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Review: Dark and Brooding – The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Jumping Seconds in White Gold with Black Dial

by Frank Chuo on February 11, 2019
Reviews

A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Jumping Seconds in White Gold with Black Dial

The Richard Lange Jumping Seconds was first introduced in 2016. Inspired by a pocket watch by Johann Seyffert made in 1807, the Jumping Seconds prominently features a regulator-style dial layout. At the time of its debut, it was also Lange’s first and only “jumping seconds” timepiece (it is now accompanied by the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange”). This year, the Jumping Seconds receives a cosmetic makeover that completely changes its character; we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Richard Lange Jumping Seconds in white gold with black dial.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The new Richard Lange Jumping Seconds for SIHH 2019 is presented in an 18K white gold case. As the manufacturer does not plate its white gold cases, it appears a darker shade of grey and less brilliant than its platinum sibling. In this state, the case looks more organic compared to one that is rhodium-plated, and will not require re-plating. The finishing of the case remains unchanged, with polished lugs, a polished bezel and a brushed case band. This is about as stock standard – and gorgeous – as Lange cases go.

The 18K white gold case is constructed and finished in typical Lange fashion.

The greatest changes to the watch can be found on the dial. Previously only available in rhodié and argenté dials for the platinum and pink gold variants, respectively, the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds is now graced with a black dial. The print on the dial is done in white for legibility while each quarter hours are marked with red Arabic numerals. The tiny triangular aperture located within the overlap between the hour and minute sub-dials is still there. The cut-out goes from black to red when only 10 hours of power reserve is left. All the hands on the dial are rendered in the same material: white gold. This is in contrast to preceding models where only the hour and minute hands are crafted in precious metal while the seconds hand is heat-blued steel. Having all three hands in white gold results in a more cohesive look for the watch, but compromises legibility a fair bit. Due to their polished quality, the hands look black at certain angles, and against a black dial, they can be difficult to see. Nevertheless, we wouldn’t have it any other way; having whitened hands would solve the issue of readability, but at the cost of aesthetics which, in our mind, is a much bigger no-no.

The white print and red accents stand out tremendously against the black backdrop

The Movement

The movement that beats within the new Richard Lange Jumping Seconds in white gold is the same one used in the older variants: the Calibre
L094.1. It is manually wound and has a power reserve of 42 hours.

The Calibre L094.1’s main claim to fame is its jumping seconds feature.
A flirt and a star are the elements that control the seconds jump, the conversion of the six semi-oscillations (3 Hz) of the balance into one hand step per second. Together with the escape wheel, the five-point star – located on the escape wheel arbor under a transparent jewel bearing – rotates about its own axis once every five seconds. After each full second, one of the tips of the star liberates the tensioned lever arm, which watchmakers refer to as the “flirt”. It then swiftly rotates through 360 degrees before it is stopped by the next tip of the star. This rotation is transferred to the central seconds hand via the seconds wheel train, causing it to advance to the next marker. There are a few ways to implement a jumping seconds hand; driving it with a one-second remontoir is the most technical one, which is what Lange have done in the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds. The remontoir delivers a constant burst of energy to the escapement (every second in this case) regardless of the winding state of the mainspring – this ensures improved rate stability.

The Calibre L094.1 as seen through the sapphire crystal case back

Furthermore, the Calibre L094.1 is equipped with Lange’s patented zero-reset mechanism. When the crown is pulled, the movement stops and the seconds hand jumps to zero. This allows the minute hand to be precisely aligned with the respective minute marker, and the watch can be accurately restarted, for instance when an acoustic time signal sounds. This makes it particularly easy to synchronise the watch. The mechanism consists of a complex lever system that presses a zero-reset lever against a heart-shaped cam. The seconds hand is attached to the same arbor on which the heart cam rotates. When the heart cam is pivoted into its initial position by the zero-reset lever, this also causes the seconds hand to jump to zero. Pushing the crown home again instantly restarts the movement and with it the seconds hand. Together, these three features – the jumping seconds, the one-second remontoir, and the zero-reset function – legitimise the Jumping Seconds as an observation watch, and thus a true member of the Richard Lange family.

From a finishing perspective, the Calibre L094.1 goes above and beyond basal haute horlogerie standards. The usual culprits can be seen through the sapphire crystal case back: Glashütte ribbing on the raw German silver plate; polished chamfers on the edges; exterior, as well as interior angling; gold chatons; polished screw heads and swan neck regulator; perlage on the base plate; and of course, the signature hand-engraved balance cock. Barring a select few independent manufacturers, Lange’s finissage is second to none in the industry – and this superlative standard has no doubt also been applied to the Calibre L094.1.

The contrast in hue between raw German silver and polished steel is very apparent.

The Competitive Landscape

The Richard Lange Jumping Seconds in white gold with black dial retails at EUR71,000 (no SGD pricing available at the time of writing). This makes it the most accessible Jumping Seconds variant in terms of pricing. Unlike its platinum and pink gold brothers, the white gold variant is not a limited edition piece. A price tag of EUR71,000 for what is virtually a time-only watch would seem obscene to the uninitiated, but it is worth remembering that the watch – endowed with Lange’s technical and artisanal ingenuity – represents the very finest of mechanical watchmaking and craftmanship, so it is still within reason (at least, in the realm of luxury watches).

The Richard Lange Jumping Seconds sits well on the wrist with its diplomatic 40 mm case.

As mentioned above, the only other watch in Lange’s collection that has the jumping seconds function is the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange”. In addition, the watch has a start/stop function for the jumping seconds thanks to a movement – the Calibre L1924 – inspired from the No. 13354, an old Lange pocket watch. Our detailed review of the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange” can be found here. The watch was conceived in memory of Walter Lange, the brand’s spiritual figurehead, who sadly passed away on the second day of SIHH 2017. Produced in limited numbers, the watch retails at EUR47,000.

The 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange” on the wrist.

There’s also the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic True Second, which isn’t just technically interesting, but also fantastic value for money. The Calibre 770 that drives the watch also utilises a “remontoir-esque” solution to acquire the deadbeat seconds effect. The spring, attached to the secondary fourth wheel, winds a step every 1/8th of a second. The click mechanism that blocks the wheel from moving is released every second, allowing the wheel to move one step forward, and completing 60 steps per rotation. This gives the jumping effect to the seconds hand. The main difference between the spring used in the Calibre 770 and in the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds is that the spring in the latter is in the power path, and thus doubles as a constant force mechanism – this is not the case in the Calibre 770. Another feature found inside the Calibre 770 that is worth noting is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s proprietary Gyrolab balance, designed for greater efficiency and precision. While attractively finished, the movement is nowhere near the level of the Lange in terms of aesthetics. But at just SGD13,300 for the steel variant and SGD25,900 for the pink gold variant, all is easily forgiven and forgotten.

On the wrist, the 39.6 mm x 11.5mm Geophysic True Second cuts a dignified figure.

Final Thoughts

With a simple dial change, the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds goes from ‘ticking dress watch’ to ‘scientific instrument of doom’. Sentiments from the watch community around the brand’s newest black dialed piece have been overwhelmingly positive. Combining a precision-centric timepiece with such menacing aesthetics indeed proved to be apropos.

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