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  • Dec 21, 2014
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Watches & Wonders 2013

In perfect harmony

German craftsmen strive for a look that is crisp, clear and borderline utilitarian, writesCarl Cunanan

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 October, 2013, 9:43am

The German watchmakers of A. Lange & Söhne occupy a special place in the horological world. They are fanatical about their finishing, craftsmanship and work, and this makes their visible mechanisms amazingly intricate.

Despite this, their watches have a look of balance and harmony. This balance can be very hard to come by, particularly if you look at some of their pieces and see that they are not symmetrical and canted off to one side. Their first important modern watch, the Lange 1, has the dial off-centre.

The pieces are minimalist in some ways, yet the watchmakers have chosen to make some of the date windows particularly large and more readable. This may seem contrary to minimalism, but because of the balance they strive for, the look is almost always crisp, clear and borderline utilitarian.

The company has chosen the Watches&Wonders event, in which it is the only German brand to attend, to present its latest and greatest creation, the new Grand Complication. They are also unveiling two boutique-only limited editions, including a particularly eye-catching Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst (ref 720048) that highlights the by-hand engraving and finishing mastery of their craftsmen, and the Saxonia Automatic Outsize Date (ref 308.047).

"Watches&Wonders is a tribute to the highly developed watch culture in Asia, and brings the splendour of the SIHH [Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie] as a privileged venue for retailers and watch journalists to the region," says Wilhelm Schmid, CEO for Lange Uhren, which holds the watchmaker's trademark.

"A. Lange & Söhne already has a strong position in the Asian market. Watches&Wonders offers a great opportunity to intensify relations with the ever-growing community of watch enthusiasts and collectors in the region, who admire the technical and artisanal finesse of our timepieces."

The Grand Complication is an extremely complex mechanical movement that combines several important complications. It is a perpetual calendar, as evidenced by the different displays for day, date, month and leap year arranged cleanly and symmetrically on the dial.

All time-telling displays advance together at midnight, with the exception of the blue moon-phase indicator in a subdial at 6 o'clock. This function requires precise storing and application of power.

The watch has the stopwatch function of the Monopusher Chronograph, but with added complication of having a rattrapante and a seconde foudroyante (flying seconds) ability. These supplementary features enable precision of up to one-fifth of a second, while allowing the user to stop time for something like a lap notation as the movement continues to run, keeping track of overall time elapsed.

The watch has two hand-tuned gongs that work with the careful design of the case to resonate crisply and seductively, and tell you the time. As a minute repeater, it can aurally call the time up for you on demand and you can set the watch to chime regularly.

The watch's grande sonnerie setting will indicate a full hour with the lower-pitch gong and the number of quarter-hours with a double strike on both gongs.

That this timepiece is being launched at Watches &Wonders is testament to the importance accorded the region. The company says it has always considered Asia to be important.

The Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst (ref 720.048) uses the unique Lange off-centre dial arrangement and adds both a tourbillon (not visible from the front ) and a perpetual calendar with a stunning moon phase indication. The Handwerkskunst designates amazingly ornate and precise finishing and decoration on both the dial and the movement itself, in this case using a rare combination of tremblage and relief engraving techniques. Also, for the first time Lange has hand-painted the numerals on its big date display. All this beauty is fittingly protected and framed by a 41.9 mm platinum case, and only 15 pieces will be painstakingly produced.

The pink gold Saxonia Automatic Outsize Date (ref 308.047) uses the Lange Sax-O-Mat manufacture calibre that takes its name from Saxony, Zero, and automatic. The zero stands for their Zero-Reset mechanism that has the seconds hand jumping instantly back to 12 o'clock when you pull the crown, allowing quick synchronisation or what is called a "hack" feature. This boutique-only limited edition in pink gold will have a run of only 25 pieces.


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