A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Time Zone
There are hardly any fine timepieces arising from the past quarter century that are more iconic than the Lange 1. Then considered a highly unorthodox design, the Lange 1 quickly etched itself into the minds of watch connoisseurs and became a modern classic. Since its introduction in 1994, the Lange 1 family has expanded considerably to include variations of different sizes – like the Grand Lange 1, and Little Lange 1 – and complexities. That last bit is somewhat of a specialty of Lange, as evidenced by the existence of the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar. But the manufacturer has also a host of Lange 1s with mid-range complications, the most popular of which is the Lange 1 Time Zone.
The Lange 1 Time Zone was first released in 2005. The reference has since welcomed numerous special editions and even presented as a prize to the winner of every Concorso d’Eleganza since 2012. This year, this 15 year old model receives a timely update to its appearance and inner workings. The all-important question is: do these changes make the new Lange 1 Time Zone better than its predecessor? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
The new Lange 1 Time Zone is available in three different materials: pink gold, white gold, and yellow gold. Yes, you read that right, yellow gold. Lange has been actively bringing back yellow gold of late after shunning it for a couple of years. And to be honest, it is a relief to see this classic precious metal make a comeback. Some may find the hue of yellow gold jarring, but others will find it stunning, nostalgic, and endearing. The case of the Lange 1 Time Zone keeps its old measurements of 41.9 mm x 10.9 mm. In terms of design, nothing has changed as well although some older specimens have polished case bands rather than brushed.
The dial for the Lange 1 Time Zone comes in three distinct flavours corresponding to the case that it is paired with. With the pink gold case, you get the classic ‘argenté’ or silver dial. With the white gold case, Lange has decided to go with a black dial, making this variant the most contemporary of the lot. But our favourite has got to be the charming champagne dial that comes with the yellow gold version of the new Lange 1 Time Zone. It just has so much character and flair, especially when matched with the light brown alligator leather strap that comes with the watch.
Dial treatment aside, the displays and layout on it have also changed, and not insignificantly. The most obvious difference between the old and the new is that in the new, the day/night indicators have been redesigned and moved to the centres of both home time and local time sub-dials. Featuring blue printed semicircles, the discs rotate once about their axes in 24 hours, while the hour hand performs two revolutions in the same period. The blue semicircle represents the time from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (nighttime), while the opposite semicircle applies to the time from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (daytime). The position of the hour hand on the disc indicates whether it is day or night. For example, if the hour hand is pointing at 11 and is hovering above the blue semicircle, the time should be read as 11 p.m. at night (plus whatever additional minutes that the minute hand is indicating).
Another new feature on the refreshed Lange 1 Time Zone is the daylight saving time (DST) indicator located in a small aperture within the gold arrow applique at 5 o’clock. If the segment is red, the selected city has a daylight-saving time arrangement. In this case, one hour has to be added to the zone time from the spring to the autumn in the northern hemisphere and from late summer to the spring in the southern hemisphere. If standard time applies in the city year-round, the display shows a white background. We find this to be a great addition to the Lange 1 Time Zone as it is intuitive to use and practical for frequent flyers who traverse time zones often.
The other key elements of the dial, such as the iconic outsize date, the seconds and the home/local time displays, as well as the power reserve indicator, remains unchanged. For the most part, the new look is easy on the eyes. The question is if it is an improved look relative to the old design. Many feel that the new design unclutters the dial, leading to a more ‘orgranised’ dial, while others point out that they prefer the old, ‘messy’ look with the smaller, non-concentric day/night indicators.
Driving the new Lange 1 Time Zone is the 448-part, 38-jewel Calibre L141.1, the 65th movement developed by Lange. The new movement retains its previous 72 hour power reserve, but this time off of only one mainspring barrel instead of two. This modification is referenced with the inscription “GANGRESERVE 72 STUNDEN” (POWER RESERVE 72 HOURS) at 7 o’clock on the dial, which replaces the previous “DOPPELFEDERHAUS” (TWIN MAINSPRING BARREL) script. The Calibre L141.1 keeps the traditional 3 Hz beat rate that most Lange calibres use.
While the Calibre L141.1 is built differently to the preceding Calibre L031.1, they still share many similarities. For example, Lange has kept the intermediate wheel visible on top of the German silver three-quarter plate. This open wheel train establishes the link between home time and local time and ensures that the local time is continuously driven. As before, this is the most captivating part of the Lange 1 Time Zone movement thanks to the hand-engraving on the intermediate wheel cock and its triple-screwed gold chaton.
