A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase with Black Dial
It is only a known fact that A. Lange & Söhne do these two things really well: moon phases and black dials. And now they’ve come to the brand’s paragon of well-balanced dial design, the Saxonia. The Saxonia Moon Phase in itself isn’t exactly a novelty per se, for it made it’s debut in 2016 equipped with an argenté (silver) coloured dial. This year, the illustrious Saxon manufacturer has given the critically acclaimed reference a contemporary makeover, much to the fanfare of enthusiasts. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the dark and brooding Saxonia Moon Phase with black dial.
The case, dial, and hands
The case of the new Saxonia Moon Phase with black dial remains unchanged; 40.0 mm in diameter and 9.8 mm in thickness, its size will appeal to many. At 40.0 mm, it sits at the cusp of what both the traditionalists and modernists would wear on their wrists. And at 9.8 mm in thickness, the watch easily slips under any dress cuff or tight sleeve, ensuring that it is fit to serve at formal events. As for case metal options, there are only two currently available: 18-carat white or pink gold – just like the 2016 silver-dialled variants. The design and finish of the case is Lange stock standard, with a mirror-polished rounded bezel, brushed case band, and notched lugs. There is a crown at 3 o’clock for time-setting and winding, and a quick-set pusher at 10 o’clock for date adjustments. To set the moon phase, a recessed pusher at 4 o’clock can be actuated with the gold stylus provided along with the watch (or a toothpick) to move the indicator forward by a day.
The new Saxonia Moon Phase has been given the blacked-out treatment (‘Darth’ in Lange speak), meaning that it isn’t just the dial that is black but also the date discs. The date numerals, minute track, seconds track, as well as the company marquee are now in white to provide maximum contrast. The gold elements on the dial – the hands, the date frame, the applied baton indices, and the moon – also stand out stunningly against the black dial. With the white gold variant, the term ‘stealth wealth’ comes to mind, though now with the contemporary twist of a black dial. Meanwhile, coloured gold and black have always been a match made in heaven; the pink gold variant imbues a satisfying warmth that its white gold sibling lacks.
There’s also always the question of whether the Saxonia looks better with or without minute markers (like the Saxonia Thin). On one hand, the minute markers make the dial appear more interesting, but on the other, it disrupts the purity of the dial, making it less clean and a tad busier. Perhaps this can become an opportunity for Lange to expand the Saxonia family in future with a ‘Saxonia Thin Moon Phase’ with no minute markers and date – a cleaner interpretation of the Saxonia Moon Phase.
Inside the new Saxonia Moon Phase with black dial is the Lange Calibre L086.5. The 325-part, 40-jewel in-house movement is the same one that powers the original Saxonia Moon Phase. Thanks to a single, large mainspring barrel, the Calibre L086.5 has a maximum 3-day power reserve while beating at a stately 3 Hz. The watch is wound automatically by a central rotor with a platinum mass. Suspended in a ball bearing, it is able to build up maximum power reserve after only a short time on the wrist.
Apart from the time, the movement features two other functions: the date and moon phase indication. The moon phase, which is displayed within the seconds sub-dial at the 6 o’clock, is testimony of the brand’s dedication to excellence. Unlike conventional moon phase indicators, the lunar disc of the Saxonia Moon Phase is connected to the hour wheel and therefore always in motion – just like the moon itself – as opposed to jumping once a day. A seven-step transmission reproduces the synodic month to 99.998% accuracy. Thus, the moon phase display requires only a one-day correction every 122 years (in theory).
With regards to finishing and decoration, the Calibre L086.5 is anointed with Lange’s usual best. The usual culprits can be seen through the case back: Glashütte ribbing on the old-school three-quarter plate, polished chamfers around the edges, mirror polished screw heads and swan neck regulator, flame-blued screws, tight perlage on the base plate, and of course, the signature hand-engraved balance cock. The lunar disc itself is also a work of art. A patented coating process is responsible for the brilliant colours and crisp detail of the disc. The special coating absorbs all non-blue colour spectra of incident light, creating an intensely blue impression in the eye of the observer. No less than 852 stars are then etched into it to replicate the night sky. Indeed, no stone is left unturned when it comes to a Lange timepiece, as it is the details that truly elevate a watch from a mere product to a haute horlogerie.
The competitive landscape
Moon phase watches are ubiquitous in the market but few do the poetic complication justice like Lange. The Saxonia Moon Phase with black dial is the latest in a long line of moon phase watches by Lange and it is one of the simplest that the brand has made. This should be great news for those looking for an uncluttered moon phase piece. By virtue of its simplicity, the watch is also one of Lange’s more ‘accessible’ at SGD42,7000 for both pink and white gold variants.
But for an additional SGD18,300, one could land the new 2017 Lange 1 Moon Phase, which is also available in a black dial variation. The watch trades the convenience of automatic winding for a hand-wound movement and two additional complications to the Saxonia Moon Phase: the power reserve indicator and the day/night indicator. But more importantly, it bears the design and build of a Lange 1, the brand’s poster child – there is no moon phase watch in the brand’s collection that is more Lange than it. And yet, with a SGD18,300 premium, some clients may become priced out. The Lange 1 Moon Phase may thus see some of its market share cannibalised by the Saxonia Moon Phase. Nevertheless, the birth of the Saxonia Moon Phase (black dial or not) does offer additional choice to Lange’s clientele and this can only be good for the brand.
Surprises are not a rarity in this industry. Suffice to say, Rolex’s move to bring back the moon phase into their catalogue in the form of the Cellini Moonphase was one of 2017’s noteworthy surprises. The Cellini may be significantly less popular and desirable compared to the Oyster Perpetual but this is still Rolex we are talking about, one of the most recognisable brands in the world. Until 2017, the moon phase indicator had been missing from the dial of Rolex watches for decades. Its return, in our opinion, was quite spectacular. The Cellini Moonphase does without the sporty design of the Oyster Perpetual line and is fitted with not just a white lacquered dial, but also a blue enamel lunar disc with an applied meteorite moon. There are four things in that last sentence that no one could fathom appearing in a modern Rolex until recently. To have them all share a single dial? That’s pretty amazing. Regardless of what one thinks of the company or the Cellini line, Rolex’s execution of the Cellini Moonphase deserves applause; it is, after all, Rolex’s most original and refined timepiece in years. Of course, the Cellini is nowhere near as handcrafted as the Langes, but in terms of movement reliability and precision, it has the Germans beat. At SGD35,980, the Cellini Moonphase is not exactly bang-for-buck but it is interesting and worthy of consideration.
The new A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase with black dial is one of those watches that doesn’t ruffle feathers and is very likeable. It’s not strictly speaking a novelty but a variation of an existing watch with aesthetics that is very popular amongst the brand’s enthusiasts and the watch community in general. Date and/or moon phase timepieces are as common as they come, but only a handful of brands out there are capable of executing either complication to the same level as Lange. The arrival of the Saxonia Moon Phase two years ago and now the black-dialled version continues to assert that notion convincingly.