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1-on-1: Comparing the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Moon Phase with the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase

by Frank Chuo on June 15, 2020
Reviews
Overview
Brand

A. Lange & Söhne

Complication / Type of Watch

Moon Phase
Date
Power Reserve
Day/Night Indicator (Lange 1 Moon Phase only)

Recommended Retail Price

Lange 1 Moon Phase: EUR43,200 (pink gold)
Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase: EUR45,900 (pink gold)

Lange 1 Moon Phase vs. Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase

The Lange 1 timepiece is the poster child of Saxon fine watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne. Its visage is as memorable today as it was in 1994 when it made its world debut alongside the brand that created it. Lange first introduced the moon phase complication to the Lange 1 in 2002, culminating in the original Lange 1 Moon Phase. Twelve years later in 2014, the Saxon manufacturer presented the slightly larger Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase, with its moon phase display shifted to the main sub-dial. Then, in 2017, the Lange 1 Moon Phase was updated with a new and improved movement, together with subtle changes in aesthetics. Side by side, the two timepieces are actually very similar and often present as a conundrum for would-be buyers. They share a similar design and layout, similar set of complications, and the exact same level of quality. In fact, without thorough observation, the only obvious difference between the two watches is the positioning of the moon phase display. And this is why we’re here today: to help discern and elucidate the key similarities and differences between the two like-watches.

The Case

The cases of both the Lange 1 Moon Phase and its up-sized sibling are virtually indistinguishable aside from their sizes – and even that isn’t too apparent. The former measures 38.5 mm in diameter and 10.2 mm in height, while the latter clocks in at 41 mm in diameter and 9.5 mm in height. The difference is only vaguely noticeable in real life. The Lange 1 Moon Phase is essentially a marginally thicker Lange 1 while the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase is sort of like a flattened Lange 1.

Both cases feature the same style of finish, namely polished with a brushed case band for contrast. They also have a crown at 3 o’clock and a pusher at 10 o’clock for date setting. A recessed pusher at 8 o’clock can be actuated with a stylus (provided with the watches) to set the moon phase.

The Dial

The dial is where both watches begin to diverge in style. In the Lange 1 Moon Phase, the moon phase display is located at the classical spot within the seconds sub-dial. Meanwhile, the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase sees the gorgeous moon phase display “promoted” to the main sub-dial where the most important indications are: the hours and minutes. Fans of Lange’s superb moon phase displays would love this move, as the display has been significantly enlarged to fit. This easily makes the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase one of Lange’s most poetically beautiful watches. While the moon phase display on the Lange 1 Moon Phase isn’t as striking with it being in the small seconds sub-dial, the dial does look more balanced and cohesive. There is reason to give every corner of the dial attention, rather than giving the bulk of it to the main sub-dial as is the case with the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase.

It is also worth noting that in the new 2017 version of the Lange 1 Moon Phase, the ‘sky’ that serves as the backdrop for the moon doubles as a day/night indicator. This additional complication is not currently available on the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase; you can bet on its implementation if Lange decides to update the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase movement in the future though.

There is also the matter of whether luminescent material belongs on a dress-style watch. In all current variants of the Lange 1 Moon Phase (except for the 25th Anniversary edition), the hands, hour markers, and power reserve markers are coated with luminescent material. Granted that it is convenient to have for low-light visibility, lume edges an otherwise dressy timepiece towards the more casual end of the style spectrum. This is fine if you’re looking for a more easy-going, casual experience, but those who want maximal elegance may not like it. By contrast, none of the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase models – except for the Lumen special edition – employs luminescent material.

The one less explored difference between the two watches is the amount of ‘blank space’ – space not occupied by any displays/indicators – available on the dial. The Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase has more blank space on its dial (total surface area) than the Lange 1 Moon Phase simply due to its larger diameter. We feel that the Lange 1 Moon Phase – at 38.5 mm (same as the Lange 1) – has just the right amount blank space; enough so that the dial doesn’t feel cluttered, but at the same time, not too ‘barren’.

The Movement

Driving the Lange 1 Moon Phase is the freshly updated Calibre L121.3. The most noticeable changes in this new movement are the addition of a novel day/night indicator, the implementation of an in-house balance with inertia weights, and the removal of cut-outs from the three-quarter plate. Meanwhile, the Calibre L095.3 in the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase is still based on the older Lange 1 movement; tell-tale signs include a third party balance that uses screws instead of inertia weights, and the cut-outs being present in the three-quarter plate. Naturally, the Calibre L095.3 also lacks a day/night mechanism.

For the first time in our 1-on-1 series, finishing counts for nothing as both movements are equi-beautifully finished. Unlike many other brands, Lange finishes all movements to the same standard, from the simple Saxonia Thin to the mighty Zeitwerk Minute Repeater.

The Price

The Lange 1 Moon Phase is priced at EUR43,200 for the pink gold version, while the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase in the same material retails for EUR45,900 – a EUR2,700 price difference. Unsurprisingly, both watches are similarly priced (in the grand scale of things), as they are truly very similar watches. The slight premium on the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase could be accounted for – at least in part – by its slightly larger overall size, and its significantly larger moon phase disc; in essence, more material is needed to make the watch and more work is required to finish the additional real estate.

The Conclusion

The Lange 1 Moon Phase and Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase watches are very similar and may present as a predicament for potential buyers. And yet at the same time, there are many subtle and not-so-subtle differences that may influence one’s choice over the other.

One of the more important points for consideration is size and shape. The Lange 1 Moon Phase is overall smaller but thicker, making it a little puck-like, while the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase, being wider but thinner, makes it discoid. We feel that the latter would look more elegant in profile but you’d need at least an average-sized wrist to wield the watch with panache because of it’s 41 mm diameter. Make no mistake, the Lange 1 Moon Phase is still elegant in spite of its height. In fact, its 38.5 mm diameter may be preferable not just by those with average-smaller wrists, but also by classicists.

Perhaps the most important aspect to consider between these two timepieces is the dial. The Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase, with its prominent moon phase display, is the more poetic piece – and if that’s what you want out of your watch, then this is the way to go. The Lange 1 Moon Phase goes for a more harmonious approach where the moon phase display doesn’t outright overshadow the other displays on the dial. It, too, has a novel and creative day/night indicator as an added function.

There isn’t too much to compare between the movements of the two moon phase watches as they come from the same manufacturer and collection, and share identical levels of finissage. The key take home message is that the Calibre L121.3 is more up-to-date, more in-house, and has one additional complication. If those factors are important to you, then they should sway your vote towards the Lange 1 Moon Phase.

In a nutshell, if you like a bigger watch with a strong emphasis on the moon phase display, the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase suits you better. On the other hand, if you’re into a more classically sized watch with a more balanced design (with the additional day/night indicator), then the Lange 1 Moon Phase is for you. Is one objectively better than the other? Absolutely not. In the end, it’s purely down to preference and what one values more in fine watchmaking.

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