It took a while, but we did eventually get there. Better late than never, they say. A mere ten years ago, you couldn’t string a sentence together containing the words ‘Lange’, ‘sports watch’ and ‘stainless steel’ without raising eyebrows. In 2019, everything changed as Lange presented not only its first sports watch, but also its first full-production watch in stainless steel. Since then, we’ve all been eased into the notion that Lange is now a brand that makes sports watches and is happy to use utilitarian metals. Following the seminal Odysseus were the white gold variants with leather and rubber straps. While many expected an Odysseus with a different set of complications to come next, what Lange did instead was perhaps more unexpected.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus in Titanium
Because, instead of tinkering with the movement, the brand has introduced an all-titanium version of the Odysseus. This is yet another first for Lange, and a fairly major one given that the illustrious Saxon manufacturer is far more used to working with precious metals all throughout its history. As it would appear, interesting times are ahead of us as the brand takes its motto – ‘Never Stand Still’ – seriously. Rest assured, however, that the one thing that will probably never change is the attention to detail and quality that goes into each watch, including today’s subject at hand. Here, we bring you the low-down and our thoughts on the new, boutique-exclusive Odysseus in titanium.
The Case, Dial, and Hands
From a size and design perspective, nothing has changed with the case of the new Odysseus. Measuring 40.5 mm in diameter and 11.1 mm, the watch is modern in proportions but still able to maintain an air of sporty elegance. The Odysseus can be worn with security and panache on all but the smallest wrists. Key design features on the case include a screw-down crown, an asymmetrical case profile, integrated pushers for changing the day and date, and a set of classic lugs. Where the new Odysseus really stands out from the rest of Lange’s ever-growing stable is in the material used: titanium.
Titanium is hardly considered a novel material in watchmaking these days. The lightweight metal has been used for over 50 years and probably by as many watch manufacturers. That said, a full titanium, ultra-high end luxury sports watch is still a relative rarity. Old-school, historical brands still prefer to stick with precious metals (for obvious reasons) and when they do delve into non-precious metals, stainless steel is their go-to material. Almost like an unspoken rule, titanium has always been reserved for special or limited edition pieces in haute horlogerie. This will likely be the case for Lange as well, reinforced by the fact that the new Odysseus is a limited edition of 250 pieces.
At first glance, it will be hard to tell steel and titanium apart. They are different shades of grey, but the discrepancy is very subtle. If you had both the steel and titanium Odysseus watches in your hands though, the easiest way to tell them apart (without looking at the dial) is by their weights. While titanium is on par with steel in terms of strength, it is only half as dense; specifically, titanium is 43% lighter than steel. Holding or wearing the Odysseus in titanium will come as a jarring experience for Lange connoisseurs who have become accustomed to the luxurious heft of the brand’s gold and platinum watches. The new Odysseus, in stark contrast, will feel extremely light on the wrist in spite of its appearance. This lightweightness will take some getting used to, but on the bright side, the watch is immensely comfortable to wear.
The other way to tell the steel and titanium Odysseus watches apart is by the finissage on the bracelet and lugs. In the former, the surface is brushed, while in the latter, the surface is micro-blasted and matte finished. This gives the Odysseus in titanium a softer appearance compared to its steel sibling – and this works beautifully with the new dial colour.
What Lange dubs “ice blue” is really blue with a healthy touch of grey. Call it grey, blue, or “ice blue”, the dial colour of the new Odysseus is soft, unique, and almost ethereal. Adding to this gorgeous colour is a new decoration for the hour chapter ring. Instead of the more pedestrian concentric guilloched pattern found on the stainless steel model, here the grooves form arcs between each hour marker, producing a three-dimensional, embedded look. Everything else – the displays, layout, hands, the grainy central parts – remains unchanged relative to the steel model.
Driving the Odysseus in titanium is none other than the 312-part, 31-jewel Calibre L155.1, monikered the Datomatic. A portmanteau of the words “date” and “automatic”, the Datomatic has been used unchanged in every Odysseus variant thus far. The self-winding movement is wound by a skeletonised and partially black-rhodiumed central rotor with a 950 platinum centrifugal mass. When fully wound, the watch has a power reserve of 50 hours while operating at a modern 4 Hz beat. For improved shock resistance, the balance is suspended beneath a bridge rather than the usual cock.
