Review – The A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase, or the Essence of German Symmetry

calendar | ic_dehaze_black_24px By Brice Goulard | ic_query_builder_black_24px 14 min read |
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

When A. Lange & Söhne is mentioned, it is easy to dream. It is easy to dream because of names like Datograph, Zeitwerk or Double-Split. These watches can be found on so many watch collectors’ wish-list (and not only Lange aficionados), and for extremely good reasons, as clearly, they are all watchmaking pinnacles, grail watches, dream-machines… and they are all rather inaccessible. So the main question that I’ll have today, with the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase, is simple: is there something special about A. Lange & Söhne in general and will this “reasonable offer” give me the same pleasure? You will have to read ‘a few lines of text’ to find my answer…

The Saxonia Moon Phase Full Moon Journey

Besides reviewing this watch, I also had it in my hands (and on my wrist) for another reason. A. Lange & Söhne indeed asked 16 journalists, from 16 cities around the world and during 16 synodical months (the Lunar month) to participate in a photo contest. The underlying theme is an iconic bridge illuminated by the full moon, and of course, in the foreground, the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase. Clearly, this was not an image easy to produce. However, thanks to luck, to a good timing (I had to wait for the Moon to be just on top of the bridge… and I didn’t expect it to be here), a powerful camera and some good portable lightings (LEDs are just so cool), I achieved an image I’m actually proud of. Don’t get me wrong, it could have been much better, but I’m no professional photograph. And the result is the Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase in front of the old Wilson Bridge, in my home town (Tours, France), with an unexpected perfect full moon.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

Back to our main concern of the day, the review of the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase. This watch is part of the new Saxonia collection, introduced at the SIHH 2015. Indeed, that year, Lange renewed (slightly) this collection of watches, which was, at that time, the entry-level proposition – well, in 2016, they even brought a new “value proposition” (yes, I dare to call it this way), with the Saxonia Thin 37mm, priced at € 14,900 Euros (and considering what you’ll get for that price, it is a real value prop.). The new Saxonia collection is in the vein of the previous one, with sleek dials and display, markers for the hours (and not numerals, like in the 1815) and thin hands. The changes are minimal but bring a bit of modernity – thanks to longer markers, a new minute track and new surface finishes on the case.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

The new A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase follows the concept introduced by the Manual, Automatic and Dual-Time editions and adds some more complexity to the display, with a large date (one of the brand’s hallmarks) and a display of the age of the moon. For me, this watch is three things: balanced, elegant, technical, which leads us to look at three main aspects of this watch: its dial, its case and its perception on the wrist and finally, its movement (and knowing what A. Lange & Söhne, you know that this part will be pleasant).

The A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase: an extremely balanced dial

When I first saw the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase at the SIHH 2016, I immediately felt a great attraction. I guess it was not the case, which is very Lange, or the movement – even if it has a lot to show – but clearly it was all about the dial of this watch. In one word, it could describe it as the epitome of “balance”, a sort of treaty of pure symmetry and a demonstration of perfect alignment and placement of the complications. It is simple: remove the inscriptions, trace a line in the middle of the dial, from 12 to 6 and look closely. You’ll have a perfect symmetry. It is balanced, elegant, discreet and at the same time, it isn’t shy. I know this watch talks to me a lot, however I also know that for instance Frank Geelen, our Editor-in-Chief, has more pleasure with the messy dial of a Lange 1 – oh well, I do understand him.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

I do certainly understand his point about the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase. Everything is perfectly aligned on the vertical plan. I know this can even sound a bit rigid for some. However, I do love this (controlled) German austerity in the display. Indeed, both the large date and the moon phase dial, circled by a small second indicator, are on the same axle – and this also goes for the printings. However, and if I must admit a certain inflexibility of this display, I also tend to say that it makes the beauty of this watch. One of the reasons is certainly the absolutely perfect position and proportions of the different complications. The moon / seconds dial for instance feels like being natural in this context. Not too big, not too small, not too far away from the periphery of the dial… It is hard to tell why, but it feels extremely satisfying for the eye. Same goes for the Date, which to me, is right where it should be.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

