A. Lange & Söhne has introduced a new, limited-edition version of its Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” timepiece — first released in 2009 and previously available in rose gold and platinum models, both now sold out — in a white-gold case and black dial — coincidentally for the German luxury watch brand, the just in time for the beginning of Oktoberfest.
The watch’s white-gold case measures 40.5 mm in diameter and 10.5 mm thick. The black dial, a rarity for Lange watches, is made of silver and features applied white Roman numerals and rhodiumed gold hands, along with tiny red Arabic numerals at the 15-, 30-, 45-, and 60-minute marks. The hand-stitched black alligator leather strap secures the watch to the wrist with a white-gold pronged buckle.
Like all of the Saxon watch brand’s “Pour le Mérite” models, which it has been producing throughout various models and collections since 1994, this Richard Lange watch contains a movement with a fusée-and-chain transmission mechanism, which guarantees constant torque — and thus stability — to the amplitude of the balance across the entire power-reserve range. Only a handful of modern wristwatch manufacturers have mastered the fusée-and-chain, a device first used in historical pocketwatch movements.
The chain in the fusée-and-chain is wrapped around the mainspring barrel, delivering the spring’s power to the wheel train via the cone-shaped fusée. This keeps the torque constant. When the watch is fully wound, the chain pulls at the smaller circumference of the fusée, i.e. at the shorter lever. At the other end of the scale, when the tension of the mainspring is nearly depleted, the chain pulls at the larger circumference of the fusée, the longer lever. The mechanism is similar in principle to the gearing of a bicycle except that the gear ratios are infinitely variable rather than fixed.
The chain — which, like the rest of the movement, is made in-house at the Lange manufacture in the German watchmaking capital of Glashütte — consists of 636 parts (the rest of the movement has only 239) and can support a weight of over two kilograms despite being only .25 mm thick and 156 mm long. Lange’s watchmaking team also added two separate mechanisms that block the winding system before its fully wound and fully unwound states, preventing the chain from being overstressed.
The fusée rotates in one direction during the winding process and in the opposite direction when the watch is running — so it is necessary to ensure that the watch continues to run even when it is being wound. To accomplish this, Lange added an elaborate planetary gearing inside the fusée that maintains the flow of power from the fusée to the movement during the winding phase. The gearing is composed of 38 tiny parts which the watchmaker must fit inside the extremely tight space (just 8.6-mm in diameter) inside the fusée.
The vital parts of the fusée-and-chain device, framed by generous cutouts in the movement’s three-quarter mainplate, are visible through the sapphire caseback. The movement is Lange’s manufacture Caliber L044.1, which is decorated by hand and has a freely oscillating Lange hairspring powering the large screw balance at a frequency of 21,600 vph. Its moment of inertia can be adjusted precisely to the torque delivered by the fusée by means of four solid-gold poising screws. The haute horlogerie finishing on the movement parts — which include elaborate engravings on the balance cock, escape wheel, and fourth-wheel — even extends to the upper side of the tiny chain, which has a straight-grained pattern. The A. Lange & Sohne Richard Lange “Pour le Merite” is limited to just 218 pieces, priced at $82,500; the edition number refers to the 218 global points of sale at which the brand’s timepieces are sold.