Lange has always placed a great deal of importance on movement finissage. Many would agree that amongst the “mainstream” brands, the Saxon brand has the most immaculately finished movements – this notion continues to hold true with the Calibre L141.1. A brief look through the sapphire crystal case back will reveal the usual suspects: Glashütte ribbing across the three-quarter plate; gold chatons; blued screws; black polished swan neck regulator, screw heads, and escapement bridge cap; polished chamfers; and the signature hand-engraved balance cock, among other things. The superlative level of finishing applied onto each and every Lange movement is possible only because Lange are one of few manufacturers that practise the “double assembly” step. It is as it sounds: the movements are assembled twice. At first assembly, the movement parts are fine adjusted, after which the movement is dismantled. The parts are then cleaned and/or decorated prior to second assembly. This ensures that the finissage on the movement can be kept as immaculate as possible; this is especially critical when the plates and bridges are made of German silver, a very sensitive material.
The Competitive Landscape
In 2015, Lange introduced a technical update to the Lange 1. Up until then, the Lange 1 had been using the same movement from that fateful day in 1994 when it, along with the brand that created it, was presented to world for the first time. A few years later in 2017, the Lange 1 Moon Phase, too, received an upgrade for its movement. This year, it is the Lange 1 Time Zone’s turn, and according to Lange, it will be the final Lange 1 timepiece to receive a movement update. It is perhaps unsurprising that Lange had chosen these three Lange 1 references to rejuvenate. These movement updates, though labourious, are a great way to boost the longevity of a reference, and you’d naturally save them for your best-selling models.
Being a dual-time travel-themed watch, the Lange 1 Time Zone is in good company in the market. But not all time zone watches are created equal. The Lange 1 Time Zone is regarded as one of the finest in the market which – at least in part – explains its popularity. The new, regular production Lange 1 Time Zone (pink gold and white gold) is priced at USD52,900 (SGD74,700). Meanwhile, the yellow gold, 100-piece limited edition version is priced at a premium, at USD56,100 (SGD79,300). It is interesting to see a yellow gold variation of a Lange watch command a premium, especially when the manufacturer had fallen out of love with the metal not long ago.
Perhaps the most prominent competitor to the Lange 1 Time Zone is fellow Richemont subsidiary Jaeger-LeCoultre’s beguiling Master Control Geographic watch. The Master Control Geographic may not compete at the same price point as the Lange 1 Time Zone but it is a legitimate competitor nonetheless. Its greatest strength comes from the value for money that it offers; at USD10,800 for the stainless steel version, it costs five times less than the Lange 1 Time Zone. At that price, and with all the functionality of the Lange 1 Time Zone, you’d be hard pressed to ignore the Master Control Geographic. This is not to say that the Lange is poor value; while it is several fold pricier, it is also multiple steps above the Jaeger-LeCoultre in finishing and adornment, both endeavours that cost significant money and effort.
If the Master Control Geographic is the value pick, then the Greubel Forsey GMT Earth is for when your 1:3000 leverage forex trade goes well. The GMT Earth is THE ultimate multi-timezone watch. If anything, its name undersells what it is truly capable of. Flip the watch to back and you will find a world time disk that simultaneously displays the time in all 24 time zones. But what really captures the attention of onlookers is twofold: the rotating titanium globe that can be seen from the top, bottom, and side; and the 24-second inclined tourbillon. To top it all off, the GMT Earth, like every Greubel Forsey timepiece, has mind-blowing finissage. Greubel Forsey watches are known to have some of the most immaculate finishing in the industry, better than even Lange. Of course, the price of such stratospheric excellence isn’t cheap: the Greubel Forsey GMT Earth – limited to 33 pieces – retails for CHF610,000, over ten times the price of the Lange 1 Time Zone.
The new Lange 1 Time Zone is a welcomed addition to Lange’s stable of watches. It hasn’t been modified to the extent of being unrecognisable, but has just enough going for it to keep the model fresh and interesting. The new dial design is pleasing to the eyes though some may prefer the old look. In the business end, most of the changes are technical, including the number of mainspring barrels, the inclusion of a DST indicator, and the location and design of the day/night mechanism. As one of Lange’s most popular watches (now rejuvenated), expect the Lange 1 Time Zone to be with us for a long time yet.