Movement finissage remains the highlight of the Datomatic, which is unsurprising coming from the Lange manufactory. The double-assembled movement features signature embellishments like Glashütte ribbing on the German silver three-quarter plate, flame-blued screws, gold chatons, polished bevels, and hand-engraving on the balance bridge.
The Competitive Landscape
It goes without saying that the luxury sports watch market is saturated. It was once a playground with only a handful of luxury watch manufacturers in it, helmed by Rolex of course. Today, everybody and their mothers want a slice of the pie; brands you’d previously not associate with sports watches like Laurent Ferrier and Czapek have all jumped onto the bandwagon. Given the rife demand for sports watches of late, it is unsurprising. For it would be commercial suicide to not have a sports watch line in a time like this. So powerful is this trend that it even led to the birth of a Lange sports watch, appearing decades after icons like the Royal Oak and Nautilus.
In spite of being a fairly new entrant to the market, the Odysseus punches like a seasoned veteran. It is a watch that excels not just in a watchmaking sense but also commercially, as evidenced by the price that the stainless steel variant trades at. The release of the new Odysseus in titanium further illustrates that Lange’s sports watches can hold their own in this competitive market. Retailing at a whopping EUR55,000, many have deemed the pricing of the Odysseus in titanium to be opportunistic at best, predatory at worst. It is, after all, almost double the introductory pricing of the Odysseus in stainless steel, and is even pricier than the white gold variants. A partial explanation of this pricing would be that titanium is exceptionally hard to work with compared to steel and especially gold. In addition, Lange does not produce these cases and bracelets and outsources the work to a third party, increasing cost. Again, these factors alone do not fully account for the exorbitant pricing. It is important to remember that Lange is first and foremost a business and therefore maximising profit is its end game. The Odysseus in titanium is the first limited edition sports watch ever by Lange, and the company knows that not only will demand grossly surpass supply, the watch will eventually trade for much higher in the grey market anyway. So, why not get a bigger cut out of it first?
While luxury sports watches in steel and precious metal are a dime a dozen, ones made in titanium are fairly uncommon. One of the latest examples to hit the market other than the Odysseus is the Hublot Big Bang Integral Time Only. Presented during LVMH Watch Week 2022, the Big Bang Integral Time Only, at 40 mm x 9.25 mm, is smaller and more wearable than the original chronograph version. Three variants of the model were released, including titanium which is the most “wallet-friendly” of the lot. CHF16,900 is still a lot of money for a wristwatch, but the price is, in actuality, very competitive. The Big Bang Integral Time Only may not be nearly as well-finished as the Odysseus but at under a third of the price of the latter, all is forgiven.
For something more “household”, look no further than the Panerai Luminor Due 3 Days Titanio PAM00728. The watch is your typical Luminor but executed in titanium and measures a wearable 42.0 mm x 10.5 mm. It’s most distinctive feature is its alluring blue sandwich dial with sunray finish. Driving the PAM00728 is none other than the iconic Calibre P.1000 that also powers a myriad of other Panerai watches. Priced at under EUR10,000, the watch offers undeniable value to those seeking a luxury sports watch in titanium from a historical marque like Panerai.
Love it or hate it, sports watch mania is here to stay. In a short span of three years, the Odysseus has made its mark in the luxury sports watch market and is successfully challenging its more established Swiss cousins for market share. From a commercial perspective, the Odysseus in titanium was always destined for success. Titanium is to high-end sports watches just as stainless steel is to high-end dress watches: a rarity. Coupled with the fact that the watch is also produced as a limited edition of 250 pieces, you simply can’t fail. Word is that all 250 pieces of the Odysseus in titanium have been spoken for. It makes you wonder if the watch – at EUR55,000 – is indeed overpriced or actually underpriced. With a titanium variant now done and dusted, surely the next Lange sports watch is finally going to showcase a different set of functions? Whatever it is, you can bet its going to be a doozy so long as the bullish sentiment on sports watches persists.