Here’s the brand new A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus, the brand’s first stainless steel watch that can easily be worn during sports and that isn’t scared of a bit of water. Is this the luxury sports watch that you were expecting? Well, better forget everything you know about luxury sports watches and anything you could have imagined beforehand. The Odysseus from Lange looks… like a Lange. But now in a stainless steel case and on an integrated steel bracelet. Two shaped pushers allow you to switch the day of the week and date indications, which adds a bit of a Zeitwerk-spirit to the new steel Lange. Let’s welcome the first Lange that you can wear in the board room AND when diving off the board into a swimming pool.
Odysseus might just be the most polarizing watch in A. Lange and Söhne’s history. The Lange 31 was already polarizing and when the first Zeitwerk was introduced, I can assure you that not every Lange collector immediately loved it. To say the least! And for the Odysseus, I want to emphasize that if you expect Lange’s take on the luxury sports watch to be in the same vein as the Royal Oak or the Nautilus, then you will be disappointed. Allow me to share my first feelings…
When I first saw the Odysseus, I was not really prepared what to expect. Of course, I had been fantasizing about how this watch would look and had discussed this topic with the team at great length. Lange’s luxury sports watch. That’s a big thing! When I first set eyes on the Odysseus, my feelings were mixed. A few minutes later, I put the watch on my wrist and made myself forget everything I expected, everything I knew about “luxury sports watches” as it has been imprinted on my mind. We simply cannot deny that the Royal Oak and Nautilus have set the benchmark – although the idea of a luxury sports watch with integrated bracelet is older than 1972, when the Royal Oak was introduced.
However, Lange does things its own way and after a minute wearing Odysseus on my wrist, I fell for it. Completely. Head over heels. I love it. This is THE Lange, for every Lange owner, that you can wear in the shower, on the beach, in the swimming pool or on the deck of your yacht. Heck, finally a Lange that we can wear without the fear that goes along with wearing a precious gold dress watch. And at EUR 28,000, even the price seems reasonable. Everything except the name, which I think is way too dramatic and does not befit a brand with watch collections called Lange 1, Saxonia, 1815 and Zeitwerk. So besides the odd name, I’m loving it.
The A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus
With Odysseus, ALS does things its own way… And this steel sports watch really has its own personality.
So what is the Odysseus? It’s a new Lange, in a round case, for the first time in a non-precious metal – besides the few Lange 1 models in stainless steel that used to be loan watches and some of these have not been returned to the brand and still float around in private collections. For the first time, we are looking at a Lange that is robust, sporty, waterproof – and not just showerproof, but to 120 metres – and that is worn on a metallic bracelet, integrated to the case. The new movement has been developed especially for this watch, which is the launch platform for an entirely new range. Just imagine what could come next… This blue A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Day-Date ref. 363.179 is just the first member of this new family.
At the moment, luxury sports watches are a booming business. Luxury sports watches from the most prestigious brands go for double or even triple the retail price, so the heat is on. Logically, the first question that comes to mind is whether Lange acted upon this market reality in order to cash in on the current boom. Well, no. According to Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development, that’s certainly not the case! The original idea for a stainless steel luxury sports watch comes from the late Günther Blümlein, who together with Walter Lange resurrected the brand in 1990 after the reunification of East and West Germany and was instrumental in building the brand as we know it today.
When thinking about luxury sports watches, there’s actually one watch that cemented the picture of what a luxury sports watch looks like in our collective minds. That is, of course, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which was presented at the 1972 edition of Baselworld. Later, Patek’s take on the luxury sports watch became another solid contender and together, these two are the benchmark when it comes to how we envision the luxury sports watch today. When looking at the new Lange Odysseus you will not see anything reminiscent of the luxury sports watch we all have imprinted in our collective minds. And that’s a good thing!
A sporty, robust, stainless steel case
The first thing to note with this A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus is that it is made of steel – and yes, in Lange’s case, this is a big deal. Never before has the brand launched – as standard production – a watch made of this common material. Precious metals were the norm for the Saxon brand, whether pink, yellow, red or honey gold, as well as platinum. Since Odysseus is intended to be a casual, daily-oriented watch with sporty credentials, steel was a no-brainer – titanium would have been great too, but let’s not complain.
Even though it is made from a non-precious metal, the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus is executed, assembled, finished and decorated in the way you would expect from Lange. All the parts show perfectly finished surfaces, with sharp (but no cutting) angles, beautiful contrasting accents and finely brushed surfaces.
That being said, let’s talk design, as the Odysseus is slightly ambivalent. When you look at it right from the top, at first, it has a perfectly round case, emphasized by the polished bezel. However, looking at the sides of the watch, you’ll discover some unusual lines and curves.
On the right side of the case, there’s a module framing the crown and, even though it isn’t a crown-guard device, it adds dynamism to the case and breaks the overall round design. The crown is large enough to be easily handled and screwed-down, ensuring a very comfortable water-resistance of 120m.
As you can see on this A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus, the bracelet seems to be integrated into the case, which is visually true, but technically the situation is different. In fact, the watch features proper lugs – shaped in the usual Lange way – which means that, if you feel like it, it could be worn on a leather or rubber strap too – even though the all-steel pattern is what makes this watch special.
What about proportions and dimensions? First, the watch has presence due to the rather bulky bezel, as always with Lange. Still, it measures a reasonable 40.5mm in diameter and 11.1mm in height. What surprised me most is how well the watch feels on the wrist thanks to sloping lugs that “hug” the wrist and make it perfectly balanced. In fact, this watch feels very compact and comfortable.
A “Zeitwerk-ish” but sporty dial
While creating a steel sports watch was already disruptive enough, Lange made a more rational choice for the dial, with clear Lange elements all around. At the same time, and I applaud this, the brand settled for a more complex display than the conventional central H-M-S and date at 3 o’clock, seen everywhere. So all in all, the Odysseus is more casual, more contemporary than a Lange 1 for instance, but still retains clear Saxon DNA.
