As journalists crowded around the viewing table to admire the technical fireworks of A. Lange & Söhne’s Triple Split at the SIHH 2018, I made my way to a less congested table and was treated to a hands-on session with the new members of the Little Lange 1 family. Like its Moon Phase sibling introduced last year, the new Little Lange 1 trilogy flaunts an incredible guilloché dial (without a moon phase complication) and all the hallmark traits of its Lange 1 heritage. But what nobody expected was the surprising injection of colour.
As a brand associated with contemporary classics and tasteful German sobriety, colour is used sparingly at the best of times at A. Lange & Söhne. Presented in three variations – pink gold with a brown dial and two white gold variations with grey and purple dials – the Little Lange 1 model with the purple dial and matching purple alligator strap became the talking piece of the day.
As Anthony de Haas, director of product development at A. Lange & Söhne explained to me: “The purple dial caught everybody’s attention. That’s because we have never done purple before. Sometimes you have to do something special to surprise people – and the trick worked! We got lots of orders for the purple boutique model”. With a colour closer to dark cherry or aubergine, the dial of the purple model highlights the extraordinary guilloché work on the dial in a more contemporary key than the slightly ‘safer’ and more conventional grey or chocolate brown dials of the other models.
The refined guilloché decoration on the solid gold dials of all three watches accentuates the intrinsic asymmetry of the Lange 1 and brings a refined, Haute Horlogerie touch to the dial. “Unlike some guilloché dials that are stamped”, explains Anthony de Haas, “the Lange dials are engine-turned on a solid gold base, but they are not done in-house. It would be way too expensive for a company that only makes 5,000 watches a year to do this kind of work and it is entrusted to specialists“.
Every last detail of the Little Lange 1 denotes its Haute Horlogerie denomination, and the 36.8mm case, the hands, the embossed crown and even the applied markers are all crafted in 18-carat pink or white gold. The wonderful thing is that you can actually feel these touches when handling the watch. The Little Lange 1 has an agreeable heaviness that denotes its noble gold case and the smooth finishes of the case are an open invitation to be caressed.
The appealing asymmetry of the Lange 1 family
Asymmetry is a strong family trait of the Lange 1, the iconic collection that launched the revival of the brand in 1994 in the capable hands of Walter Lange. With its outsize date window and excentred counters, the Lange 1 is the most recognisable ambassador of the brand. As you would expect from a brand that was founded in Saxony, even the asymmetry is executed with mathematical precision. Sceptics take note: the centre of the subsidiary seconds dial, the main dial and the outsize date display form the corners of an isosceles triangle. And even the outsize date display respects the rule of the golden ratio creating a harmonious asymmetry that engages the eye.
More than just a pretty face
Although the watch, with its 36.8mm case, was originally conceived for women, de Haas points out that “men also expressed an interest in the grey and brown models”. After all, adds de Haas, “with the Little Lange 1 you are getting an elegant watch and a technical watch rolled into one: a watch with twin barrels, an outsize date function, and so on”.
Genetically speaking, the date window, the excentred hours, minutes and small seconds counters, and the power reserve indicator are the most predominant genes of the Lange 1 family, expressed generation after generation. Modelled after the five-minute clock in Dresden’s Opera House, the numerals in the instantaneous jumping date window are almost three times larger than those found in conventional wristwatches providing unparalleled legibility. The power reserve indicator, located on the periphery of the dial between 2 and 4 o’clock shows the amount of energy left in the barrels indicated by the German words AB (empty) and AUF (full tank). The tandem barrels (indicated by the word Doppelfederhaus on the lower part of the dial) provide a robust 3-day power reserve.
Nothing little about the heart of this Lange
And don’t be fooled by the ‘little’ appellation in the name of the watch. It might be slightly smaller than the original Lange 1, but there is nothing little about the Little Lange 1. As de Haas points out: “The movement, calibre L121.1 is exactly the same as the movement used inside the Lange 1. It has not been downsized. All that is different is the 36.8mm case size.” To reduce the thickness of the case to its current 9.5mm, the Lange 1 three-part case was modified to a two-part case.
Powering the hours, minutes, small seconds and energy reserve indicator is Lange’s 50th in-house movement, the manual-winding calibre L121.1 with 368 movement parts and its twin mainspring barrel. Fitted with an in-house manufactured hairspring, the watch has a frequency of 21,600vph and reveals all the beautiful hand-finishes we are accustomed to on Lange’s movements, including the hand-engraved balance cock and the untreated German silver on the three-quarter plate and bridges.
Untreated German silver is not silver from Germany
Having wrongly deduced that German silver was just that – German silver – de Haas kindly briefed me on the virtues of this alloy that, it turns out, has nothing remotely to do with silver from Germany “German silver is an alloy of brass and nickel and was originally used on Swiss and German pocket watches because it is more stable than brass. The nice thing about German silver,” explains de Haas, “is that it develops a special patina over time and changes colour. Companies like Patek also use German silver for their complicated movements but treat it with a rhodium plating. At Lange, we like to leave it untreated and call it our ‘perfect service indicator’ letting the owner know when it’s time to service his/her watch. It if starts to turn a dark yellowish colour, it’s ready for service.”
All three watches come with matching alligator straps echoing the colour of the dial. The purple dial is a boutique-exclusive edition limited to just 100 pieces, while the grey and brown dials are non-limited editions. The watch will retail for EUR 32,500 and will be available starting April 2018. More on www.alange-soehne.com.