The date display is traditional for Lange, with 2 large numerals, on independent discs, jumping perfectly at midnight and controlled by the large pusher at 10. As usual, it is circled by a large polished gold rectangle – one thing I don’t like with Lange’s display is that from the 1st to the 9th of the month, the decimal disc remains empty and don’t display a zero instead… very personal I know. The moon is classically displayed in a semi-circular aperture, on a blue disc, with a gold moon. The blue disc is in fact solid gold that has been engraved by laser, with no less than 852 (!!!) golden stars and then coated in blue. At that scale, we must talk about autism…

Just like the other watches of the Saxonia collection, the hours and minutes are indicated by gold lance (alpha) hands, matching the case material, and entirely polished. These hands point a minute track printed in black, with now thinner but longer markers. The hours are indicated by facetted and polished applied gold indexes, being longer and thinner since the new 2015 models. This hands / markers combination is both extremely traditional and modern, by being slender.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

What I must say, after looking at this dial for a few days, is that it doesn’t only have this balanced, Teutonic feel but it is warmer than you can expect. Like all Lange watches, the dial is slightly grained and somehow sparkles a bit, creating a texture just a little metallic (in fact, Lange’s dial are solid silver). On the other hand, there’s the contrast and the warmness of the hands and indexes, combined to all the details of the moon indication. Altogether, this watch has more charm than its rigidity might transpire at first – a feeling that is even truer on this pink gold edition, as the white gold version looses this warmness.

The A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase: elegance on the wrist

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

Apart from the dial and the display, which play a major role in the perception of a watch, the case of this A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase also pleased me. You see, I can easily enter the “small wrist” category. I don’t like huge watches and my largest watch is actually a Moonwatch, at 42mm, and that, we all know, wears slightly smaller. When it comes to dress watches, I usually tend to say that 38mm is the most balanced option. It is to me the diameter that shows most elegance – and smaller is certainly very desirable too. This is why I loved the new Saxonia Automatic and Dual-Time, sized at 38.5mm, and both relatively thin (7.8mm for the first one and 9.1mm for the latter). A dress watch has to be small and thin, no discussion about that.

However, the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase is larger and measures 40mm. Obviously, it remains extremely reasonable on paper, and so it did on my wrist. Because of a display more complex than its siblings, the larger opening of the dial and the bigger diameter is welcomed. This watch gains in presence, feels more complex, more lively, due to the dial and the expanded diameter of the case. I’m pretty sure the result of this display in a 38mm case would be less pleasant.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

What about the case itself? Well, as usual with A. Lange & Söhne, the execution is above expectations. It is neat, precise, perfectly adjusted, polishings are delicate… Some nice craftsmanship for sure. The case has the traditional bombé bezel, polished, the usual satined flanks and a caseback that is polished on its edges – creating a contrast with the satined flanks – and that is brushed on the lower surface. I always loved this brushed caseback. I know it is a detail, but I think it is a wiser choice than the previous polished surfaces, because it gives the back an even more technical look (and God knows how technical Lange watches look on the back side) and it prevents from all possible traces that the watch has when worn (yes, casebacks, even on a Lange, are dirty).

The case is also relatively thin at 9.8mm, considering the automatic movement and the extra-modules on the dial side, for the date and the moon (and Lange’s large date is complex and quite thick). This slightly thicker case fits perfectly with the larger diameter, keeping approximately the same proportions (diameter / height ratio) as a Saxonia Automatic – and it’s clearly a good example of a balanced watch. On the wrist, the short and curved lugs allow for a good positioning and great comfort. This watch can easily be worn with a business suit of even a tuxedo, especially in this highly precious and warm combination of pink gold and silvery-white dial. The only flaw I could find is the recessed push button on the caseband, to adjust the moon. A crown-adjustment would be easier and more elegant. Whatever, the Saxonia Moon Phase has great presence, great elegance, a balanced display that combines the German rigidity with a warm look (that’s something only Lange can do…). Overall, the aesthetics are just perfect to me.

The A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase: the beauty of German watchmaking

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

As most of you might know, A. Lange & Söhne is not just a nicely executed case, an elegant dial or a great presence on the wrist. No, it is first of all a movement, made in the tradition of the German school of watchmaking. And this Saxonia Moon Phase is no exception to the rule. It features all the great elements that make Lange’s movements so desirable. However, as being automatic, it looks and feels quite different from the rest of the manual calibres, the one found in the Lange 1 for instance. Usually, and for quite a long time at Lange, automatic meant micro-rotor, or at least, 3/4 rotor, to follow the concept of the 3/4 plate, so dear to German watchmaking. With the Saxonia, whether we talk about the Automatic, the Dual Time or this Moon Phase, we have a classical full rotor, covering the entire movement. Rather unusual for the brand, but no worries, this rotor is already a visual feast.

