Yes, it has happened. Lange has finally joined the ranks of the luxury sports watch. Some may say 27 years too late, but many will say, better late than never. We had a pre-release in-depth look during a private presentation of the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus, and had time to do this critical hands on. Here is our unbiased opinion.
We have been approved a four hour window ahead of the general release embargo (6pm CEST) to bring this to you as “Breaking News”. Of course, we are not the only ones with this head start, but one of the few.
This is not a Press Release.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus
This perhaps registers as only the third time that A. Lange & Söhne has broken their own rule book and changed the game plan. The first was right in the beginning in 1994, when the Lange 1, Pour le Mérite Tourbillon burst into the scene, with the outsized date and chain and fusée miniaturized into a wristwatch (respectively). The second, in our opinion was in 2009 when they released the Zeitwerk with the new design language and digital blueprint. And now, the entry into the luxury stainless steel sports watch market – with the Odysseus.
Of stainless steel Langes
This is the first series production stainless steel watch made by A. Lange & Söhne. Earlier examples in non-precious metals were very limited special runs. Most notable of which is the Lange 1, which represents the largest in number, we estimate about 20 pieces in SS. The other SS Lange watches seem to be piece uniques. Almost all have achieved very high prices in the secondary market. The most recent SS Lange 1 offered for sale acheived CHF 143,750 at a Christie’s Sale 1417 in November 2016. I have documented a piece unique in the Pour le Mérite Tourbillon in my book A. Lange & Söhne: The Pour le Mérite Collection. And we are took note when a piece unique in the Double Split was sold for a record price of CHF 461,000 at Christie’s Sale 1389 on November 2013. The PlM remains in private collection as far as we know, but we are sure it will charter a record sale amount when and if it is offered in the future.
As a matter of completeness, we are also aware of another series production of stainless steel Langes, but these remained the property of Lange Uhren and were never offered for sale. These were the 1815 Service Watches produced in the late 1990s, and were used as loaners to clients who had watches which were being serviced.
The case, dial and hands
As mentioned, this is the first time Lange has offered a series production watch for sale in stainless steel. Though the Lange press literature does not explore the market intent, it is clear to us that this decision was made to go after the luxury sports watch genre. This genre was invented by Audemars Piguet in 1972 by with the Gerald Genta designed Royal Oak. A feat Genta repeated with Patek Philippe with the Nautilus Ref. 3700 in 1976. The Nautilus remained the “King of the Hill”, with the latest iteration, the third generation Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A on the so-called throne.
It is interesting to note that although if this were the game being played, then Lange would be 27 years late. But there is more to it than meets the eye. Indeed, the prime mover of the brand, Günter Blümlein has remarked to me more than once, that his personal favourite watch was the AP Royal Oak original Jumbo Ref. 5402ST. So it comes full circle.
The new watch is called the Odysseus, and Lange calls it a “sporty-elegant watch for people who admire watchmaking but live active lives.” The prominent design is the stainless steel case measuring 40.5mm (and 11.1mm high), with an integrated stainless steel bracelet.
The case is sculptured, with a highly polished and slightly curved bezel and a brushed case middle. This is the motif of the design – surfaces are finished in a satin brush and juxtaposed with polished chamfered edges. This design schema is echoed on the lugs and links of the bracelet.
The bracelet is pliable and contours easily to the wrist, making it comfortable to wear. The length can be adjusted in steps of 7mm by the use of a safety deployant buckle. An pusher, embossed with the Lange signature can be used to release the bracelet to be pulled or pushed to adjust the length without having to open the buckle.
Functionally, the watch provides the day and date display at 3 and 9 o’clock dial positions. The date display is the typical Lange Outsized Date design. Both are displayed through an aperture on the dial with a white gold frame.
Push buttons are used for correcting the date, as is the tradition on Lange watches. There are two of these, one for the date, and the other for the day of week, and are located at at 2 and 4 o’clock. The design does not emphasize that they are buttons, but integral protrusions to the case sides. These buttons are sealed with special gaskets and the crown is a screw-down design to give the entire case a water resistance rating of 12 ATM, the highest ever for a Lange.
The dial is of a stepped design, which provides a 3 dimensional feel to the face. Interestingly, the dial itself is made of brass, a departure from the typical Lange dials are in massive silver and for some special editions in gold, perhaps as an indication that the case is also made of non-precious metal.
The indices are faceted, notched baton appliques in white gold and sit on a raised outer band on the dial. This band features a finishing with concentric lines, made by a technique which is known as azurage. This provides a contrast against the grained inner surfaces of the main dial. This schema is also applied to the subsidiary seconds dial. A bevelled, argenté-coloured flange ring with a printed minute scale frames the dial as the rehaut. The number 60 on this track is printed in red at 12 o’clock.
The hands are lancet shaped, typical for Lange. And feature a light luminous coating on the inner surfaces. I
Overall, the case, dial and hand are finished at a top notch level, as is expected from Lange, and easily competitive with the best in the world.
The movement L155.1 Datomatic
The movement is a totally new manufacture caliber L155.1, known as the Datomatic. The gorgeous two tone, multi finish detailing of the Langematic‘s micro-rotor is now replaced with a monochromatic full sized skeletonized rotor. The name Datomatic is engraved in relief on the rotor, and a platinum centrifugal mass is attached to the periphery. The rotor skeletonizing allow the details of the manually executed, lavish finissage of the movement to be observed.
