So finally, it came to be. A complication to the Lange Odysseus luxury sports watch collection. And a chronograph! Lange was our first hands on appointment for the recent Watches & Wonders show, and here is our detailed review.
Review: the new A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph
The current policy of Lange is not to reveal pricing, but we were told that the new A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph will have an approximate retail price of EUR 135,000. Presumably inclusive of EU VAT. This will make the Singapore retail just about SGD 200k.
The case, dial and hands
The case design is directly inherited from the original Odysseus, slightly enlarged to accommodate the chronograph. The family resemblance is right there. And Lange has kept the space hogging chronograph sub-dials to zero. Neat, clean design. The chronograph counters are centrally mounted, with the minute totaliser coaxial to the chronograph seconds hand. In the pose below, the recorded time is about 38.2 minutes and about 23.6 seconds, and it looks like a split seconds chronograph. But it is not. The Odysseus Chronograph’s red hand is the chronograph seconds hand and the long, spear tipped hand in silver is the minute totaliser. Note I said 38.2 minutes, or thereabouts, because the instantly jumping minute counter which debuted as a world premiere in the 1999 Datograph, is not featured in this new caliber. However, as the sub-dial for the minutes is now the entire dial, the divisions between the minutes are larger and thus more easily visible and legible.
The case is very clean with no pushers! But they are there. The pushers are the same design as the Odysseus time only (with day of week and date) launch model. And completely integrated into the case sides. In normal mode, with the crown screwed down, the pushers operate like regular chronograph buttons. The upper one is used to start and stop, the lower one to reset. As with all Lange chronographs, the feel of these pushers are very smooth, but with a nice positive feedback once engaged. In this mode, the watch has the full 120m water resistance indicated for the case. Unscrew and pull the crown out one click, one loses the water resistance, but what is cool is that the very same pushers goes into double duty to advance the day of week and the date (just like in the launch Odysseus). Very clever. And to us, a return of the Lange twist.
The dial is beautifully designed, with a 3 dimensionality to it which makes it very attractive. It features a sloped rehaut with the minute/seconds markings in Arabic numerals for each 5 minute interval and the rest as lines. Inward of that is the raised hour chapter ring which bear the white gold appliqué hour markers. The hour indices are nicely nuanced with faceted sides and a center groove infilled with SuperLumiNova and a double index for the 12. The day and date windows are framed in white gold. The famous Lange outsized date is displayed in usual at two levels, but is a design which debuted with the launch Odysseus. This is due to the layout of the dial. The rest of the dial is very clean and legible, with a large countersunk sub-dial for the continuous seconds hand just above the truncated six hour marker. The Lange nameplate and nomenclature appears on the upper part of the dial center to balance the sub-dial. The word “CHRONOGRAPH” is highlighted in red, in solidarity to the red chronograph hands. The hour and minute hands are large, javelin shaped, and infilled with SuperLumiNova.
The dial is black, but due to the double sided anti-reflection coating Lange uses for the crystal, may look blue under certain lighting. This is a known fact for Lange black dials. The dial is superbly legible. A quirk of the reset function of the Odysseus chronograph. When the reset button is pressed, the minute counter returns to zero by either advancing directly to zero in a clockwise direction if more than 30m has been recorded, or retarding counter-clockwise to zero otherwise. This is quite de rigeur. But what makes for the interesting quirk is that the seconds hand will follow the direction of reset of the minute counter, but makes one complete revolution for every minute recorded then. This happens almost instantly, and with the naked eye, I can see some thing is happening, but cannot track the hand making multiple revolutions. But with a high speed camera, it does reset to zero by tracing the exact number of revolutions as the number of minutes recorded. In the example above, it spins clockwise 38 revolutions before coming to a stop! This is not a particularly special nor technical execution, though it is indeed interestingly spectacular. But rather is a consequence that the heart shaped cam where the reset hammer strikes is mounted on the minute hand, and as this hand is attached to the chronograph seconds hands, the latter will move as described. Nice quirk, and well played by Lange to exploit it as a spectacle. Yes, I said I could not really see it, but it is noticeable and does give the watch a special character.
