This year’s SIHH saw A. Lange & Söhne release a slew of interesting timepieces. Amongst them the beautiful Saxonia Moonphase, the Lange 1 Moonphase Lumen. But for us, the most interesting piece is the technical tour de force which is the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds. This is classical Lange. Technical watchmaking at its best. Executed with a twist.
As usual, the prerequisite background material can be found by reading our Press Release coverage here.
A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Jumping Seconds
(or A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Springende Sekunde in German)
Case, Dial, Hands
The dial is plain. Some complain. It does not communicate any emotions. Say others. But we say to them: Infidels! A technical watch like the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds deserve a dial which is clear, legible. A dial which is more akin to a technical instrument than just the frivolous ornate face of the watch.
As is traditional for Lange, the dial is massive silver. This style of regulator dial is not new to Lange. The first to bear a regulator dial with three intersecting circles is the Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Mérite. That watch, announced in 2011 had a one minute tourbillon and a constant force escapement provided by the fusée-and-chain transmission characteristic of the Pour le Mérite series. The inspiration behind the dial layout was the Seyffert Regulator Pocket Watch which Tony de Haas and Tino Bobe, the Technical Directors of Lange found in the firm’s collection.
In 2014, Lange released the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terra Luna. Another technical tour de force watch which also had the same regulator styled dial. This time, they added a perpetual calendar, and as it was not part of the Pour le Mérite family, it did not have a fusée-and-chain transmission system, but here Lange used a remontoir to provide constant force to the escapement.
In both, the dials were traditional regulator style. The pride of place with the largest dial real estate is given to the minute sub dial, with the hour sub dial on the lower right, and a seconds sub dial on the lower left. On the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds, the similar dial arrangement is seen, but the largest sub dial is now the seconds hand, with the hour sub dial still at lower right, and the minute sub dial on lower left. This is to provide center stage to showcase the namesake of the watch. A precisely jumping seconds hand.
On the intersection of the hour and minute sub dials is a small triangular aperture. A little disc below turns and shows red through the aperture on the last 10 hours of power reserve to signal to the owner to wind the watch. At other times, the triangle is the same color as the rest of the dial. There is no need for a power reserve indicator, as the power being delivered to the escapement is always the same, so a winding reminder is provided instead.
The hands, and indicators, as described is clean, clear, legible. The case is typical Lange. The case we photographed in the SIHH booth is Swiss made, and bears the Swiss Assay mark of the St. Bernard’s head. And a maker’s mark “FT” is also present, along with markings confirming that the case is in 950 Platinum. The case is teutonic in design and feel. It is hefty. And beautifully finished with a polished bezel and a brushed middle case.
The movement: Lange L094.1
Not to take away anything from the dial side, a Lange always looks its best from the case back. This is especially so for their more technical pieces. The Datograph is a case in point. And the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds is no different.
The visual impact of inspecting the caseback is a serious pleasure reserved for quiet moments where one can contemplate the beauty of the movement, and perhaps the meaning of the universe. We have known grown men to tear in pleasure as they examine Lange movements. We have been known to succumb ourselves. But we digress.
The movement is a technical tour de force. Tony de Haas explains it in this video, but we will attempt to provide further details in the sections which follow.
The remontoir: constant force system and the jumping seconds mechanism
The jumping seconds mechanism has played a pivotal role in A. Lange & Söhne’s history. Ferdinand Adolph Lange himself developed and patented a “one-second movement with a jumping hand” as early as 1867. And it is indeed a collector favorite.
The remointoir first appeared in a Lange wristwatch with the introduction of the Lange 31, where it was to provide a constant force to the escapement because the mainspring to power a watch with a power reserve of 31 days is enormous. And the torque is massive, with huge variations from when the mainspring is fully wound and when depleted.
The remontoir appeared again in the Lange Zeitwerk. Here it is used to provide the power to instantly cause the digital display to jump. And again in the Richard Lange Terra Luna. And in this interation, Lange introduced some additional refinements. Here we explain in detail.
As explained by Tony in the video above. the movement has two trains connected to each other sequentially. In the first train, the power to the escapement flows from the mainspring to the remontoir. The second train is from the remontoir to the escapement. The remontoir is a small spring placed between the fourth wheel and the fifth wheel and is wound once every second by the mainspring. As it is small, the difference in torque when fully wound and when fully depleted is very small. And is thus able to deliver a near constant torque to the escape wheel. The mainspring’s power is blocked from flowing to the escapement by a long lever or yoke, called the flirt. And the escapement is powered by the near constant torque of the remontoir.
