Touted by Anthony de Haas, director of product development at A. Lange & Söhne, as the “absolute technical highlight” of Watches & Wonders 2022, the Richard Lange Minute Repeater is a case study in classicism and understatement. A far cry from the extravagance of Lange’s Grand Complication of 2013 with its profusion of complications and from the 2015 Zeitwerk (decimal) Minute Repeater with jumping digital hours and minutes, the brand’s latest chiming watch is a pure minute repeater sans the distraction of any additional complications. According to de Haas, the Richard Lange Minute Repeater is “a classical minute repeater but (made) to today’s standards.” The classical personality of the watch is consolidated by the elegantly proportioned white enamel dial and the modest 39mm diameter of the platinum case; the modernity is conferred by several upgrades to protect and enhance the minute repeater mechanism integrated into the brand’s new calibre L122.1. The 50-piece limited edition writes a new chapter in Lange’s trajectory of chiming mechanisms in strictly classical prose.
Richard Lange Aesthetics
If the left side of the case were hidden under a shirt cuff, you could be forgiven for mistaking this as a Richard Lange “Pour Le Mérite” time-only model. Made in platinum, the case dimensions – 39mm diameter x 9.7mm height – are closer to those of a dress watch. Surprisingly, the dimensions of the Minute Repeater are more restrained than the “Pour Le Mérite” (40.5mm x 10.7mm), although the dial layout and case shape are practically identical, give or take a few millimetres. Despite being one of the smallest watches at Lange, the heft of platinum is easy to perceive when handling the watch. Like other models in the Richard Lange family, the case has short domed lugs and a combination of polished and satin-brushed surfaces.
The overall sobriety and restraint of the Minute Repeater reflect its status as a Richard Lange model. Introduced in 2006 and named after F. A. Lange’s son Richard, the Richard Lange collection is imbued with the austere aesthetics, impeccable precision and the excellent legibility associated with scientific observation watches. Richard Lange inherited his father’s scientific bent (he improved the elasticity of the balance spring by adding a small amount of beryllium to the mix of his patented alloy) and developed rugged scientific pocket chronometers with fusée-and-chain escapements, and precision observation watches with excellent legibility for leading scientists, explorers and researchers of the day.
white Enamel Dial
It might seem plain at first glance, but this enamel dial is worth studying with a magnifying glass. Its classical features – Roman numerals, blued hands and railway-style minute and seconds tracks – are hallmark Richard Lange. Crafted in-house, the white enamel dial has a solid gold core and is made of three separate parts: the higher outer ring with the minutes track and Roman numerals; the lower central area with the brand name and the intersecting small seconds sub-dial. Each part is handcrafted individually before being soldered together.
The lustrous white enamel provides a pristine background for the slender inky black Roman numerals, the inscriptions and the Arabic numerals and railway tracks for the minutes and seconds. Instead of being printed with ink, the black details on the dial are burned into the dial. The flame-blued hands add a touch of colour to the sharp black and white contrasts of the dial along with the delightful dash of red at XII. Although I am not usually keen on truncated numerals, the way the small seconds sub-dial kind of drops down from the central circle is very graceful indeed.
A CLASSICAL MINUTE REPEATER FOR TODAY
Like many traditional minute repeaters, the Richard Lange Minute Repeaters uses a slider on the left case flank to activate the chiming mechanism following a mechanical programme with two differently tuned gongs that can strike 720 different sequences. Hours are chimed at a lower pitch, quarters with a double tone and the minutes elapsed since the last quarter with a higher-pitched tone. Nothing unusual here. And even though the movement is adorned with Lange’s signature finishings, the construction of the 191-part integrated minute repeater mechanism is classical, similar to Swiss minute repeater movements. However, echoing de Haas’s words, Lange has added its unique touch to protect and improve the movement.
For one, Lange has designed a foolproof safety mechanism for the chiming mechanism so that the minute repeater cannot be activated when the crown is pulled out and vice versa – you can’t pull out the crown when the chiming mechanism is activated. The second technical upgrade is the pause elimination feature, which skips the pause between the hour and minute strike when there are no quarters to be sounded, for example, in the first 14 minutes after the hour. The third Lange touch is the patented hammer blocker that keeps the hammers tucked into their home position for fractions of a second after striking the gongs. This prevents the hammers from bouncing and striking the gongs accidentally.
Like the first Zeitwerk Minute Repeater that was produced in platinum, the Richard Lange is also made in platinum. Given its density, it is not the most resonant metal although more and more minute repeaters are appearing in platinum. If you are interested in the latest solutions to optimise minute repeaters, don’t miss Xavier’s Technical Perspective. Below, we’ve included a soundtrack of the minute repeater in action (as of 00:35) for you to gauge the volume, pitch, tone and harmony of the chimes.
HAND-WOUND CALIBRE L122.1
In a departure from some minute repeaters on the market today keen to reveal the gongs and hammers on the dial, the Richard Lange Minute Repeater stages the spectacle on the caseback. When the repeater is activated, the black-polished gong hammers strike the two hand-tuned gongs coiled around the movement. All the bridges of the chiming mechanism are decorated with solarisation and the bridge above the centrifugal governor is skeletonised. The view from the caseback is gorgeous; look at the gleaming mirror-polished gold counterweights of the governor and the elegant ‘S’ structure held in place by a ruby. Rotating at more than 2,000 revolutions per minute when the striking mechanism is activated, the centrifugal governor guarantees a consistent cadence of the strikes.
The calibre L122.1 is Lange’s new manual-winding movement – the brand’s 69th calibre – and displays signature decorative flourishes such as the hand-engraved balance cock, the untreated German silver three-quarter plate with Glashütte ribbing, polished gold jewel-bearing chatons and thermally blued screws. The escapement beats at 21,600vph, and the mainspring barrel delivers a 72-hour power reserve.
There is something very Saxon about the frugality and discretion of this minute repeater. The Richard Lange Minute Repeater is not a conspicuous watch; rather, it hides its surprises under a serious yet beautifully crafted white enamel dial. The dimensions of this watch are wrist perfect. Combined with the in-built safety features and upgrades, this is actually a minute repeater that can be worn daily – if you have close to half a million euros to spare!
Availability & Price
The Richard Lange Minute Repeater comes on a hand-stitched black leather strap with a platinum deployant buckle. It is a boutique exclusive limited edition of 50 watches and retails for EUR 409,000 (incl. tax).
For more information, please visit A. Lange & Söhne.com.