The Über-Chrono, the A. Lange & Söhne Double Split, Fully Reviewed
Monochrome had the chance to do a long-term review of the A. Lange & Söhne Double Split. Not an hour, not one week on the wrist, no, four full weeks with the Double Split on the wrist! During this time and the following period, I’ve asked myself what to write about a watch with such an undisputed status. I simply cannot think of anyone who doesn’t like, or better said LOVE, Lange’s Double Split. And what is so brilliant about it, this is something that actually doesn’t need words. Simply flip over the watch and show it’s most gorgeous complexities, visible through the sapphire case back. The saying “watch porn” rises to its fullest meaning.
I’m not sure what happened, but wearing the Double Split made me a bit poetical, and two things kept coming back to me. First was a sentence from the movie Lord of the Rings, “One Ring to Rule Them All”, which became like a daily mantra, albeit slightly altered for this occasion: “One Chronograph to Rule Them All”. The other thing that seems to be stuck between my ears, is a song by Prince (Rogers Nelson) called “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” (replace “Girl” with “Movement”). “Could u be the most beautiful movement in the world? Could u be? … Oh, yes u are”
It would not do justice to the Double Split, also dubbed the Mighty Double Split, to simply talk about the aesthetics of its movement. The A. Lange & Söhne also the world’s first and only (mechanical) chronograph with a double-rattrapante function. While a normal rattrapante, or split-seconds chronograph, allows to compare two timed events on the same watch, the drawback is that it can only compare differences of one minute or less. The Double Split allows to compare two time recording that can differ up to 30 minutes, because each of the central seconds hands, has its own minute hand. And both hands, or actually all four hands, are fly-back hands! So, besides its striking looks, the Double Split also seriously impresses on a technical level.
It would be almost impossible to describe A. Lange & Söhne’s history here, because it goes back to 1845 and covers many things that can still be found in the A. Lange & Söhne’s watches today. Just think of the hallmark three-quarter plate or for instance a new alloy used for balance springs. Richard Lange invented and patented this new alloy, at age 84, and it is still used throughout the watch industry today, and we know it under the name of Nivarox.
However let’s start in November 1989, when the wall between east and west Berlin was taken down, and started a new era for all of Germany. Walter Lange realized this might also be an opportunity to revive the family business and once again make watches with the “Lange” name on the dial. Early 1990 he and Günter Blümlein worked out a plan to do exactly that. But they had to start from scratch, as there were no watches, no employees, no building, no machines. There was just a shared vision, as Walter Lange recalls: “All we had was the vision of once again crafting the world’s best watches in Glashütte.”
In 1992 they filed an application for a patent, which became one of the hallmarks of the brand. It was for the recognizable outsize date, and two years later in 1994, the outsize date was introduced in three of the four first A. Lange & Söhne watches. One of these watches was the Lange 1, and it has become a true icon in the past 19 years. Yes, it has just been 19 year and only celebrates it’s second decennium anniversary next year. In the mean time the A. Lange & Söhne saga has grown again, more successful then ever before.
On the A. Lange & Söhne website is a rich media archive, dedicated to tell the story about A. Lange & Söhne’s history. I can fully recommend to visit the website (click here) and browse through history.
It was in 2004 that the Saxonian brand introduced the Double Split. As they put it in the press release: “The new Lange Double Split is absolutely peerless, because it not only has one, but two rattrapante hands – one for the seconds and one for the minutes to be stopped. What’s more, both chrono hands and both rattrapante hands are flyback hands. The new era of chronography has begun.”
(Note from the editor: Due to a corrupt SD card none of my own wrist shots could be used. All wristshots show the Double Split in platinum, which is not available anymore. Photos are made by Edwin.)
When looking at a watch like the A. Lange & Söhne Double Split, you immediately recognize its majestic provenance. It’s not the smallest watch, however it takes the space in such way that no one questions it, it simply takes its rightful place. Even with it’s robust dimensions and impressive weight, it wears comfortable. Of course you cannot neglect the fact that you’re wearing more than 200 grams of horological artistry, but it sits solidly on the wrist.
Of course the Double Split suits perfect with suit & tie, however the double rattrapante fly-back chronograph adds some sportiness to it, which makes the Double Split perfect wear with jeans and shirt or polo (or with a sweater). An elegant all-rounder one might say. Yes indeed, I said ‘elegant’. Although the Double Split can be considered very masculine, if not only for its dimensions and weight, it is also elegant and that has everything to do with the aesthetics of the dial.
