Launched in 1994, A. Lange & Söhne’s Lange 1 took the watch world by storm. A flagship model realized by Alfred Lange, great-grandson of company founder Ferdinand Alfred Lange, it reintroduced the German marque to the world, adding the Lange name to the short list of top-shelf marques competing in the haute horlogerie space. With its off-center displays, oversized, “digital” date window, and manufacture movement, it was a horological revelation — one that continues to inspire awe today.
As the collection has grown, Lange added a Perpetual Calendar version in two iterations: one, housed in a white gold case, features a solid pink-gold dial, while another in a pink gold case features a grey, solid-silver dial. A perpetual calendar — sometimes referred to as a “QP” for “quanitème perpetuelle” — is a complicated watch that displays the time, day, date, month, and moon phase automatically and without the need for manual adjustment to account for months of different lengths or leap years. Designing a movement that can do this mechanically is a supremely difficult feat of micro-engineering; Lange’s version is particularly notable given its inclusion of the “digital” date display, as well as other unique characteristics.
Now Lange, which releases just a handful of new references per year, is adding a new Perpetual Calendar to the Lange 1 collection. Housed for the first time in a platinum case measuring 41.9mm wide, it features a black dial fashioned from solid silver, lending it slightly more of a “tool watch” aspect despite its decidedly elegant aesthetics and use of precious metal components. Lange being Lange, however, the watch doesn’t rely upon tried-and-true movement technology for its complicated display — rather, the German firm developed its own special calibre and calendar display, which it launched in 2012 with the Lange 1 Tourbillon watch.
If you survey contemporary, high-end perpetual calendars from brands such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, many of them base their displays upon vintage watches from the 20th century, in which a balanced series of subsidiary displays or windows show the calendar functions. This isn’t the approach taken by Lange; instead, the brand maintained the off-center, asymmetric displays of the Lange 1 and added several typical QP components in such a way that the resultant dial remains highly legible.
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As is typical in the “simpler” Lange 1, the dial’s main time display is located in an oversized subdial at roughly 3 o’clock, its applied Roman indices and alpha handset conveying a sense of classical elegance. Meanwhile, between 10 and 11 o’clock is the watch’s oversize “digital” date window — actually two separate windows with parallel wheels arranged beneath — which is inspired by a clock at the Semperoper Dresden in Saxony. Just below this display is a day-of-the-week indicator arranged in an elegant curve along the dial periphery, with a small hand that points to the correct day.
Rounding out the dial are several functions unique to a QP — or, more generally, to calendar watches: At 7 o’clock is a subdial containing a moon phase indicator that makes a complete rotation once every 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds. (It’s so precise, in fact, that it only requires manual adjustment once every 122.6 years.) However, while such a development might be enough for other manufactures, Lange went one step farther by adding a subtle day/night indicator in the form of a solid gold disc with a graduated blue surface. This disc rotates around its own axis once every 24 hours, indicating day and night hours via the depiction of either a light blue day, or a starry night. Next to this, in turn, is a leap year indicator situated above 6 o’clock.
The months, meanwhile, are neatly relegated to the dial periphery in a ring that advances precisely 30 degrees every 28-31 days, depending upon the month. Regulated by a cam, this system advances the disc precisely at midnight on the last day of the month. In fact, the Calibre L021.3 automatic movement provides instantaneous advancement of all indicators via an elaborate system of parts — 621 of them, to be precise, as well as 63 jewels. Equipped with a 50-hour power reserve, it allows for individual adjustment of any of the watch’s functions via correctors set into the case.
Paired to a black, hand-stitched leather strap with a platinum buckle, the new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Ref. 345.036E certainly has the DNA of a classic, complicated Lange & Söhne timepiece. But with its black, platinum, and blue color scheme as well as its unique and highly legible display, it takes on a decidedly contemporary aspect that differentiates it from more reserved fare from its competitors. Limited to 150 pieces, it’s highly unlikely to be any collector’s first Lange — or first complicated watch, for that matter — but for those with a deep love of haute horlogerie and the German brand’s distinct take on fine watchmaking, it may be the perfect timepiece.
- Diameter: 41.9mm
- Case Material: Platinum
- Functions: Perpetual calendar with outsize date
- Price: Upon request
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