A. Lange & Söhne released some gems this SIHH. With the anniversary of the first unveiling on October 24, 1994 looming, the new Anniversary Lange 1 was launched and we are looking at a hectic monthly release schedule of a Lange 1. We also saw the latest iteration to the Zeitwerk family, which was first launched in 2009 in Berlin. Here is our hands-on, in-depth review.
The Zeitwerk family started a decade ago (we covered the event in Berlin, click here for first pictures of the Zeitwerk in the internet from 2009) with the iconic instant jumping straight line digital watch, which is mechanically powered. It was the first digital watch to display the time as we read it from left to right. It is still the only one to display time this way and all other digital watches show the hours above the minutes, like the IWC Pallweber.
From what seemed to be a new design language for Lange, and perhaps a one-off project then, the watch grew wings of its own. And soon became the celebration of collectors worldwide, who marveled at the huge display, the instantaneously jumping time, and the magnificent movement with the very technical remontoire which drives the jumping discs. The Phantom (Zeitwerk Lumen) soon followed in 2010 and was hailed a great success, and spawned a whole sub-range of Lange Lumens. Essentially the family grew with the Zeitwerk Striking Time, and then the Decimal Strike. All making great strides and advancing the Lange story. And for 2019, we have the Zeitwerk Date.
The Lange Zeitwerk Date
At first glance, adding a date seem to be a rather trivial complication. But considering that the Zeitwerk dial already features 4 digits, all jumping, adding the classical Lange Outsized date would make the dial very complicated, and possibly confusing to read. And may remind one of the Harry Winston Opus 3, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Only it is not in the vein of the teutonic Lange style. Adding the date as a pointer was the next idea explored, but a long hand pointing at the date is not really a Lange aesthetic either. The idea has some merit, and the Tony de Haas and Tino Bobe, the design team at Lange, decided to retain it, but with a Lange twist.
The case, dial and hands
The case is the standard Zeitwerk case, and very typical of Lange cases. The lugs are massive and soldered onto the case middle. with a polished bezel and an engraved rear bezel. The build quality and finishing is exemplary. The Zeitwerk Date measures 44.2 mm in diameter, an increase from 41.9 mm in the standard Zeitwerk. The height is reduced to 12.3 mm from 12.6 mm. The enlarged diameter is to accommodate the date ring, but the interesting measurement is that the height is reduced, even though they have added a complication and doubled the power reserve! This is impressive, and reminds of the early days back in the late 1990s, when an Ab/Auf Power Reserve indicator is added to the 1815 without changing the case dimensions. Vintage Lange.
As we mentioned, the solution to display the date is via a sapphire glass ring printed on the circumference of the dial. As the other dial elements remain the same size as the standard Zeitwerk, this increases the dial size by exactly this date ring. Precisely allowing 1.15 mm space for the digits of the date to be printed plus the negative space surrounding. As the designers have discarded the idea of a hand pointer, the solution to indicate the date is simple, but quite nice. The dates are inverse printed on the glass surface, with the ink (silver) occupying the space around the image of the digits. Another ring below the date printed dates is painted in grey, with one segment in red to indicate the current date. This ring rotates once a day, allowing the date to jump instantaneously from one to the next. Very neat solution.
In addition, a pusher at 8 advances the date one day at a time, and is equipped with an all or nothing device. Press the pusher, nothing seem to happen, though this action arms the spring. Release the pusher, and the armed spring advances the date by 1. The same mechanism is fitted on the quick hour change pusher at 4.
The huge numerals which are the signature of the Zeitwerk showing the hours and minutes from left to right remains the same. But gone is the twitch which was designed into the early Zeitwerks (see our 2009 coverage for the video) to release the tension on the remontoir. The discs for the hours and minutes are now totally steady till exactly at the top of the minute when it jumps instantaneously.
The entire colour schema of silver and grey with the red accent of the date is remarkably pleasing. And we just love gazing at the watch on our wrist.
The movement: Calibre L043.8
The movement is based on the original L043. Perhaps it is indicative to remind our readers the Lange caliber nomenclature. The first two digits indicate the year when development first started. In this case, its 2004. Five years of development before the first Zeitwerk appeared in May 2009. The third digit is a serial number assigned to the calibers which began development that same year. The numeral after the decimal denotes the variant of the caliber. Hence, the current time only Zeitwerk sports the L043.1, while the Zeitwerk Date is the L043.8.
What remains is the patented constant-force escapement that handles two tasks. As a remontoire device, it allows the huge torque of the mainspring to be “chopped up” into smaller, more manageable power so that the balance wheel is fed a more or less uniform amount of force for the entire running duration. Additionally, it delivers the one-per-minute impulse for switching the three-disc jumping numerals display.
But the power reserve has increased to 72 hours, double that of the original Zeitwerk. This is done with more powerful mainspring, and also a new balance wheel. The original L041 carried the first in-house balance wheel which is designed and created in Glashütte. The eighth variant also carries a balance designed and made in-house, but is redesigned to be smaller and lighter.
The parts count now goes up to 516 components, up from 415 in the L043.1 but the finishing is the same top rate execution expected of a Lange. The remontoire bridge is particularly well finished.
The competitive landscape
There are not many digital jumping hour and minute watches in existance. Many of the jumping hour watches with digital display feature either a retrograde minutes or a regular one. And the Zeitwerk, with the left to right arrangement of the hours and minutes is unique in this respect. Of the sparse landscape, we can think of perhaps two who compete directly. At € 89,000, it is hardly a bargain, but we think its very competitive and the money buys a lot of watch.
We begin with the De Bethune DBS Digitale which shows the hours, minutes and date in digital format. However, only the hour digit is jumping and the minutes are showed on discs which are dragged across a window aperture on the dial.
The De Bethune, however, is a perpetual calendar with moonphase display. Finishing on the DBS Digitale is excellent, with the touches by Denis Flageollet being apparent in the brilliant execution. One comment is that some may find the digital display numerals to be very small, giving the dial a lot of negative space. We kind of liked it, though.
IWC Tribute to the Pallweber is perhaps a better known, more commercial competitor. The Pallweber is a tribute to the original digital pocket watches made by IWC in 1884. And the aesthetic is in line with her origins.
The jumping hour and minutes are arranged on top of each other on the dial. Though small when compared to the Zeitwerk’s, the numerals on the Pallweber are larger than on the DBS Digitale.
To us, Lange has introduced yet another winner. At € 89,000; it is € 17,500 more expensive than the entry level Zeitwerk. Whether one should settle for the non-date version or go for this Zeitwerk Date is a personal decision. We offer the reasoning that the Date movement is far more complex (516 components vs 415), offers double the power reserve, with the same good looks and engagingly beautiful movement; it is a good proposition. And we highly endorse the Zeitwerk Date. Especially if you wrist can wear the 44mm case proudly.