The movement: Caliber L156.1 “DATOMATIC”
The movement is the new Caliber L156.1 “Datomatic”. This is the first automatic chronograph caliber from Lange – arguably the king of chronographs. The movement is interesting as this is yet another ground up caliber from Lange. But unlike the Datograph with its chronograph guts in a magnificent display of tour de force through the case back, the Datomatic has the works under the cover, so to speak. The large winding rotor as well as the rear plate covers most of the working parts of the chronograph. But what is left to be admired is still quite a sight.
Needless to say, the finishing on the L156.1 is absolutely top notch. Every single element screams haute horlogerie. The anglage is nicely executed, though if one is critical, one can certainly find fault (hint, look at the photograph below). The Glashütte ribbing is beautifully done on the German Silver plates. The hand engraving on the balance bridge (not balance cock, a point which is not gone unnoticed, but helps with the stability of the balance, especially in a sporty watch) is very nicely done. As is the large rotor with platinum weight. The gold chatons held by blued screws in which the jewels are inserted are part of the recognisable signature look of a Lange caliber. All very well done.
And the case and bracelet as well. Nicely designed, beautifully finished. Of course, as we are aware, neither are made by Lange themselves, though the design is certainly in-house and quality control is top notch and done in their premises in Glashütte. The bracelet retains the large taper from the watch head to the buckle, but is very pliable and comfortable.
The competitive landscape
At the circa EUR 135k (about SGD 200k) price point, the new Odysseus Chronograph stands head and shoulders, pricing wise, way above the competition. The landscape is not sparse with competitors. Every major maison has a watch with a chronograph that is targetted at the luxury sports sector. Here are the more obvious ones.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5990/1A (SGD 94,100). Released in 2014, this is still a highly desirable Patek to have. Though, isn’t every Nautilus highly coveted? But this one, arguably more so. While the 5711/1A is perhaps the most sought after model – it is time only with a superbly slim profile. The Ref. 5990 offers a flyback chronograph as well as Patek’s dual timezone feature. Two very desirable and practical complications. The most oft criticism levelled on the Ref. 5990 is that it is rather thick at 12.53mm for a case with a nominal diameter of 40.5mm. But the tale of the tape reveals that the Patek is both smaller and slimmer than the Odysseus Chronograph which measures 42.5mm in diameter with a 14.2mm thick case. For even more details on the watch, read our review of the Ref. 5990/1R – the same model, but in rose gold.
Or take another Patek – the Aquanaut Chronograph Ref. 5968A, currently retailing at SGD 73,100 with a rubber strap. Or the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph released in 2016. The latest version to be released is the beautiful Panda dial version which retails for SGD 46,500. Another might be the Chopard Alpine Eagle Chronograph, which was announced in 2020 with a retail price of SGD 26,500. Even less expensive is the Piaget Polo Chronograph which tips the scale at only SGD 23,100. All options which are impressively finished, with refined in-house movements. All of excellent pedigree.
Or even the current version of the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 116500LN (is it being replaced? Possibly next year, with the introduction of the new Daytona model already released in platinum for this W&W) at SGD 21,050 which has no pretensions at haute horlogerie, but with the strong promise of superior engineering and after market sales.
Overall, the Odysseus Chronograph is a beautiful timepiece. Little to complain about. We loved the little Lange twists as described. We love the presentation and design. We love the way it wears, the bracelet, even with its enormous taper. It does wear very nicely and is very supple. And we absolutely love the finishing.
What we do not love is the pricing. It is interesting to note that the landscape as discussed in the section above is filled with watches with the so called dreaded waiting list…safe perhaps for the Piaget (which also strikes us as being quite solidly priced). So is the Odysseus Chronograph overpriced? It is expensive compared to the competition. Or correctly priced to reflect the market of the unobtainable, though it too will prove to be difficult to get? It does have the iconic outsized date and a day of the week display in addition. And of course, the Lange twists. Is the brilliant dual function chronograph buttons which does double duty as date advance pushers enough? What about the slightly quirky zero reset? Are these enough to set it apart from the competitors, given this august landscape? You decide. And please do tell us what you think.