The design is very classic and understated chic, like all Lange & Söhne watches. The solid silver dial with pink gold stick markers, double stick markers at 12 and 6 o’clock, offers this classic and understated chic looks. Although the dial features two registers, one for the running seconds and one for the double minute counters, a power reserve indication and the words “DOUBLE SPLIT – FLYBACK” and “Glashütte i/sa”, it is calm and not cluttered with information or things that distract from reading the time indicated by the central hour and minute hand.
On the right hand side are the crown and two chronograph pushers, on the left hand side is a pusher for the rattrapante or split-second function of the Double Split. The economic use of Super LumiNova makes it possible to read the time during the night, however it night legibility cannot be compared to Italian navy dive watches for instance. The Double Split comes on a hand-stitched alligator strap with a pink gold prong buckle.
The Double Split is part of a collection that A. Lange & Söhne, rightfully so, have named “unrivalled masterpieces“.
The main feature is of course the double split function, that allows to measure and compare two times. A technical high-light and a world’s first in a wrist watch. While a normal rattrapante allows the possibility of taking a lap-time reading with the rattrapante sweep-seconds hand, during an ongoing measurement. This is however restricted to the 60-second scale and this to laps of less than one minute. A. Lange & Söhne have extended the rattrapante sweep-seconds hand with a jumping minute counter. This means that comparative lap measurements of up to 30 minutes are possible; for instance for timing Formula 1 races or horse races.
How to use it.
In oder to explain this, it is important to note that there are two sweep-seconds hands, co-axial, one on top of the other, like with any rattrapante chronograph. The chrono sweep-seconds hand is in pink gold and the rattrapante hand is in blued steel, and hovers over the chrono sweep-seconds hand. Unlike other rattrapante chronographs, the Double Split is also equipped with an additional rattrapante minute-counter hand, that lies a hair’s breathe above the chrono minute-counter hand. Again, the rattrapante minute-counter hand is executed in blued steel, while the chrono minute-counter hand is executed in pink gold.
During an ongoing time measurement, the rattrapante hands can be used for a separate lap time measurement at any given moment. To activate the time measurement, press the pusher at 2 o’clock and both sweep-seconds hands will be set in motion, simultaneously. In order to measure the first time, the pusher at 10 o’clock has to be pressed. This causes the rattrapante sweep-seconds hand to stop instantly, and display the measured lap time. The chrono sweep-seconds hand will keep running. For a second measurement, press the pusher at 2 o’clock in order to stop the chrono sweep-seconds hand. Now a second lap times can be noted, as a separate result, or it can be compared with the first lap time.
If more than two consecutive measurements are to be made after the hands have been collectively set in motion, the following procedure must be observed: The first lap time, stopped with the rattrapante push piece, must be memorized or written down. The renewed actuation of the pusher causes the rattrapante sweep-seconds hand to instantaneously catch up with the still-running chrono sweep-seconds hand. This process can be repeated as often as desired, as long as the chrono sweep-seconds hand is in motion and the aggregate time measurement has thus not been interrupted, by a reset to zero.
And before I forget it, the Double Split also features a flyback function. To use the flyback function, leave the stopped rattrapante time untouched and press the zero-reset pusher (located at 4 o’clock) for instantaneously starting a new measurement. The normal chronograph function can now be used to measure a reference lap time and compare it with the time displayed by the rattrapante hands.
As mentioned before, the shown wrist shots feature the Double Split in platinum that isn’t available anymore. In this review we’ll focus on the Double Split in 18-carat pink gold that is still in the collection.
The Double Split has an argenta dial of solid silver, that features pink gold stick markers, two subdials and a power reserve indicator. Around the dial is a sloping ring with a tachometer scale and the name of the brand. Centrally placed are the ‘dauphine’ style hour and minute hands and also two sweep-seconds hands for the chronograph and rattrapante. Applied on the hour and minute hand is Super LumiNova, that helps to read to time during the night. The Super LumiNova is applied ‘economical’, which by the way suits the watch’s design, and therefore the luminescent material isn’t visible with dim light, but it is visible during the night and when your eyes have adapted to darkness.
The power reserve indicator (AB/AUF), positioned at 12 o’clock, tells the wearer how much of the 38 hours of power reserve are left, before winding is necessary again. The left subdial is for the small running seconds, while the subdial on the right side is for the two minute-counters.
