A. Lange & Söhne just dropped a new Zeitwerk. And as with every new watch from the Glashütte manufacturer, it is not just a new dial and case material combination but an entire evolution. And where if not in the fabulously finished movement? Let’s have a look…
Moreover, I got the chance to talk a bit with Anthony de Haas and you will find the interview at the end of the article.
What makes the A. Lange & Söhne ZEITWERK so special?
Besides the ZEITWERK is a Lange watch, that says a lot about the level of quality involved (more about that later), the piece is one of the very few mechanical watches with a digital time display. This type of time-telling is extremely facile for everyone, but removing three hands to add three disks brings many issues to the table. Regardless of how weightless are the disks, they still require a lot of power, especially at the change of the hour when all three need to be moved. After more than a decade since the launch of the first ZEITWERK (2009), the development team at A. Lange & Söhne was able to bring to the market a new well-refined calibre. Some information is given by Tony in the interview (check at the end of the article).
Discovering the ZEITWERK
For those familiar with the A. Lange & Söhne ZWEITWERK, the new release brings no surprise. A lightly thinner case but the same combo of finishes we are all used to by now. The case construction of the Lange watches respects a series of details: a mandatory brushed caseband, polished bezel and caseback and polished lugs with a subtle chamfering. The crown was manufactured in the same material as the case and can be found at the classic 2 o’clock position. The crown is used to set the minutes in both directions. For a fast set of the hour, it is used a pusher situated at approx. 4 o’clock. The introduction of the pusher permits a very fast hour change, useful for travelling between time zones, but brings a huge mechanical complexity.
The comfort and beauty of the wristwatch are enriched by an alligator strap fitted with a pin buckle in the material of the case. The wearing comfort is typical for a Lange watch. The heavy materials used for the case bring a toll to the 42mm case and the wearing wrist. But it is just a matter of personal preferences and getting used to it. I personally found no issue with it. Although a metal bracelet will considerably increase the weight.
The dial: detailed simplicity
The new ZEITWERK comes in pink gold or platinum with a black or rhodium-plated dial. Although the dial seems to be very simple at first look, a careful look reveals the complex details and construction. The tens-minute disc measures 19 mm in diameter, while the unit-minute disc is 12.7 mm and they are separated by a gap of just 0.2 mm. This requires, like the rest of the movement a precise setting by the watchmaker. The acceleration and braking forces necessary for this are tremendous and put a lot of strain on the entire mechanism. The time display is “encapsulated” in a brushed contour, the time bridge, that highlights the digital complication.
The power reserve indication was updated to accommodate the new increased power reserve: each marking corresponds to 6 hours, for a total of 72 hours.
The lower side of the dial reveals a big running seconds sub-dial. The vertical complications use pink gold, respectively white gold hands.
The legibility is absolutely magnificent: the big numerals “jump out” and can be easily read and the power reserve and the second are also easy to spot. But there is no secret about the fantastic legibility of Lange watches.
A mechanical masterpiece: Calibre L043.6
While the face of the watch is a departure from the traditional style, the view of the calibre is an exquisite representation of haute horlogerie. Not only superb finishes are expressed for the joy of the collector but also a glimpse of the highly complex movement.
The first recognisable detail is the German silver three-quarter plate with Glashütte ribbing – a traditional component specific to the brand and the region of Glashütte. The artisans of the brand adorn the balance wheel and the escape-wheel cock with hand-executed engraving. Each engraver has its own personality and every watch can be attributed without error to the right person. The manufacture leaves a “free hand” for the artisans to express their originality and personal style.
In the same area, a keen eye can observe the oscillation system with its own balance spring and patented beat-adjustment system. The balance wheel is lighter than the one found in the previous generation and helped reduce the necessary torque. The entire power distribution was redeveloped: two barrels loaded by beautiful solarised winding wheels feature thinners and longer springs, a modified remontoire and lighter escapement – all to achieve an impressive power reserve of 72 hours.
