and the comparatively delicate hand for the small seconds admittedly take some getting used to, but all in all, Lange has adroitly combined new and old design features.
The Blue Dial — a Work of Art in Itself
The dial is a work of art: both the wreath of hour indexes and the subdial for the seconds are grooved, while the inner part of both the main dial and the subdial have rough surfaces. The bar-shaped hour indexes are made of white gold and each one not only slopes downward toward the center of the dial, but also has an M-shaped cross section and is filled with luminous material along its midline. The satin-finished minutes scale runs along the flange — a practical solution, and a somewhat unusual one for Lange. The red numeral 60 on the flange adds a dash of sportiness and also recalls the red numeral 12 that Lange used on rare anniversary models with enamel dials.
Also new, the day of the week appears in a window positioned directly opposite the double aperture for the big date. Like the dial, the disks for these two displays are blue — a small but important detail that’s all too often ignored. And when it’s overlooked, the mismatched color scheme detracts from the harmony of the design. In addition, the typeface chosen for the displays is the same one that spells out the brand’s name on the dial.
Lange not only developed the mechanism for the day-of-the-week display; it also redesigned the mechanism for the big date because the latter is now located near the edge of the dial, instead of closer to the middle as before. To achieve the largest possible display area, the big date indicator puts the digits into a ones ring and a 10s disk instead of in the previous cross shape. Furthermore, the ones ring is now larger and runs around the periphery of the movement, so it’s marked with the digits 0 to 9 twice.
The mechanism for the day of the week and the big date is propelled by the hour wheel, which completes one full circle every 12 hours. Its motion is transmitted to the 24-hour wheel, which requires one full day to finish each 360° rotation. The 24-hour wheel directly advances the day-of-the-week indicator. At the same time, it also propels a program wheel that guides the proper progress of the ones ring and the 10s disk. The program wheel powers the gear train of the ones ring so that it advances by one increment per day. An exception occurs when the 31st day of an expiring month transitions into the first day of a new month, in which case a missing tooth in the program wheel assures that the gear shift is skipped once. The program wheel also propels the gear train of the 10s disk every 10 days. Only when changing from the 3 to the empty field does switching take place after two days rather than 10. To correct the date, Lange has integrated two pushers into a component that’s likely to be mistaken for a crown protector: the upper pusher advances the date and the lower one resets the day of the week by one day. These pushers, disguised as crown protectors, are easy to operate and each has a precise pressure point. It’s extremely unlikely that they would be triggered unintentionally. The special design also makes it possible to switch both indicators forward or backward by turning the crown clockwise or counterclockwise beyond the midnight position. The mechanism cannot be damaged by incorrect use. In total, the calendar system consists of 99 components.
A New Movement, from Automatic Winding to The Balance
Lange didn’t merely redesign the calendar function; the entire movement was engineered specially for the Odysseus by the Glashütte-based company. Caliber L155.1 Datomatic with unidirectional winding rotor builds up a 50-hour power reserve. With a diameter of 32.9 mm, it’s the right size for this watch and, in addition to automatic winding, it offers other features that are appropriate for a sports watch movement. For example, it’s the first Lange caliber with a balance paced at the speedy frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour. Thanks to this faster pace, shocks and vibrations exert less of an effect on the accuracy of the movement. To minimize air turbulence at this higher frequency, the engineers designed a smooth balance wheel with four countersunk regulating screws rather than relying on a classic screw balance or a balance with regulating weights on top of its wheel.
Lange also designed the bearing of the balance wheel for optimum robustness. Instead of a cock, which is borne on only one side, the balance of the Datomatic is supported by a bridge, which is screwed on both sides. Lange’s typical swan’s neck fine adjustment for the beat has been replaced by a similar construction in which a vertical eccentric screw replaces the horizontal one.
When it comes to embellishments, Lange has upheld its time-honored practices. The balance’s bridge is manually engraved with floral motifs, its edges are beveled and polished, and its screws are blued. There’s a three-quarter plate and at least one bearing jewel in a screwed gold setting, which accepts the pivot of the escape-wheel’s shaft and thus defines the heart of the watch in a very traditional way. Only the striped pattern has slightly wider stripes than usual. Every detail embodies horological artistry at the highest level, just as one would expect to encounter in a Lange timepiece.
A Genuine Lange Watch with an Expanded Field Of Application
The rate values are equally impressive. The Odysseus that we tested gained only 1 second per day on the wrist. Our timing machine reconfirmed the accurate timekeeping and calculated an average daily deviation of +1.1 seconds with a fully wound mainspring. The amplitude and thus also the accuracy decrease significantly after 24 hours, but this is less relevant for an automatic watch. What is important, however, is the wearing comfort. When it comes to metal bracelets, you sometimes have to make compromises, but Lange’s new bracelet lies very smoothly on the wrist and doesn’t pinch any hair. In addition to the quick adjustment mechanism mentioned earlier, the bracelet can also be shortened easily. Two recessed pushers on the back and toward the outside of each link can be pressed to remove individual links.
Lange modified the design of the bracelet and the clasp. The ingenious extension system in the buckle and the construction of the bracelet were developed by IWC for its Pilot’s chronographs. (Lange and IWC are both part of the Richemont Group.) The workmanship is perfect throughout the watch, with the sole exception of milling marks that weren’t polished off on the inner sides of the clasp’s hinges. Beveled and polished edges are a distinguishing feature of high-quality watches. Lange accordingly bevels and polishes the edges of parts in the watch’s movement, case and bracelet. These shiny planes contrast beautifully with satin-finished surfaces and add a distinctive sporty touch to the five rows of links that comprise the stainless-steel bracelet.
The Odysseus is therefore a genuine Lange watch — and readily recognizable as such —thanks to the movement’s technology and the typically high quality of the workmanship and embellishments. Furthermore, the manufacture from Glashütte has significantly expanded the range of applications for its watches with this first serially produced model in stainless steel, which offers a case made from a robust mater-ial and with greater pressure resistance, in combination with an excellent metal bracelet equipped with a quick-adjustment mechanism. These features are well worthwhile — not only on a sailing trip, but also on a summer day beside an invitingly cool lake.
Manufacturer: A. Lange Uhren GmbH, Ferdinand-Adolph-Lange-Platz 1, 01768, Glashütte, Germany
Reference number: 363.179
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, big date, day of the week
Movement: In-house Caliber L155.1, automatic, 28,800 vph, 31 jewels, Lange hairspring, Glucydur balance, Kif shock absorption, fine adjustment via four regulating screws, the beat can be finely adjusted via an eccentric and a swan’s neck spring, 50-hour power reserve, diameter = 32.9 mm, height = 6.20 mm
Case: Stainless steel, sapphire crystals rated 9 on the Mohs scale above the dial and in the back, water resistant to 120 meters
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless steel, secured deployant buckle with integrated mechanism to finely adjust the bracelet’s length
Rate results (Deviation in seconds per 24 hours, fully wound/after 24 hours):
On the wrist +1.1
Dial up +0.4 / +2.2
Dial down +3.3 / +3.4
Crown up -1.3 / -6.8
Crown down +2.5 / -4.0
Crown left +0.4 / -6.3
Greatest deviation 4.6 / 10.2
Average deviation +1.1 / -2.3
Flat positions 278° / 238°
Hanging positions 245° / 196°
Dimensions: Diameter = 40.5 mm, height = 11.1 mm, weight = 146.0 g
For a close look at the newest version of the Odysseus, in white gold with an integrated, sporty rubber strap, click here.