The simplest way to describe Lange’s approach in watchmaking is that a Lange timepiece always conveys a sense of clarity on the dial and sheer opulence when viewed through the caseback. The clear exception to this generalisation would have to be their Handwerkskunst timepieces, which are opulent no matter which side of the watch. Otherwise the idea is applicable across all of Lange’s watches.
The Pinnacle of A. Lange & Söhne’s Craft
Quite frankly, turn over any Lange timepiece and it is undeniable that the word to use is exactly that — opulence. The expansive, Glashütte-ribbed, German-silver three-quarter plate with its soft honey-coloured glow is something to behold.
Diving in deeper we see the use of other age-old master crafts, such as the application of gold chatons, which today only serve as ornamentation rather than for the serviceability of the rubies used. The articulate 45-degree chamfering, the circumferential polishing on all vertical surfaces of plates that creates a beautiful contrast against polished edges, and circular graining on the wheels are just some of the more prominent details that speak of Lange’s extraordinary approach to movement decoration and finishing. And who could forget the true signature of Lange, the engraved balance cocks that truly make every Lange timepiece unique unto itself.
With so much to showcase on the backs of their timepieces, it’s not surprising that the large majority of Lange’s movements are manual winding. You could spend hours watching the intricate movements through the caseback. In fact, of the 50 calibres that are currently listed on the Saxon watchmaker’s website, only nine are self-winding movements. The majority of these are from the 1815 collection, one the Langematik Perpetual and just two instances of automatic Lange 1 movements: the Lange 1 Daymatic and the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar.
When Lange first found itself going down the road towards an automatic timepiece — the Langematik — the way that it was achieved was by placing a three-quarter micro-rotor on the movement, rather than a centrally mounted rotor. This was back in 1997, just three years on from the year that A. Lange & Söhne was re-established. And while the micro-rotor still took up the better part of the three-quarter plate, it left the hand-engraved balance cock unobstructed. That is not to say that Lange’s was any ordinary micro-rotor, because theirs is one that is artfully decorated by hand and counterweighed with a platinum mass.
As Lange grew in stature and recognition, inevitability would have it that the Lange 1 — the Saxon watchmaker’s icon — would require an automatic variation. While we were discussing the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, Anthony de Haas, Lange’s director of product development, said: “We had come to a point in the lifetime of the Lange 1 when collectors were saying that they loved the design of the watch, but they wanted a version of the watch that they could wear without having to worry about winding it on a regular basis.”
For the designers at Lange, two concerns were at the top of their minds as they sought to answer their collectors’ call. Number one was how adding a rotor would affect the height of the Lange 1’s movement, and two that while it was okay in those early days to create the Langematik with an automatic winding module incorporated, such an approach would simply be unacceptable for the Lange 1 in 2010.
“One of the greatest challenges with an automatic Lange 1 was that we absolutely needed to maintain the elegant size of the timepiece,” Max van Aalst, a watchmaker from Lange’s complications department and international academy trainer, told us. “We knew we had to account for the various functions and we knew that adding a rotor to a movement was bound to add to its height. But the essential size of the Lange 1 is something we were not willing to compromise on.”
As such, when you look at the L021.1 calibre, what you should recognise is that this is a movement developed from the inside out with an integrated self-winding mechanism. While it doesn’t have the solitary three-quarter bridge, the bridges of the movement are placed tightly enough that it almost appears to be seamless. As a result, even though the rotor occupies the entire 31.6 mm diameter of the movement, it is nominally skeletonised such that it still allows for a sense of openness and visibility.
The result of having focused on the movement first is that Lange was able to give the Lange 1 Daymatic its automatic winding function in a watch that is 39.5 mm in diameter and 10.4 mm in height. That’s a difference of just 1 mm on the diameter and 0.6 mm on the height, when compared to the classic hand-wound Lange 1.
Lange were, of course, also able to implement several functional improvements as a result of having developed the L021.1 from the ground up. For instance, with the understanding that an automatic timepiece doesn’t need to be too concerned about the total power reserve it holds, doing away with the twin barrels freed up precious real estate in the movement to incorporate the automatic winding mechanism. The classic Lange 1 is lauded for its 72 hours of power reserve, enabled by the twin-barrel configuration. However, it is important to state that the L021.1 is no slouch, with a power reserve of 50 hours.
On the same note, Lange recognised that a power reserve indicator was quite pointless on the dial of an automatic timepiece. Rather than simply leave it there, or worse, do away with it and leave a gaping hole and imbalance on the delicate Lange 1 dial, the team very intelligently incorporated a day indicator into the L021.1. On the dial side the indicator was designed to sit where the power reserve indicator would otherwise be found on a hand-wound Lange 1.
The L021.1 is a testament to Lange’s ingenuity and courage to look inward and consider how it can better the things that it has already accomplished. Ultimately, it goes without saying that without the milestone that is the Lange 1 Daymatic, we would today also not have the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, a true pinnacle in the Lange 1 family.
On the occasion of the Lange 1’s 25th anniversary, it is therefore appropriate that the Saxon watchmaker should issue a special version of the Lange 1 Daymatic. Rendered in a 39.5 mm white-gold case, the Lange 1 Daymatic “25th Anniversary” features a solid-silver dial in the mirrored dial layout paired with blued hands and colour-matched inscriptions.
The watch is powered by the ground breaking L021.1 calibre, which for the occasion is, of course, dressed with the number 25, fashioned after Lange’s outsize date, hand-engraved and filled with blue on the signature balance cock.
Self-winding Lange manufacture calibre L021.1; central rotor with platinum centrifugal mass; hours, minutes and small running seconds; outsize date; retrograde day indicator; balance cock engraved by hand and filled with blue, engraving of ’25’ in the typeface of the Lange outsize date on the balance cock; 50-hour power reserve
39.5 mm in white gold
Hand-stitched alligator leather with white-gold prong buckle
Limited edition of 25 pieces