The movement has a diameter of 32.9mm and beats at 28,800 bph, a new rate for Lange.
As we did not release the bracelet, we could not provide you with high resolution photographs of the movement. Here are the Lange provided photograph/renderings.
The barrel provides a power reserve of 50 hours, and a new balance is used. The balance features a regulation mechanism of four countersunk poising screws that are flush with the outside of the balance wheel rim. This design is intended to reduce turbulence, critical because the wheel now runs at a higher frequency than earlier calibers. The balance spring is manufactured in-house and is free sprung.
The oscillation system is held by a balance bridge which is hand engraved with a wave motif. We presume this is for a more secure shock resistance, as the intent of the watch is more sporty than its brethren.
As typical of Lange movements, the movement frame is entirely constructed in German Silver, and elaborately finished by hand. Finishing is the usual top level we have come to expect from Lange. The movement also features a gold chaton held by blued screws securing the upper bearing jewel of the escape wheel arbour.
The competitive landscape
This is a landscape where everybody is trying to get into. A very crowded field, with entrants at the top as well as at the bottom. At S$ 40,700, the Lange Odysseus is well positioned to take aim at the top of the hierarchy. It is almost the exactly the same price as the Nautilus Ref.5711 (S$ 40,300). And set above the AP Royal Oak Jumbo Ultra Thin (S$ 34,600 in steel), the Vacheron Constantin Overseas (S$ 30,800), the Chopard Alpine Eagle (S$ 17,200) and the Girard Perregaux Laureato (S$ 15,300). Some will also consider the Piaget Polo S (US$9,300), the Bell & Ross BR 05 (which like the VC Overseas does not feature an integrated bracelet, and perhaps grounds for disqualification. BR 05 retail is S$ 7,300) or the various Hublots.
But we focus our analysis on the obvious competitor: the Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A. This is currently the king of the luxury sports watch genre, with its near impossible to obtain status further pushing it into the strastosphere of desirability. We understand current black market prices are trading the 5711/1A at close to S$ 100,000, a huge premium over the retail price. As mentioned in our Conversation with Thierry Stern, the supply side of the equation is not going to improve, so it is anyone’s guess where the high side of this market is headed.
Currently retailing for almost exactly the same as the recommended retail of the Odysseus at S$40,300, we are clear of Lange’s intent to knock the Nautilus off its perch. The Odysseus also matches the Nautilus feature for feature. The sporty intentions are both announced with the superbly finished stainless steel case with integrated bracelet with the exact same 120m depth rating. The Odysseus takes the game one notch higher with a day of week and an outsized date instead of the regular date.
Fit and finish is judged to be approximately the same, with emphasis on different aspects. The Patek, being Swiss is perhaps more elegant, sleeker and sublime. And being in the game for longer, has a more aristocratic air. The Lange, being German, and a challenger, is heftier, feels more solid. Characteristic of a good Teutonic feel. In a wear comparison, the Patek feels (and is) slimmer, and lighter, and curves to envelop the wrist perhaps a tad better than the Odysseus. Though truth be told, the difference is miniscule and only discernible on a side by side comparison, which we did when we had the opportunity for our hands-on with the Lange.
Initial concluding thoughts
This has been a difficult review to write. Particularly for one such as I, who is perhaps recognized globally as a top cheerleader, admirer and long time friend of the brand.
There is so much going for the Odysseus. The design and the execution are flawless. And taken on its own, the Odysseus is an almost a perfect embodiment of what a luxury sports watch would be like from a Teutonic point of view. The Lange DNA is all there, and we are glad that Lange did not chose to simply offer one of the watches in the existing collection in stainless steel, but to create a new line, with new design markers and a brand new movement. This is character from good breeding. Noblesse oblige.
And yet, as it is seeking to dethrone the position currently occupied by the Patek Philippe Nautilus, it begs comparison. Which we did in the Competitive Landscape above. And perhaps, as a conclusion, it is polite to just proclaim the tagline used by Lange in the early years – “The Swiss make good watches. So do the Germans.” and leave it at that.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Specifications
ODYSSEUS Ref. 363.179
Lange manufacture calibre L155.1 DATOMATIC, self-winding, crafted to the most exacting Lange quality standards, decorated and assembled by hand; precision-adjusted in five positions; unidirectionally winding central rotor with platinum centrifugal mass; balance bridge engraved by hand
Movement parts 312 Jewels 31 Screwed gold chatons 1 Escapement Lever escapement Oscillation system Shock-resistant balance with four poising screws; balance spring manufactured in-house with a frequency of 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour (4 hertz), precision beat adjustment with cam and whiplash spring Power reserve 50 hours when fully wound
Functions Time indicated in hours, minutes, and subsidiary seconds dial with stop seconds; day-of-week and date displays Operating elements Screw-down crown for winding the watch and setting the time; two buttons for correcting the day of week and date
Case dimensions Diameter: 40.5 millimetres; height: 11.1 millimetres Movement dimensions Diameter: 32.9 millimetres; height: 6.2 millimetres Case Stainless steel Water resistance Up to 12 bar (120 metres) Dial Brass, dark-blue Hands White gold, hours and minutes luminous Glass and caseback Sapphire crystal (Mohs hardness 9) Bracelet Stainless steel Buckle Safety deployant buckle with precision adjustment mechanism for adjusting the length