The flirt engages with a five pointed star which is fixed on the arbour of the fifth wheel. The flirt is not visible in the photograph above, as it lies below the three quarter plate. As the fifth wheel (also known as the escape wheel) moves five times a second to make one complete revolution (21,600 bph train), one of its points which blocks the lever. Once every second, the star wheel moves sufficiently to push the flirt over and liberates the lever. As the flirt is powered by the mainspring, it instantly makes a complete revolution only to be stopped by the next point on the star. This 360 degree rotation is transmitted by the wheel train connected to the fourth wheel arbor and moves the seconds hand one step. As it moves, the mainspring releases sufficient energy to wind the remontoir spring.
The zero reset system
Zero reset is one of Lange’s calling cards. It first appeared in the Langematic in 1997. The system is simple and uses a concept which is well known and used even before, and it is a wonder why no one thought using it to affect a zero reset mechanism. But it was the genius of movement designer Helmut Geyer who thought of using the heart cam system common for resetting chronographs to reset the seconds hand to allow for precise time setting. This concept was carried over to zero reset of the tourbillon seconds hands in the Lange 1815 Tourbillon as a development over the first stop tourbillon – the Lange Cabaret Tourbillon.
The system then known as the Sax-0-mat (as the original Langematic of 1997 was part of the Saxonia family), is now refined. The clutch is on the fourth wheel arbor, and is a system of three discs. The clutch disc is in the middle and is secured to the fourth wheel arbor. During normal operations, this is held closed by a special hand shaped spring which firmly presses the top and bottom clutch discs together. This ensures that as the power is transmitted to the seconds hand, it does so in the same manner as the stoccato manner that the fourth wheel jumps shows up on the dial as a precisely jumping seconds hand. When the crown is pulled, a system of levers (one of which is shown by the yellow arrow in the photograph above) blocks the balance with a stop spring (part of this stop spring is visible curving around the balance in the lower mid part of the photograph) and also opens the clutch. This separates the fourth wheel arbor from the wheel train and allows it to float without friction. The heart cam is then activated a fraction of a second later by another of the levers and resets the hand to zero. Pushing the crown home closes the clutch, and releases the balance and the movement restarts.
As shown by the red arrow, a set of brake jaws ensure that the rest of the movement train remains stopped and the hour and minute hands “frozen” when the crown is pulled and not affected by the zero reset system.
As is normal for Lange watches, the finishing is top notch. All the traditional finnisage points are well addressed. Finishing is very fine, and the execution is flawless.
The movement is traditional Lange three quarter plate, and done in maillechort (German Silver). The anglage is particularly beautifully well executed. Note the bridge holding the zero reset system gives a nod to the Datograph bridge in its shape on the bridge holding the fourth wheel. Note also it gives the opportunity for the designers to incorporate one beautifully executed inward angle and another equally beautiful outward angle on the same bridge.
A small detail which might be missed by most is the jewel held by the black polished plate of the fifth wheel’s arbor is transparent. This is made of transparent sapphire instead of the red sapphires used throughout the movement. The reason is that as the star wheel which engages the flirt is immediately below, it allows the watchmakers a view for ease of adjustment.
Further thoughts and concluding remarks
This is the Editor’s absolute favorite among Lange’s offerings this year. The Richard Lange Jumping Seconds is a highly technical, watchmaker’s watch. In our discussion with Tony de Haas, he too revealed that it was his favorite. The dial is done in true instrument style. Very clean, clear, legible. Pride of place is given to the show of the precisely jumping seconds hand.
But the movement is what steals the heart. The melange of colors, so familiar in every Lange is present. The soft glow of the maillechort (which will grow even more gorgeous with time as patina develops). The blued steel screws. The gold chatons held by the blue screws, and the bright red jewels. The glint from the anglage. The imposing house manufactured intertia balance wheel. And the magnificent hand engraved balance cock. It is all so familiar. And all so beautiful. And at a recommended retail of €78,000 (approx S$122,000 before taxes) it remains a very interesting proposition.
As comparison, we can look at the Jaeger LeCoultre Geophysic True Second (S$13,300 in stainless steel and S$25,900 in rose gold). The Geophysic also features a remontoir system to deliver a constant force escapement and a jumping seconds system. And JLC makes her offer on a more traditional dial layout. It is not as well finished as the Lange but priced at at an incredible value for money.
Another competitor might be the F. P. Journe Chronomètre Optimum (S$125,200 in rose gold). To us, this is perhaps a near direct comparison. The Journe carries a remontoir system for its constant force system. The Journe also features a jumping second system, and a power reserve indicator. Arguably it has a more advanced direct impulse escapement system. Pricing is very similar to the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds.
In conclusion, even after surveying the competition, what do we recommend? The decisions remain yours, of course. But in our discourse, we have presented the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds, and it gets our approval for Editor’s Choice.