When the words “Pour le Mérite” are attached to the name “A. Lange & Söhne“, you know it’s going to be hard to resist and you know it’s going to be complicated. Why? This nomenclature in Lange’s collections means a watch equipped with a fusée and chain transmission (like this one or the outstanding Tourbograph) – and that is far from being an usual construction for a wristwatch. First introduced in 2009 in a limited edition of 200 pieces in pink gold and 50 pieces in platinum, the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” was supposed to be sold out… Well, thankfully it’s back, in a new limited run of 218 pieces, now in white gold with a stunning black dial.
What you’ll get with the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” is a combination of extreme simplicity, superior refinement and overall discretion, linked to a very high mechanical sophistication. Indeed, this watch might look like a plain simple 3-hander, with reasonable dimensions and clean dial, it nevertheless hides what can be called the most impressive, most exclusive and most complicated type of movement from the Saxonian manufacture. This watch has one sole objective: precision, technical complication to improve accuracy, discernible only on the movement side. It is somehow the pinnacle of elegance and exclusivity.
When worn on the wrist, nothing transpires from this watch, which might be seen as another 3-hand, yet extremely elegant watch from A. Lange & Söhne – something that is already rather enjoyable, don’t get me wrong. The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” in white gold and black dial is, these materials and colors apart, the same watch as the one introduced as a limited edition (in pink gold with withe dial – 200 pieces – and in platinum with white dial – 50 pieces) in 2009 – and which is now sold out. This watch is plain, elegant and discreet. It features a 40.5mm case (alternating polished and brushed surfaces) in 18k white gold, a black dial with white Roman numerals, white inscriptions and tracks and white gold hands. The only touch of originality is in the quarter indexes, which are printed in red. The rest is familiar to the Lange production and to the Richard Lange collection of watches. To the exception of the small second indicator at 6, it is extremely close to the hand-wound Richard Lange. However, this sub-dial indicates a huge technical difference, a movement to die for.
Through the sapphire caseback of the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” you admire the Calibre L044.1. While the front is all about classicism and discretion, the back reveals impressive complexity and some rare technical solutions. At the heart of this movement is the technical hallmark of the Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” – and of all “Pour le Mérite” models since 1994 – the fusée and chain transmission. This technical solution has been used in pocket watches for centuries and A. Lange & Söhne were the firsts to integrate it into the small case of a wristwatch, making it a proper challenge.
Technical reference – What is a fusée and chain transmission?
A fusée consists of a cone-shape pulley, linked to a chain coiled around the barrel. The fusée features a spiral thread to receive the chain. Thanks to the increasing circumference of the thread, the diminishing force of the mainspring is compensated (very much like the gearing of a bicycle). As the mainspring unwinds, the chain rolls around the barrel and off the fusée. The increasing leverage of the fusée compensates for the waning torque of the barrel – see our technical guide for details.
A fusée and chain operates as a constant force mechanism, delivering a more stable torque to the escapement – a spring tends to deliver more power when fully wound than when almost unwound, and the fusée and chain counteracts this issue. The mechanism guarantees constant torque and thus stability of the amplitude of the balance across the entire power-reserve range.
The Calibre L044.1 of the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” includes a chain composed of no less than 636 parts. The parts are microscopic, with an overall thickness of only 0,25mm, but his chain measures 156mm (yes, that’s long). This chain, as thin as it is, is able to support a weight of over two kilograms, which is necassary considering the strength of the mainspring. However, that’s not all, as the fusée and chain is linked to a second feature. This transmission causes the fusée to rotate in one direction during the winding process and in the opposite direction when the watch is running. For this reason, it is necessary to ensure that the watch continues to run even when it is being wound. An elaborate planetary gearing inside the fusée maintains the flow of power from the fusée to the movement during the winding phase.
While nothing transpires through the black dial, the back of the watch offers a clear view on these stunning mechanics. The ¾ plate, a hallmark of german watchmaking, is hollowed to reveal the fusée and chain mechanism. This movement, which comprises 279 parts (without the chain), is finished in the tradition of the Lange production, with great attention to details: polished beveled angles, perlage, stripping on the bridge, manually engraved cock bridge, blued screws and gold chatons… As usual with Lange, it is superb. The movement features a traditional regulating organ (no tourbillon), with traditional balance with four solid-gold poising screws, to adjust the regulating organ precisely to the torque delivered by the fusée. The movement boasts 36 hours of power reserve, which must be regarded considering the specific transmission.
The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite” is the pinnacle of elegance mixed with technical content. While many of us like their dials to expose complications, this watch keeps a superb external refinement and discretion, while its movement is superlative… and hidden. You’ll need to be a real connoisseur to enjoy such a watch, and only 218 of them will have the opportunity to wear this white gold / black dial edition. Price: 81,300 Euros (inc. VAT, price for Germany).
Specifications of the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite”
- Case: 40.5mm x 10.5mm – polished and brushed 18k white gold – sapphire crystal on front and back – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre L044.1, in-house – manually-wound – 36h power reserve – 21,600 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, small seconds, fusée and chain transmission
- Strap: black alligator strap with 18K white gold prong buckle