a-lange-sohne-saxonia-moon-phase-2016-review-15

The rotor of the Saxonia Moon Phase shows a superb execution. The central part is gilded and shows detailed decoration: edges are chamfered and polished, the logo is in relief, with the lower part being frosted and the top surface is grained with circular lines. The mass to create inertia on this rotor is solid platinum (visible on the periphery of the rotor), a heavy material that will ensure an efficient winding. This platinum mass is attached to the golden part with traditional blued screws. We could easily regret the presence of a full rotor on a Lange movement, however its execution is such that we tend to forgive Lange for that.

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

The rest of the movement is traditional to the Lange production. Remember that for this manufacture, whatever the price range of a watch, finishing and details are always the same. The price of a watch, like CEO Wilhelm Schmid told us here, depends on the complexity of the movement and the amount of parts. Thus, the Saxonia Moon Phase has the superb finishes of all the other Lange watches, meaning Glashutte ribbings on the 3/4 plate, circular graining on the main-plate, chamfered and polished (by hand) edges, polished sinks and screw-heads, a black-polished bridge to hold the escape-wheel and of course, the superb engraved cock-bridge. Bridges and plates are made out of German silver (instead of rhodium-plated brass in most watches), giving this nice warm color to the movement. Every part is decorated and painstakingly finished. Some elegant, detailed and beautiful craftsmanship, which is as usual, not too demonstrative.

Function-wise, this Calibre L086.5 offers hours and minutes on the central axis, a small second with stop-mechanism, an instantaneously jumping large date and a moon-phase. The moon is actually quite precise (to say the least), with 1 day deviation after 122.6 years (we know even more precise but that’s already impressive). The power reserve of this movement is also interesting and comfortable, at 72h – which considering the thinness of the base calibre is quite impressive and achieved with one single barrel. 72 hours of power reserve allows you to put this watch in the box on Friday night, to wear a sports watch for the weekend and to strap the Saxonia back on Monday morning, to go to work, while it will still be running. As always with Lange, the use of the movement is extremely pleasant – winding is damn smooth – and the adjustment of the large date, via the pusher at 10, is precise, with a reassuring click.

Conclusion about the Saxonia Moon Phase

After all these technical and visual considerations, I now have to answer the introducing question: did the Saxonia Moon Phase give me as much pleasure as dream-watches from the brand? Well, to be honest, I had an immense pleasure to wear this watch, however, not the same as a Datograph or a Zeitwerk. I must explain my words here. The Saxonia Moon Phase clearly doesn’t play in the same league and must not be compared straight to watches that cost 2 or 3 times more. It vocation is not the same. The Saxonia Moon Phase is a dress watch, slightly more complex than the usual manual-winding editions of the brand. For that, it brought more horological pleasure to me than a Saxonia 35mm.

Overall, I think it is one of the best options in Lange’s collection now. I love the extremely balanced dial, I love the comfort of an automatic movement, on a daily basis, I love the slightly lager diameter. I do think this Saxonia Moon Phase is a good option for a less mature collector. It must not be compared to a Datograph or a Zeitwerk, which are insider’s watches. This Saxonia is more mainstream (in terms of potential owners) but remains a connoisseur choice. And its elegance is undeniable. Price: 28,500 Euros (either in 18k pink gold or 18k white gold).

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

Pros

  • The versatility of the 40mm diameter and the nice proportions
  • The comfort on the wrist and the comfort of the automatic winding
  • The beauty of the dial, extremely balanced
  • A nice consensus between German rigidity and warm looks
  • The execution and efficiency of the movement

Cons

  • Probably a bit shy for hardcore collectors
  • The recessed pusher to adjust the moon phase (not elegant, not practical)

Specifications of the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moon Phase

  • Case: 40mm diameter x 9.8mm thick – 18k gold (pink or white), polished and satined – sapphire crystal on front and on the caseback – 30m water resistant
  • Movement: Calibre L086.5, in-house developed and manufactured – automatic winding – power reserve of 72 hours – 21,600bph – Hours, minutes, small second, large date, moon phase
  • Strap: alligator leather on gold pin buckle

3 responses

  1. Shame the Saxonia Moonphase doesn’t show the full moon in your photo of the bridge! (Pretty nifty otherwise!)

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