The Double Split comes in a hefty 43.2 mm large round three-part case. The caseback is screwed to the mid-case and is adorned with engravings and features a sapphire crystal so we can all enjoy the overwhelming beauty of the movement. The bezel and the mid-case are both polished, and so are pushers and the horns.
The bare facts are:
- 18-carat Pink gold case
- Weight is more than 200 grams
- Dimensions: diameter 43.2 mm, height 15.3 mm
- Sapphire crystal on both sides
- Hand-stitched alligator strap with 18-carat pink gold prong buckle
Collectors around our globe all agree – or at least I still haven’t met a collector who doesn’t agree – that the movement of the Lange Double Split is unrivalled (yes, that’s also the name of the collection). It would be strange to call it the Magnus Opus of A. Lange & Söhne, because this Saxonian brand has more extremely impressive timepieces in the collection. But let’s call it the Magnus Opus among chronographs. Visually it offers the most brilliant three-dimensional mechanical version of the grand canyon. The bridges seem to be sculptured by artists, with no fear of height or depth.
The interplay of levers, bridges, wheels, cams and what more, is something that the average watch aficionado can only admire. I’m actually sure that most people working as watchmaker in the watch industry, have no clue how all these parts works together in order to give you measure time and a comparative second time. Honestly, it’s one of the most complex movements and it’s not easy to explain it in detail.
Rate accuracy and the double rattrapante
Besides making all these parts work and fit within the 43 mm case, there was another huge technical challenge. The act of measuring a lap time may not be done at the expense of a loss in amplitude, when the chrono sweep-seconds hand continues to revolve while the rattrapante sweep-seconds hand is stopped.
Normally, the sustained contact between the still-running heart-shaped rattrapante cams and the rattrapante heart levers creates friction, losses, and torque fluctuations. In the Double Split, this has been eliminated because disengagement wheels on the rattrapante centre wheel and on the rattrapante minute wheel, separate both rattrapante heart levers from the still-rotating heart-shaped cams.
This disengagement mechanism is developed (and patented) by Lange & Söhne and they found inspiration for the Double Split and its technical refinements, in a Lange double-rattrapante pocket watch from the late 19th century.
Finishing of the movement
The funny thing is that Lange & Söhne themselves don’t say a word about the finishing of the movement. However a close look gives away that it is of the highest possible level. The two bridges are adorned with Glashütte ribbing, the Saxonian version of Côte de Genève, all levers and bridges are angled by hand and these angles are polished by hand as well. The flat surfaces of the levers and some gears and cams are straight grained. Of course the screw heads are all hand polished and most screws are heat-blued. Also most jewels are set in gold chatons, which are held in place by heat-blued screws. Although I can’t see it in the photos, I’m positive that the mainplate and reverse side of bridges and levers, are all adorned in the proper way, whether it be circular spotting or straight graining. Long story short, finishing is as good as it gets!
Activation of the chronograph functions
The Double Split is equipped with two, not one, column wheel. While enthusiasm of chronograph connoisseurs is easily sparked when a column wheel is used for actuating the chronograph functions, the Double Split simply adds a second one. The first column wheel actuates the chronograph function (start/stop/reset) and the second column wheel actuates the rattrapante function.
The verdict – pros and cons
I always end reviews with some thoughts about the watch, name some things that stand out very positively and some thing that could be improved in my opinion. I have given the latter a lot of thought and cannot come up with a single thing. Ah well, maybe the re-introduction of the platinum Double Split.
The A. Lange & Söhne Double Split comes at a retail price of around to € 100,000 Euro (tax included) and while this is a significant amount, I think it is more than justified given the enormous amount of time that goes into manufacturing, finishing and assembling this über-complicated chronograph.
The A. Lange & Söhne Double Split is the absolute pinnacle when it comes to chronographs, and we only need a few words to describe it: “One Chronograph To Rule Them All”.
Links: please visit the A. Lange & Söhne website for more information about the brand, the full collection and retailers.
Note from the editor: Due to a corrupt SD memory card, none of my wrist shots could be used. Edwin immediately agreed to let me use the wrist shots that he made of his own Double Split in platinum, which is not available anymore. Furthermore Edwin is co-moderator of the A. Lange & Söhne forum at Timezone.com. HUGE thanks to Edwin, for letting me use his brilliant wrist shots.
Great review, Frank! The Mighty Double Split (tm GG :-)) indeed! Very generous of our friend Edwin to contribute his (as always) splendid wrist shots as well
Thank you Gary! The challenge for a *great* review was there, so I’m glad to hear that you like it.