The introduction of the fast hour correction (used for the first time on the ZEITWERK DATE) added an entire set of mechanical complexities: a vertical clutch is used to disengage the hour ring from the jumping numerals. To ensure the correct required and controlled force, the pusher actuation has no effect but the release activates the function – in this way, the force, speed and style of pushing do not damage or influence the mechanism.
The time “jump” of each minute is realised at the charge of the remontoir. Since the force torque needed by the complication is too high for the traditional escapement, a 60 seconds remontoire is used to feed constant power to the escapement and every minute, after the remontoire is depleted, it is recharged, using the “brute” force also for the discs’ engagement.
Calibre L043.6 is a feast for the eyes hungry for lavish decorations and complicated mechanisms. The movements decorated by A. Lange & Söhne are legendary for their beauty. This high quality was the one that pushed the brand from a virtually unknown name in the ’90s to a desirable masterpiece. And ZEITWERK is Lange watch – with all that the name brings.
Conclusions and final words about the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk
When Lange announces a new piece, one must be prepared to be amazed. The German brand has an ultra-recognisable style that is loved or not. But when it comes to its movements and finishes, there is a general understanding that excellence is in the game and there is nothing to reproach.
The A. Lange & Söhne ZEITWERK is a special piece. Started as a dream, the watch continued to evolve in an impressive way, so we have today a masterpiece.
A. Lange & Söhne ZEITWERK Technical Specifications
- Time indicated in hours and minutes with jumping numerals;
- subsidiary seconds with stop seconds;
- power-reserve indicator
- Lange manufacture calibre L043.6,
- manually wound,
- crafted to the most exacting Lange quality standards,
- decorated and assembled by hand;
- precision-adjusted in five positions;
- three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver;
- balance and escape-wheel cocks engraved by hand;
- minute jump via constant-force escapement
- Movement parts: 451
- Jewels: 61
- Screwed gold chatons: 2
- Escapement: Lever escapement
- Oscillation system:
- Shock-resistant cam-poised balance;
- superior-quality balance spring manufactured in-house with patented balance spring clamp,
- frequency of 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour,
- a precision beat-adjustment system with lateral setscrew and whiplash spring
- Power reserve: 72 hours when fully wound
- Movement dimensions
- Diameter: 33.6 millimetres;
- height: 8.9 millimetres
- 142.025 – 950 platinum
- 142.031 – 18-carat pink gold
- Case dimensions:
- Diameter: 41.9 millimetres;
- height: 12.2 millimetres
- Operating elements
- Crown for winding the watch and setting the time;
- pusher for rapid correction of the hour indication
- Solid silver, rhodié,
- White gold hands
- Solid silver, black
- Pink gold hands
- Hand-stitched alligator leather, dark brown
- Hand-stitched alligator leather, black
- Prong buckle in 950 platinum
- Prong buckle in 18-carat pink gold
About A. Lange & Söhne
Dresden watchmaker Ferdinand Adolph Lange laid the cornerstone of Saxony’s precision watchmaking industry when he established his manufactory in 1845. His precious pocket watches remain highly coveted among collectors all over the world. The company was expropriated after the Second World War, and the name A. Lange & Söhne nearly vanished. But in 1990, Walter Lange, Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s great-grandson, ventured to start over again. Today, Lange crafts only a few thousand wristwatches, mainly in gold or platinum, per year. They are endowed exclusively with proprietary movements that are lavishly decorated and twice assembled by hand. With 70 manufacture calibres developed since 1990, A. Lange & Söhne has secured a top-tier position among the world’s finest watch brands. Its greatest successes include brand icons such as the LANGE 1, the first regularly produced wristwatch with an outsize date, and the ZEITWERK, with its precisely jumping numerals. Extraordinary complications such as the ZEITWERK MINUTE REPEATER, the TRIPLE SPLIT and the so far most complicated model, the GRAND COMPLICATION, introduced in 2013 in a limited edition of six, represent what the manufactory always strives for: to drive the traditional art of watchmaking to ever-new heights. The sporty yet elegant ODYSSEUS, introduced in 2019, marked the start of a new chapter for A. Lange & Söhne.