A Bit of History
Throughout history, ancient societies and cultures across the world have observed and studied the moon. As one of our most ancient symbols, the lunar cycles have been measured and used to understand the moon’s influence on life, but also to track time. The movement of the moon controls the tides for example; some associate the moon with femininity and fertility; and its rising above our heads signals the impending arrival of night. This elegant display in the night sky is what watchmakers try to recreate when releasing a timepiece with a moon phase display.
The moon phase complication is one that A. Lange & Söhne has invested time and resources in, to create some of the most accurate and beautiful watches featuring a moon phase on the dial.
“More than 20 calibers out of 63 speak for themselves. But the importance of the moon phase for A. Lange & Söhne becomes even more apparent when you consider how we took the design of this complication to different directions: we made mechanisms that run accurate for 122.6 or 1,058 years. We developed a moon phase for the southern hemisphere as well as the orbital moon phase, and we combined it with a day-and-night indication,” explains Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne.
The Lange 1 Moon Phase
The Lange 1 Moon Phase model was released in 2002, almost a decade after the release of the original and groundbreaking Lange 1, but its origin story dates back to the year before when Lange launched the Langematik Perpetual in 2001, which was the first automatic perpetual calendar watch combined with an outsized date. The perpetual calendar complication is classically paired with a moon phase. However, to match the perpetual calendar, which remains accurate from one turn of the century to the other, Lange had to come up with a similarly accurate moon phase indication. Thus, came the idea for an ultra-precise moon phase which can be integrated into other movements like in the Lange 1’s, for example.
When incorporating the moon phase display without disrupting the balanced dial design of the Lange 1, there was only one logical location to use: the small seconds subdial. This allowed the preservation of the purity of the timepiece and its readability.
Another important aspect of this moon phase display, this time more technical, is the continuous and fluid drive of the moon disc via a precisely calculated seven-wheel transmission, which is connected to the hour wheel continuum. This means that unlike other moon phase displays where the moon disc jumps once or twice a day, the one inside the Lange 1 Moon Phase moves continuously as the day advances and closely follows the synodic time of one moon orbit around Earth which is 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 seconds.
In simplified moon phase displays, the lunar cycle is rounded up to 29.5 days which creates a deviation of one day after two and a half years. Lange’s much more complex gear train in their moon phase movement reduces the inaccuracy to such a small number that it takes 122.6 years for the deviation to add up to one day, thus making the watch accurate to 99.998 per cent.
Not one to rest on its laurels, A. Lange & Söhne introduced in 2003 the Grand Lange 1 “Luna Mundi” cased in the larger 41.9mm variant of the Lange 1.
The “Luna Mundi” was a limited edition set of two watches: “Luna Mundi/Ursa Major” in white gold and “Luna Mundi/Southern Cross” in red gold, paying homage to the two dominant constellations in the northern and southern sky, Great Bear and Southern Cross, respectively.
Over the years, the watch industry has largely neglected the southern hemisphere and based moon phase displays mainly on the northern hemisphere. The reality is that the increasing and decreasing crescent of the moon appears in mirror image to the people of the northern and southern hemispheres. Only full moon and new moon appear the same on both hemispheres. To restore that omission, the two versions of the “Luna Mundi” showcase the Great Bear and Southern Cross constellations on the dials of the watches and their respective moon phase discs. The moon discs rotate clockwise and counterclockwise for the northern and southern hemispheres.
The two hemispheres were further enhanced by the expertise gained when creating the Lange 1 Moon Phase, and displayed accurately thanks to the precise mechanism which only needs an adjustment once every 122.6 years.
Evolution of the Lange 1 Moon Phase
In 2017, the watchmaker revised the Lange 1 Moon Phase by fitting it with the new caliber L121.3, and introduced at the same time a new moon phase display fitted with a day/night indicator.
Not only was the moon phase paired with the integrated day-and-night indication, it was also fitted with the newly designed, manually wound caliber of the Lange 1. The new mechanism improved the outsize date change of the Lange 1 to a precise and instantaneous jump at midnight.
When asked why the brand combined the moon phase with a day/night indication, Anthony de Haas explains that the arrangement of the display is based on a new, particularly realistic concept that reproduces the transition from light to darkness in a 24-hour period. “A separate solid-gold moon pursues its orbit in the foreground. Behind it, a celestial disc performs exactly one revolution every 24 hours. It is also made of solid gold and gradient-colored. During the day, it shows a plain bright sky, while at night it depicts a dark starry sky. Thus, the moon is always set against a realistic background, which also serves as a day-and-night indication,” he adds. This of course helps to set the time because it assures that the date always switches at midnight and not, inadvertently, at 12 noon.
To create this ultra-realistic celestial sky, the maison developed a patented coating which works on the basis of interference effects. This eliminates all non-blue hues of light falling on the surface. As a result, this creates an intense blue tone for the eye of the beholder. The 383 laser-cut stars are of different sizes and have extremely sharp contours to produce a miniaturised image of the galaxy. All this combined best exemplifies the degree of perfection to which the brand is committed.
The Lange 1 Moon Phase “25th Anniversary”
All the craftsmanship and innovations that have been poured into the Lange 1 Moon Phase, brings us to today and the reveal of the sixth model of the Lange 1 25th anniversary collection: the Lange 1 Moon Phase “25th Anniversary”.
Everything that is blue deserves special attention. The watch will be presented in an exclusive limited edition of 25 pieces, in white gold, featuring an argenté-colored dial paired with blued steel hands. Also blue are the printed numerals and markers, as well as the blue date numerals.
As expected, the star here (pun, thoroughly intended) remains the blue celestial disc depicting the night sky filled with its 383 laser-cut stars of different sizes, which harmonizes the dial and its mix of silvery and blue tones.
The caliber L121.3 is endowed with a hand-engraved, blue-filled balance cock in which the anniversary number “25” is integrated that also corresponds to the strict limitation of each model.
The Lange 1 Moon Phase is arguably one of the most important models in the brand’s catalog and this anniversary model sure feels special.