In summer 2015, the opening of a new manufacture by the watch brand A Lange & Söhne was considered such a big deal it was attended by Angela Merkel.
But then, Lange, as everyone calls it, is a business emblematic of Germanic values: steady, careful and effective, its wristwatches are rigorously designed and beautifully engineered.
Lange produces just a few thousand “pieces” in a year, mostly in gold or platinum. It is also big on patented innovations. The most pleasing of these is surely the Lange "large date", in which an outsized date is displayed on the dial.
Most mechanical watches with a date window have a date wheel that increments every 24 hours and runs from 1-31. These wheels, and by association the numbers on them, are necessarily small – they need to fit inside the watch.
There are more pressing issues in the world, it’s true, but squinting at your wristwatch to try and read the date is a small but inconvenient faff.
Rolex came up with one solution in 1954, a “cyclops” eye magnifier it added to its Datejust, something that now seems absurdly quaint when you stop to think about it.
It took another 40 years for Lange to come up with a more elegant idea. By using not one disc but two, one for the 10s and one for the ones, it was able to fit large numbers into a small (38.5mm) case.
In 2009 Lange added another disc and came up with the Zeitwerk – "zeit" as in time, "werk" with the double-meaning of "work" and "watch movement". With three precisely switching discs you could now display the time – one disc for the hours, two discs for the minutes. You read it left to right, like you would on a digital clock, except that was now possible on a beautifully handmade piece of craftsmanship.
Today Lange has announced its latest Zeitwerk, the Zeitwerk Honeygold “Lumen”.
The “lumen” part refers to a new light-permeable treatment of the dial that makes its luminous numerals extra-visible. The watch case is in a new “honey gold” that Lange has developed and owns, another of its patented innovations. Meanwhile, a new movement gives the Honeygold “Lumen” a power reserve of three days.
As with other Zeitwerks, there’s a seconds display at 6 o’clock and a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock. “Combined with a dark dial and a dark-brown leather strap, the hue is an eye-catcher,” Lange says of its new watch, not incorrectly.
Lange is also the poster child for the “display back” trend in watches. As with other models you can enjoy this watch from the back and the front – flip it over and the crystal backing means you can see the movement plates and bridges, all designed exclusively in untreated silver – German, of course.
A limited edition of 200, the 41.9mm Zeitwerk Honeygold “Lumen” costs £110,000.
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