On this first day of the SIHH we are already blown away by the vast amount of extremely impressive time pieces, and the new Lange & Söhne is no exception. The ‘normal’ Zeitwerk, as introduced in 2009, was in itself a magnificent masterpiece with most likely the easiest (ergonomically) way to read the time on a mechanical timepiece. A year later the German brand presented the Zeitwerk Luminous, and in 2011 the Zeitwerk Striking Time saw the light of day. Today we can show you the newest and most impressive of the Zeitwerk family, the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, with a very special minute repeater!
The ‘special’ minute repeater is a so-called decimal repeater, something that by my knowledge only Kari Voutilainen and Credor (although it is a spring-drive system and thus has a quartz crystal as regulator) have implemented in a wrist watch. Voutilainen’s Decimal Repeaters are among the most coveted timepieces ever created. And yes, I lust for one as well. Luckily Lange & Söhne comes to the rescue! Of course the Voutilainen Decimal Repeaters are very different (style, size, time indication among others) but the decimal repeater seems to me the most logical way to chime the time. For the Lange Zeitwerk, it is also a logical choice to choose a decimal repaters.
The Zeitwerk indicates time in a ‘digital’ way, without hands, and the hour numerals go from 1 to 12, while the minutes are indicated by two disks; one for the 10-minutes, and one for the single minutes, which together indicate minutes from 00 to 59.
Since there are already three different disks (for hours, ten-minute intervals, and minutes) it totally makes sense to choose a minute repeater that chimes the right time in exactly the same way. The time is sounded with a low-pitched tone for each elapsed hour, a double tone for each elapsed ten-minute period, and a high-pitched tone for each elapsed minute.
Technically it proved to be a bit challenge for the watchmakers at A. Lange & Söhne, and the brand’s CEO told me there are a few patents pending for several of the technical solutions they had to find. Mind you, the Zeitwerk in itself, with all the forces of disks jumping at the exact same time, is already an impressive technical achievement, let alone adding a decimal repeater. To make it ‘know’ the actual time, there are three snails connected with the mechanical display elements, and they separately sample the number of hours, ten-minute intervals, and minutes, which will be acoustically indicated.
To start the decimal repeater you press the button, located at the 11 o’clock position, instead of a slide-pusher that is mostly used for repeater watches. The 771-part of the movement (yes, that’s a lot!) have been finish to the magnificent level that we know the German brand for.
The gong has a rather unusual shape. Usually they’re round and as close as possible to the periphery of the movement, so they can be as long as possible, and thus have a louder, and richer sound. In the Lange Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, the gong is shaped… well… differently. And the hammers strike inwards, in stead of outwards.
With repeater watches there are always some potential dangers. For instance, when you try to set the time, when the repeater is still chiming. That would be very harmful for the movement, so Lange’s watchmaking team have found a way to block the crown from being pulled during a chiming sequence. When activated the repeater is activated, the winding train is uncoupled from the ratchet wheel that powers it. This precaution prevents the winding wheel train including the crown from turning while the gongs are being struck.
Another safety feature is that the switching of the numeral discs is delayed until the chiming sequence has ended. This takes about 20 seconds for the maximum succession of tones at 12:59. The acoustic time indication therefore always corresponds to the time displayed on the dial.
The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater comes in a 44.2 by 14.1 mm platinum case. It’s not a limited edition, however it’s limited by production. The retail price is € 440,000 Euro.