Some names will resonate in the minds of collectors, for their influence on watchmaking. While the industry was facing its most difficult crisis ever during the 1970s and 1980s, one man had faith in mechanical watches. In 1983, a certain Gerd-Rüdiger Lang registered the name Chronoswiss, becoming a pioneer for what’s now known as contemporary watchmaking. In 2022, Mister Lang (now almost 80) returns to the bench with a new eponymous brand, Lang 1943, and presents the inaugural model, the Lang 1943 Field Watch Edition One.
Gerd R. Lang is an important name for the watch industry, mostly due to his influence on the return of mechanical watches in the early 1980s – at a time when quartz and digital timepieces were seen as the only future possible. Born in 1943 in Braunschweig, Germany, Lang quickly moved to Switzerland and landed at Heuer in 1964, where he worked in the production of stopwatches. In 1968 he was sent to the German branch in Frankfurt before relocating to Munich in 1974, home to the then-new Heuer subsidiary, Heuer Time GmbH, where he directed the technical department. In 1980, Heuer closed the Munich subsidiary… a situation known by many watchmakers back then. Then 37, Gerd R. Lang decided to open his own restoration and service atelier.
This is where the Chronoswiss story began. Lang bought some movements from Alfred Rochat in the Vallée de Joux, encased them in a classic design, and sold them in his small shop, first with the Rochat name on the dial, then under the brand name Chronoswiss, which he registered in 1983. And from the brand came multiple genius ideas… The most important one being the transparent caseback to showcase the movement. Indeed, Lang was the first to do this in the modern era, ahead of another first; making the regulator time display viable for the wristwatch. Gerd-Rüdiger Lang will stay at the head of Chronoswiss up until 2012, when the brand was sold to Oliver and Eva Ebstein, who moved the headquarters to Lucerne.
Now 80 and after years of retirement from the industry, Lang comes back with a new brand, Lang 1943. The brand is the brainchild of Georg Bartkowiak, an industry veteran who worked behind-the-scenes as a creative mind, or as former CEO of boutique brand Grieb & Benzinger. Having admiration for the work of Gerd R. Lang, he decided to bring him back under the spotlight to create a new brand, where Lang will act as brand’s consultant, figurehead, and advisor for design and technology. And also the provider of what ticks inside the new Field Watch Edition One.
What’s important to know about the Lang 1943 Field Watch is not only its cool, classic and appealing military style, but the fact that inside isn’t a classic, off-the-shelves movement from ETA or Sellita. Where many would have expected a hand-wound Peseux 7001 or ETA 2801, the Field Watch Edition One runs on vintage fuel, with a Marvin movement. Crucial to the creation of the brand is the fact that Gerd-Rüdiger Lang acquired the entire remaining stock of vintage Marvin movements and components in the 1990s.
The Lang 1943 Field Watch Edition One
Under the inaugural collection is a very classic topic; the so-called military-inspired Field Watch. Built around the concept of the Dirty Dozen watches – which we’ve explored extensively here – the brand starts with a modern re-interpretation with interesting mechanics. Born in the 1940s and meant to be part of the equipment of soldiers, the Dirty Dozen refers to 12 watches (the WWW, or Watch, Wristlet, Waterproof) for army personnel commissioned by Great Britain’s Ministry of Defense. Manufactured by Buren, Cyma, Eterna, Grana, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lémania, Longines, IWC, Omega, Record, Timor, and Vertex, these will become legendary and a great source of inspiration for modern re-editions.
Following the design principles of the MoD’s W.W.W. a.k.a Dirty Dozen watches, the Lang 1943 Field Watch Edition One draws on classic codes and proportions, yet with some modernity in the shapes, size, design and manufacturing processes. The stainless steel case, entirely brushed, is constructed in a clever way, with a screw-down bezel and an invisible gasket system that surrounds the domed sapphire crystal. The case has grown a bit compared to the 1940s field watches, with now 39mm in diameter yet a restrained height of 8.4mm. It is equipped with a sapphire caseback (of course…), a lightly fluted crown with double O-ring gasket and is water-resistant to 50 metres.
The dial of the Lang 1943 Field Watch Edition One also pays tribute to the MoD heritage, with a contemporary approach and retro inspiration with modern, cool flair. The base of the dial is sunray-brushed and has been treated with a warm grey smoked/gradient colour, adding depth and charm to a usually sterile design. Indeed, the original watches from the Dirty Dozen were matte black. Other liberties have been taken, such as the recessed small seconds with concentric pattern and central crosshair – something that isn’t historically accurate but that once again animates the dial.
As a node to past watches, the white-painted syringe hands and the large Arabic numerals are all coated with radium-like Super-LumiNova and the design of the minute track, mixing a white railroad scale and luminous plots of various shapes, is directly modelled after the 1940s W.W.W. And in order to keep this Lang 1943 Field Watch Edition One rugged and clean, only the logo of the brand has been printed on the dial.
Under the sapphire caseback is a movement now known as the Lang 1943 Caliber L43.1. The base, on the other hand, is anything but new, being a Marvin Caliber 700 that has been refurbished, restored and re-decorated. Also, it has been slightly modified with modern elements such as an Incabloc, a Nivarox spring and a Glucydur balance wheel. Regarding the specifications, this movement is quite large at over 29mm in diameter – offering a nice view from the back – and it beats at 3Hz and stores up to 46 hours of power reserve. It’s decorated with stripes and bevels on the bridges, as well as circular graining on the mainplate. This time-only vintage (built in the 1960s) movement greatly participates in the appeal of the Lang 1943 Field Watch, being more original than a Peseux or Sellita base.
The Lang 1943 Field Watch is presented on various leather or textile straps (20/18mm) with steel pin buckle and quick-release bars for easy change.
Availability & Price
The Lang 1943 Field Watch Edition One isn’t presented as a limited edition, yet knowing the origin of the movement, availability will inevitably be limited at a certain point. The watch is announced at USD 3,700, pricier than alternatives (at least, when talking about identical inspirations) from Hamilton or Timor, yet the story behind the brand, the effort on the design and the mechanics inside somehow justifies the price.
The watch is available directly from lang1943.com.