In this instance, the dial has a slight Zeitwerk connection, with these two framed windows at 3 and 9 o’clock, for the large date (on two discs) and the indication of the day of the week. This choice, besides the clear design intention, is also wise considering the everday vocation of the watch. And let’s be honest, it also adds a bit of complexity to this watch, which is, after all, a Lange!
Lange has opted for a deep metallic blue colour, not new to this model, but always superbly executed. This fits the sporty, nautical theme of the watch (and its odd name). Multiple finishings can be seen on this dial: a grained texture in the centre, a concentric pattern on the hours and seconds chapter rings, a metallic brushed surface on the minute flange. Also, it features a small seconds sub-dial, a surprising choice at first, which in fact balances the dial and animates the empty areas.
If you look closely, all the elements are reminiscent of Lange’s production, such as the hands – even though they are luminous – and all the fonts, logos, indications, which have the same design as all Lange watches… just in a bolder, sportier way. The dial is also punctuated by large, faceted, polished applied markers filled with a fine line of luminous material and legibility/contrast is great.
An integrated bracelet
The bracelet looks good, well-made, very well finished and it’s particularly pleasant on the wrist. It’s as smooth as baby skin and will certainly not ruin your shirt cuffs as some steel bracelets do. The fine adjustment allows you to fit the bracelet snug and comfortably on the wrist, and when your wrist becomes a tiny bit bigger due to warm weather or sports activities, you can enlarge it up to an extra 7mm. This might not sound like a lot, but this is more than enough for the small daily variations in your wrist size.
The initial sizing of the bracelet is done with a system similar to the one used by IWC with a small recessed pusher on the underside of the bracelet’s outer links. Push it with a toothpick or something similar (Lange will, of course, provide a ‘tool’ for this), and you can easily remove the outer link, and subsequently the remaining links and pin that holds them together. From the outside of the bracelet, you cannot see the pin and that’s how an already great system has been improved.
On both sides of the clasp are two pushers, and pressing these simultaneously will open the buckle. To fine-adjust the bracelet, you do not have to open the buckle. Simply press the pusher embossed with the Lange signature, with the watch still on your wrist, and you easily adjust the size to fit your wrist perfectly.
Calibre L155.1 – Typically Lange
Specially designed for this sporty Lange, the new movement, Calibre L155.1 Datomatic, ticks at 28,000vph (4Hz) instead of the usual 3Hz that seems to be the preferred frequency for Lange watches. The higher beat rate gives more stability to the balance when experiencing shocks, which makes it more apt for sporty activities. It is also sort of an industry standard for sports watches and will benefit accuracy – note that the movement is precision-adjusted in five positions.
The central rotor, embossed with DATOMATIC, features a platinum centrifugal mass and is open-worked to allow a good view on the nicely finished and decorated bridges. Of course, there’s the large 3/4 plate holding down most of the movement parts, however, there’s something different. The balance is held down by a bridge instead of the usual balance cock: a bridge is held down at two points, while a cock is only held down at one point, again to improve shock-resistance and stability. This bridge is hand-engraved las you would expect from every Lange, however, this time around not with the usual floral decorations but with a ‘wave’ pattern.
This new movement also features a newly designed balance that is regulated with four countersunk poising screws, which are flush with the outside of the balance-wheel rim. This design reduces turbulence despite the higher frequency. Together with the freely oscillating balance spring made in-house, the minimised air resistance has a positive impact on the movement’s rate accuracy and energy efficiency.
As for the other specifications, this movement boasts a power reserve of 50 hours and measures 32.9mm in diameter, meaning it is large enough to fill the case – always pleasant when looking through the sapphire caseback. The decoration of the movement is Lange all the way – like all movements made by the Saxon brand, it is decorated and assembled by hand. The bridges and main-plate are made from German silver and decorated with polished bevels, striping, blued screws – including one screwed gold chaton for the escapement – circular graining, black-polished steel parts… True Lange execution. As always, the parts of all Lange movements are finished to the same degree. Whether it’s a 2 million Grand Complication or a Saxonia Thin, or this new Odysseus, it’s not going to be a disappointment!
Price and Availability
As we mentioned, this blue A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Day-Date ref. 363.179 is the first model in the range. More options – colours and complications – will certainly be presented in the near future. The watch is available as of today, October 24th, 2019 at boutiques and authorized retailers. It will be priced at EUR 28,000 (incl. taxes).
I know this A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus is disruptive, but it marks a major step forward for the brand as an entirely new collection and mainly, as an entirely new concept for Lange. It will create reactions, I have no doubt about it. Whether they will be positive or not, I can’t tell yet.
Objectively, the execution of the watch is simply perfect. The quality of the assembly, decoration, finishing – be it the case, the bracelet, the dial or the movement – is everything you would expect from a Lange watch. It certainly is on a par with, if not better executed than its potential competitors. But that isn’t a surprise… I would have liked the case to be slightly thinner, but objectively, it is far from disturbing.
Subjectively, as I said in my introduction, I LOVE this watch. It took me a while (at least 1 minute) before fully understanding and appreciating it, but once it was on my wrist, I fell for the concept. I am sure that the Odysseus will provoke discussions and polarizing points of view, just like the ones that greeted the Lange 31 or the Zeitwerk. However, let’s give credit to A. Lange and Söhne for 1) making its move on this market while not being a brand known for its sports watches, and 2) offering something that is both respectful of the DNA, different from the rest of the crowd and at the same time answering the need for a robust, daily life-proof watch by Lange… So give the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus a try, you might be surprised.
More details at www.alange-soehne.com.