Having reviewed both Lange’s and Ferrier’s annual calendars in the previous days, today it’s time for a face-off, a chance for these two mid-weight complication champs to engage in a mock battle. The two contestants are clearly very beautiful watches, perfectly matched in functionality and mechanical integrity, so please take a ringside seat and see if you agree with our verdict in the battle of annual calendars pitting the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar versus the Laurent Ferrier Annual Calendar School Piece.
Case size and presence on the wrist
Without going into extensive detail (please see the reviews of the ALS 1815 Annual Calendar and the Laurent Ferrier Annual Calendar), let’s take a look at the common traits of these annual calendars.
Both contenders share 40mm gold cases and both watches enjoy a commanding presence. The Lange 1815 has a height of 10.1mm while the Laurent Ferrier is thicker at 12.8mm (including the sapphire crystal). It’s only fair to say that the LF sits higher on the wrist and draws attention to its curves with its thick polished bezel and large onion crown. As you can see, both models feature short sloping lugs that position the caseback flush against the wrist and both watches sit beautifully on the wrist (both photographed on Frank’s 18.5cm wrist).
There is also the case material to take into consideration. The Lange is made from lustrous 18k white gold, a discreet metal that can pass as stainless steel for wearers who value discretion, while the Laurent Ferrier is made from yellow gold. Although the yellow gold is a special “sand-coloured” alloy with subtle, elegant colour, there is no doubt that the LF is a gold watch.
Conclusion: Lange’s case is subtler, more traditional and understated. The voluptuous, sensual curves of the Laurent Ferrier model are bound to attract attention. Lange is more formal and dressier, while LF is more captivating. This is entirely a matter of taste.
Both contenders have gone that extra mile to make the watches user-friendly and both flaunt lateral pushers to manipulate certain features of the annual calendar. The easy-to-grip pusher on the LF model at 10 o’clock lets you change the day of the week and the crown features additional functionality to adjust the date and month functions.
The pusher at 2 o’clock on the Lange lets you advance all the indications simultaneously, a useful device if you have forgotten to wind the watch (let’s not forget that both watches are manual-winding). There are also three recessed pushers on the side of the case that can be depressed with a special tool to set the day, month and moon phase functions individually.
Conclusion: While lateral pushers in the caseband, functionality and user-friendliness are excellent in both models, the LF has more functionality at the crown, making it even easier to use than the Lange, which depends on recessed pushers for individual adjustments and requires a separate tool. An extra advantage for Ferrier here.
Once again, both annual calendars have put a premium on legibility. Lange has opted for a classic trilogy of sub-dials with two central and horizontally aligned counters for the calendar information (day and date on left, month on right) and a third counter at 6 o’clock for the running seconds and moon phase display. Laurent Ferrier has chosen a 1940s-style calendar layout with two rectangular apertures for the day and month, a peripheral date ring with pointer hand and has placed the small seconds in the conventional 6 o’clock position – minus moon phase.
Despite the copious amount of inscriptions on the Lange watch, the designers have managed to integrate the information in a very pleasant manner. Like other members of the 1815 collection, many details on the dial – railway minute and seconds tracks and large Arabic numerals – hark back to the founder’s precision pocket watches and imbue the dial with a strong sense of classicism and tradition.
The Laurent Ferrier is an intriguing mixture of old and new. The blue date ring features Art Deco-style numerals while the elegant javelin-shaped hands are hallmark LF. The subtle use of colour adds a refreshing, more contemporary dimension to the watch.
Conclusion: Excellent arrangement of the functions on both watches. However, the white dial of the Lange is less reflective than the silver-tone dial of the LF and easier to read. Once again, the layout and character of the Lange come across as a more formal and rigorous dial.
Manual-winding and power reserve
Another choice both Lange and LF have made is the incorporation of a manual-winding movement. Somewhat odd given the practical, everyday vocation of an annual calendar, but with handy pushers provided to correct a couple of days of inactivity, it is not the end of the world and adds a touch of old school charm that many collectors will appreciate. The LF has a beefy power reserve of 80 hours and the Lange a respectable 72, both enough to see you through a weekend.
As you would expect from these watch brands, the movements are impeccably finished albeit very different in style. The Lange flaunts traditional touches like the classic German silver ¾ plate and hand-engraved balance cock; the Laurent Ferrier is decidedly more contemporary with thick Geneva stripes and bridges plated with dark ruthenium.
Conclusion: Ample power reserve in both models, excellent finishes and decoration. No clear winner here, but once again the movements reflect the personalities of these watches.
A Lange & Söhne 1815 Annual Calendar white gold retails for EUR 38,000, while Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece for EUR 50,000 (and a bit less in stainless steel). The quality and execution are impressive in both cases.
Conclusion: That’s a difference of EUR 12,000. Take into account though that Laurent Ferrier is a small, independent brand and does not have the production capacity of ALS’s Saxon manufacture. In the case of the LF, this translates into exclusivity.
Rolls Royce or Bugatti?
At the end of the day, when comparing two watches that are so equally matched and impeccably made, the victor will boil down to a matter of personal taste.
When asked to compare these two models I found that car analogies were useful. Lange’s 1815 Annual Calendar reminds me of a vintage Rolls Royce, a stately car purring majestically down the road thanks to its impeccable engine and body. The curvaceous sensuality of Laurent Ferrier’s watch reminds me of a 1938 Bugatti, happy to attract attention, but without being garish or gaudy.
You could say that the Lange watch is more consensual, a more traditional take on the annual calendar. This is the kind of watch that might appeal to those who want to want to fly under the radar, those with a certain old-school elegance and a restrained attitude. But bear with me, it remains a superb watch.
The Laurent Ferrier has a more sensual disposition and is more playful and daring in my eyes. The Galet Annual Calendar might very well appeal to collectors who want something less mainstream, perhaps somebody who already has a classic watch and who is looking for something unique and less conventional. Thus, it might appeal to more seasoned collectors.
(Editor’s note: keep in mind that the verdict here is based on Rebecca’s personal preferences.) If I could, I would buy the Laurent Ferrier annual calendar. I love the Lange, but it does not enthral me like the Ferrier. There is really nothing I can quibble about with the Lange, but it doesn’t engage me on an emotional level and I miss the features that I associate with Lange watches like the outsize date and off-centred counters. I know that we are talking about the more conservative 1815 family, but if I were to invest in a Lange watch, it would have to have at least one of those hallmark features.
For me, the Laurent Ferrier is more seductive, appealing to both the visual and tactile neurons of the wearer. These are purely aesthetic considerations, as these two watches are superb in terms of mechanics, pedigree, execution and design… But isn’t that the key factor when deliberating between two perfectly matched candidates?
Which is your favourite? And why? We’d love to hear from you so please feel free to post your comments in the box below.