Novelty is the meat and drink of traditional watchmaking, and it does
not get much more traditional than A. Lange & Söhne, where novelty
might be dessert too. In watchmaking parlance, novelty simply refers to new watches offered with new dials or case materials. As is true with the Lange 1 Time Zone and the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar. The former is now offered in a platinum case while the latter has been equipped with a fetching pink gold dial and a white gold case. We got to walk the hallowed halls of the manufacture and saw the assembly process for the base Lange 1 watch. We also heard a little from A. Lange & Söhne production director Anthony de Haas about the realities of production in general. The Lange 1 Time Zone from the Glashütte manufacture, in particular, allows us to craft a grounded story to relook at the brand’s character.
The Time Zone variant, launched in 2005 (named the Lange 1, with its wonderfully asymmetric dial and oversized double date goes all the way back to A. Lange & Söhne’s rebirth in 1994), added the functionality of tracking multiple time zones, making it one of the most interesting haute horlogerie GMT or dual time (more appropriately) watches. It is worth stating again for the record that the so-called Time Zoner is not a world timer, despite that telltale city ring. While the details are fascinating, we will restrict ourselves to revisiting only the points that have seen revision for this story.
In terms of the changes to the new A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Time Zone, platinum is literally the weightiest update. The watch is substantial in any material. Despite its on-paper statistics being a very reasonable 41.9mm (diameter) and 10.9mm (thickness); platinum will make it truly massive. Perhaps that is as it should be for the Time Zoner, particularly if you already own another version of this model. It might also interest those who love high-end dual-time watches. Although this sort of collectors should bear in mind that they will be competing with dyed-in-the-wool A. Lange & Söhne collectors.
This is because the watch is exclusive to boutiques. And is likely to be produced in very small numbers, given that the watchmakers are also working on other models. “Actually we created a problem for ourselves with the Odysseus and the Lange 1 because it is the same qualification of a watchmaker (as in level of expertise) that can work on these watches. This means we have to decide if the Odysseus is more important than the Lange 1… of course, it is not,” said de Haas.
All variants of the Odysseus remain phenomenally popular, thus underscoring the production conundrum the brand has to face. Of course, all current versions of the Lange 1 Time Zone remain in the picture. The movement is the same as the one introduced in 2020, the manual-winding calibre L141.1. Of course, all this means that not very many of the platinum pieces will be made.
The rhodiumised dial of the new Lange 1 Time Zone is a fair accompaniment to the idiosyncratic display. It plays well with the blue design notes, and might even be more legible. The combination of platinum and the glow of the dial is very attractive.
We will end this little update on A. Lange & Söhne with a brief note about the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar. It is now in a white gold case with a pink gold dial. Unlike the Time Zoner, this one is both a boutique-exclusive and a limited edition (100 pieces, with engraved numbering). It is only the third A. Lange & Söhne watch with such a dial and case combination. The others being the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon (2019) and the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar.
Now, A. Lange & Söhne operates with a pretty lean output—just 5,000-odd watches annually, and it has a backlog of orders resulting from the pandemic that it has not yet resolved, according to de Haas. The brand is also owned by the Richemont group, which begs the question: don’t shareholders want to see more watches made and sold? Happily, de Haas has a reply to this question, which he must have faced many times over the years, given the popularity of A. Lange & Söhne watches.
“The only pressure we get from Richemont, which means Chairman Johann Rupert, is this: Stay as you are. Not too commercial. You are the watchmakers of the group. Don’t [play] around,” said de Haas. This may well please established collectors, but it ought to reassure even aspirants that A. Lange & Söhne is committed to making watches in its own particular way, and has no plans to change anything.