A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold “Homage to F. A. Lange”
In 1845, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, only aged 30, opened his pocket watch atelier in the village of Glashütte, Saxony. Little did he know then that he had just laid the foundation for fine watchmaking in Germany. Fast forward to 2020, the brand that he founded is celebrating 175 years since that fateful day. To commemorate the milestone, A. Lange & Söhne presented no fewer than three remarkable timepieces, all in their anniversary outfits. The first was the 1815 Thin, the simplest of the trio; then, there was the 1815 Rattrapante, a paragon of dial design. Last but definitely not least was the Tourbograph Perpetual, decked out in decadent honey gold – the pièce de résistance. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the larger than life Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold “Homage to F. A. Lange”.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
At first glance, the case of the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold looks like any other Lange watch case. It has the typical Teutonic look, familiar brushed case band, and overall excellent finishing. Where the case really differs from the rest is in its material: honey gold. Honey gold is a Lange proprietary alloy that looks like a blend between pink and white gold. Its hue is hard to describe as it is unlike anything else available in the market. Its gorgeous colour aside, honey gold is also significantly harder than regular gold alloys and platinum. This makes any finishing job that much more difficult as tools tend to wear out quicker. All the more fitting that Lange only uses honey gold in its most special models, including the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold “Homage to F. A. Lange”.
But as precious as the honey gold case is, the star of the show remains the ultra ornate visage of the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold. While Lange dials are most commonly made of silver, this one is made entirely of honey gold. Every detail, from the railroad style minute track to the sub-dials, is relief engraved. The surface is then treated with black rhodium to give it a charming grey colour with a frosted texture. These relief engraved elements are then further finished to remove the rhodium plating, revealing the shiny honey gold base. The honey gold moon phase disc is also given a similar treatment to the dial except that the moon is mirror polished to a spectacular sheen and the stars are skillfully engraved by hand.
The Tourbograph Perpetual employs no fewer than 9 hands for all its functions. They are also rendered in honey gold save for two, which are made of blued steel, for distinction.
Driving the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold is the astounding Calibre L133.1 comprising 684 parts, one of which is the chain for its anachronistic fusée and chain transmission system. The movement only has a power reserve of 36 hours of power reserve when fully wound, making it one of the lowest among any Lange watch. This sounds underwhelming at first, that is, until you are handed the spec sheet for the Calibre L133.1. There’s a reason why the movement is a beefy 32 x 10.9 mm (the size of a whole watch), and it is because of the sheer number of technical complications packed into a confined space. On the dial itself, you can see the displays for the perpetual calendar, the perpetual moon phase display, the 30-minute chronograph, and the rattrapante functions.
Visible through the aperture at the 6 o’clock position of the dial is the deliberately conspicuous tourbillon regulator. The belle of the ball, the precision device is secured by a bow-shaped bridge. Because of the curved surface of the bridge, polishing it is, to say the least, a challenge. The lyre-inspired tourbillon cage itself is also a masterclass in finissage. In addition to a black polished surface, it features numerous inward and outward angles which are a nightmare to bevel and polish. A signature diamond endstone within a gold chaton serves as the cherry on the proverbial tourbillon cake.
But that’s not all there is to the Calibre L133.1. There’s also the fusée and chain constant force mechanism that ensures a stable level of energy reaches the escapement throughout the entirety of the movement’s power reserve. Though more of a nod to the past today, this device, along with the tourbillon, was used to increase the time-telling precision of a pocket watch. A. Lange & Söhne was the first manufacturer to miniaturise the fusée and chain for use in a wristwatch almost three decades ago. Barely even visible through the case back of the Tourbograph Perpetual, the chain component alone comprises hundreds of individual links, each one finished by hand. Even after so many years, the mechanism continues to amaze.
Other parts of the movement are also spectacularly finished. Of note are the bridges, which have been dressed up in anniversary livery. Instead of the standard ribbing and gold-filled engravings, they are adorned with a granular finish and black rhodium-filled engravings. The rest of the movement feature the usual fare of Lange decoration such as gold chatons, blued screws, hand-engraved balance cock, and black polished column wheel caps.
The Competitive Landscape
It’s no easy task to write about competition when the subject is a watch as ambitious as the 50-piece limited edition Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold. High up the mountain of horology, the air is rarefied and so is the company. Relatively few wristwatches are nearly as complicated or as decorated as it. Of course, such excellence comes with a price – half a million euros to be exact. But where should one look to for comparable alternatives?
Well, it turns out you don’t have to look far. The Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, also by A. Lange & Söhne, has similar complications (sans rattrapante) and good looks. Needless to say, it is also just as well-finished. The most outstanding variant of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon thus far – at least according to us – is the one with the solid pink gold dial, limited to 100 pieces only. The price? ‘Only’ half that of the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold at EUR285,000.
For something distinctively less German but just as mind-blowing, there’s always the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3. While missing a perpetual calendar and rattrapante function, the Gyrotourbillon 3 more than makes up for it with a digital chronograph minute counter and a multi-axis tourbillon. If you chance upon the ‘Meteorite’ variant of the watch, then you would’ve also enjoyed the fascinating combination of meteorite, enamel, and aventurine on its sub-dials. The Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite is priced at over half a million US Dollars and limited to only 8 pieces.
The Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold “Homage to F. A. Lange” is, by most definitions, a showpiece. It is big, it is overengineered, and it is bedazzling. From the case to the movement, the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold is the culmination of 175 years of know-how at A. Lange & Söhne. It may not be the most complicated wristwatch ever made by the Saxon manufacturer, but it certainly belongs in the pantheon of great modern-day timepieces.