In 2009, A. Lange & Söhne presented a watch that was a true game changer for the brand. Visually audacious, mechanically fascinating, a complete break from the usual codes of the manufacture, the Zeitwerk became one of the most emblematic models of ALS and a sort of UFO on the high-end watch scene. Combining traditional codes of German watchmaking with an unprecedented way to indicate the time, the watch featured large jumping numerals for the hours and minutes as well as a constant-force escapement as a beat controller. Since then, several complications have been added to the Zeitwerk, such as a striking mechanism, a minute repeater, a decimal strike or a date. We had a teaser of what could have been the collection update last year with the Zeitwerk Honeygold Lumen, which now materialises with a new A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk with much more power under the hood.
Before reading this article, we invite you to watch the video posted above, where Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development, explains everything you need to know about the Zeitwerk concept, how time is indicated, and what matters in this 2022 update.
Behind the Zeitwerk and its highly original – may I say unique display – is a very Saxon inspiration: the famous five-minute clock at the Semper Opera House in Dresden. At the time, court clockmaker Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes was commissioned to develop a time display that could be read from the rearmost seats. Contrary to all large-format clocks with hands, he opted for a revolutionary solution: a clock that displayed the time digitally in five-minute steps. This is where the Zeitwerk creates the link between traditional German watchmaking and modern high-end horology.
A Zeitwerk First and Foremost
Indeed, there’s a new Zeitwerk, or to be precise, a new pair of Zeitwerk watches, replacing the classic models that have been in the collection for 13 years now. And you’ll be pleased to see that, visually speaking, almost nothing has changed. The watch is mostly a technical update, with a brand new movement, but no significant alterations of what is, without a doubt, a genuinely emblematic design – which clearly didn’t need to be updated. In fact, excluding the dial, this new pair of watches is entirely identical to the 2021 Lumen model, which already came with the updated movement, and some small touches on the dial and case.
As such, the case of the 2022 Zeitwerk retains the same diameter as before, at 41.9mm with a height of 12.2mm – which is 0.4mm thinner than the inaugural watch. The case still combines brushed and polished surfaces, still has a crown at 2 o’clock, and sapphire crystals on both sides. However, you’ll notice a new pusher at 4 o’clock, which is there to quickly adjust the hour disc – a function introduced on the Zeitwerk Date and carried on here, mostly because both models share the same base calibre.
As for the dial, the changes are also minimal. The 2022 Zeitwerk retains its signature display with the time indicated thanks to three large discs in two apertures, allowing time to be read digitally from left to right. What’s new is the redesigned power reserve indicator with a red segment and a slightly enlarged small seconds. The central time bridge, with an apparent screw and bearing jewel, is still part of the dial. Overall, the new Zeitwerk is as close as it gets to its original design intention, for the best.
There is news, however, regarding colours and materials. Previously available in white gold with a black dial and in pink gold with a silver dial, the 2022 Zeitwerk comes in two new combinations: 18k pink gold with a matte black dial, on a black alligator strap (ref. 142.031) and 950 platinum with a rhodium-plated dial, on a dark brown strap (ref. 142.025) – which is basically a mix-and-match of previous colour combinations. Personally, I kind of regret the old white metal/black dial combination, which has a technical, monochromatic punch to its black-and-white contrast.
New engine for the Zeitwerk
This is where things become really interesting. While the habillage is almost untouched, what beats inside the case has been drastically updated. The old Zeitwerk movement was undoubtedly a stunning-looking movement and one with impressive technical solutions, but it came with one major drawback: a power reserve of 36 hours only. This could be explained by the high level of energy consumed by the three jumping discs. However, as understandable as it is, such a power reserve is objectively on the very short side. This issue was already addressed with the Zeitwerk Date, which came with a hugely extended power reserve, and the same work was first transferred to the Lumen model last year; now, it’s the standard Zeitwerk’s turn.
In short, there is a new in-house calibre L043.6 inside the Zeitwerk, which is an evolution of the calibre L043.8 of the Zeitwerk Date and the calibre L043.9 of the Zeitwerk Lumen Honeygold. Without surprise, it comes with the exact same technical solutions (including the quick hour adjustment) and the same overall specifications. Some impressive numbers: the time is indicated by three massive discs, the hour ring with a diameter of 30mm and the two minute discs – for the tens-minute and units-minute – which are 19.0 and 12.7 millimetres, respectively. Both discs are separated by a height difference of merely 0.2 millimetres. This is for the upper side of the movement.
Now, with such large and heavy discs jumping every minute, there is work to do on energy management. “Not only are the numerals discs very heavy by watchmaking standards, but they also have to be quickly accelerated and braked again. This calls for considerably higher forces than the uniform rotation of a pair of hands of much less weight. The greatest amount of energy is needed at the top of the hour when the movement advances all three discs at the same time,” explains Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development. For this reason, both energy storage and its distribution have been redesigned. The movement now has a double barrel for double the amount of power reserve (72h vs 36h).
The energy distribution still relies on a one-minute, patented, constant-force escapement, which handles the precise jump of the minute discs when the seconds hand reaches the zero mark. As a multitalented device, it even makes a further contribution: it ensures that the movement is also powered by a uniform amount of force, which improves rate stability. Also, the 2022 Zeitwerk benefits from a new regulator, with a cam-poised balance, an in-house balance spring and a patented beat-adjustment system. The movement runs at a frequency of 2.5Hz and consists of 451 components. As expected from A. Lange & Söhne, the movement’s decoration is stunning, warm, uber-attractive and detailed to the max.
Availability & Price
The 2022 A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk is released in two non-limited editions in pink gold and platinum and are available now for orders. Price is “upon request”; more details can be found at www.alange-soehne.com.