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A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar
Three in a marriage?
A. Lange & Söhne is a brand I have always admired. The cynical may question, whether my appreciation for the German timepieces may be financially induced due to a pending advert on ESCAPEMENT or other fiscal inducement. However, my adoration for the timepieces from Saxony is genuine and I do not have to be disingenuous when it comes to waxing-lyrical about my respect for this most special of brands.
The consummation of my courtship with Lange took place a few years ago, prior to my career in journalism. I purchased an elegant 1815 model, presented in yellow gold with regal blued hands.
There were many reasons I was drawn to this watch including the understated refinement of its form and the horological vista visible via the sapphire caseback. I have owned several watches in my life, some I have retained for many years, whereas some have lost their original appeal. The Lange 1815 will always be “for keeps”.
I met my wife at 18 years of age. Two children later and after many happy years of marriage there could only be my beloved Heidi. During our relationship, her interest in watches has been piqued and she now has a genuine fondness for fine watchmaking, albeit not quite to the same obsessional level as myself.
Occasionally, she would set aside one of her own watches and ask to wear one of my masculine timepieces. On wearing my 1815, she voiced her veneration for this child of Glashütte with its gold chatons, blued screws and engraved balance cock. However, she commented on a few occasions that she wished the watch was slightly smaller. Indeed, the 40mm case diameter was slightly too large for her demure wrist.
I lodged the comment to memory and an inspired idea was born. Originally, the 1815 was launched with a 36mm diameter case. I vowed to keep my eyes open for a pre-owned original model as production ceased a few years ago. Purchasing a used watch, in all honesty, can be fraught with danger. The profusion of fakes, stolen watches and watches that have been abused, makes pre-owned a perilous pursuit. Yet, not every purveyor of used watches is a charlatan and with patience the desired watch became available.
The pink gold 1815 with 36mm case was immaculate. It had the box and papers which are a prerequisite for any collector and I knew the seller. The delighted Mrs Davies, never removes the watch, except to shower. Her other watches sit in a safe, unloved and usurped. The opportunity cost for Heidi to wear any other watch at this moment appears too high.
This a romantic tale, yet veritable nonetheless.
I have just returned from SIHH 2013 and continue to reflect on the many beautiful novelties which titillated my tastebuds. One watch from Glashütte which elicited the most covetous thoughts was the new, A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar.
A. Lange & Söhne revealed some incredible timepieces, many of which I would dearly like to own, but none could surpass the appeal of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar. It was not the most expensive novelty to be revealed by the brand at SIHH but remains my favourite. However, it certainly is more costly than timepieces I have purchased to date.
The same question repeatedly comes to the fore, “Could there be three in this marriage?” I am of course, referring to a further A. Lange & Söhne 1815 entering the Davies household.
Let’s look at the model in question in more detail.
The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar is available in two variants, platinum or pink gold. Although I have never owned my own platinum watch, I have had the good fortune to be leant one from time to time, I value the weight of this most noble of metals.
Platinum used in watchmaking is 95 % pure, whereas 18-carat gold is 75% pure. Some people have asked me, if gold has now overtaken platinum prices, “Why do the watches cost more?” The answer is that one kilo of pure gold, will yield 1.33 Kilos of 18-carat gold, once copper and silver are added. By way of contrast, one kilo of pure platinum, will yield 1.05 Kilos of Platinum 950.
Platinum has a quieter tone, understated and discreet. It does not boast, conspicuously proclaiming its worth, but imparts a subtle joy to the wearer.
The platinum variant would be my preferred model and this dictates the colour of hands presented on the watch.
The name, 1815, is the year Ferdinand A. Lange was born in Dresden. The design of the 1815 models pays homage to the gorgeous pocket watches created by the brand in its illustrious history. Indeed, I still drool over the image of a Grande Complication repeating pocket watch 42500 with split seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar and moon phase from A. Lange & Söhne, harking back to 1902.
The observant will note that unlike many Lange timepieces, this model does not have an outsize date. The 1815 models, according to Anthony De Haas, Director of Product Development for the brand, will never possess an outsize date.
Beneath noon, a subdial features a power reserve indicator at its hub with the words, “auf” (up) and “ab (down) and a 30-minute chrono counter at the extreme of the subdial.
The subdial at 3 o’clock has a leap year indication at the centre and the month display encircling the outer edge.
Pink gold variant
At 6 o’clock is a moonphase display. The solid gold moon disc is not painted but coated using a special patented technique, shrouded in secrecy. The result is a mesmerising aesthetic, featuring 410 stars. Subsidiary seconds in conjunction with a silver hand are displayed around the perimeter of the subdial.
At 9 o’clock, the day and date are shown.
Blued lancine shaped hands indicate the hours and minutes. A blued, lithe hand is used for the rattrapante function, whereas a similarly profiled hand in gold, is used for the chronograph function.
Arabic numerals indicate the hours in a clean, succinct manner. A minute track frames the dial, enhancing legibility with judicious use of black and red text.
A case diameter of 41.9 mm is larger than the two 1815 models which my wife and I own. We could share the cost of ownership, only for my wife to decide later, the watch is too large for her. A true watch collector has to be machiavellian if he or she is to enlarge their collection whilst avoiding the risk of a receiving a decree nisi by post. This is a skill I have honed over the years to a matchless standard.
The majority of men will find the size of the watch comfortable on the wrist. Moreover, the short horns allow the strap to embrace the wrist in cosseting embrace.
Pink gold variant on my wrist at SIHH
Push pieces are elongated with curved facets. They proffer wonderful tactility and do not gouge or chafe the adjacent skin.
The sapphire caseback provides a spectacular view of the movement.
Lange never seem to make life easy for themselves. Watches which at first glance appear similar, seldom share movements. The accountants at Lange have not stifled innovation nor sought economies of scale.
The A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar features another newly developed manufacture movement, the calibre L101.1. The movement consists of an abundance of parts, 631 in total, all presented in peerless form.
I don’t wish to devalue the numerous complications of this watch or rather indications in Lange sprache. However, it is the majesty of the finissage which always leads to my dewy-eyed enchantment with this brand.
Gold chatons pay due reverence to high-end, historical watchmaking when real rubies were used. At this time, there was a risk of breaking jewels whilst inserting them into bridges or mainplates. The widespread use of synthetic jewels and the incredible tolerances practised in modern-day watchmaking, make this no longer necessary nor economical, but I am pleased Lange maintain this tradition.
The two central column wheels are presented with black polishing, imparting a mirror-like appearance.
The bridges are hand decorated with Glashütte ribbing and gold engraved text. Blued screws and rubies decorate the watchmaker’s canvas, eliciting wonderful contrast against the untreated German silver. This is a work of art worthy of any gallery wall.
I have had the good fortune to visit the Manufacture in Glashütte and see the ubiquitous talent evident in every department I visited. The immense competence in this small town near Dresden is altitudinously high and few others can co-exist in this thinnest of air.
Whilst visiting the Manufacture, a helpful lady at Lange inspected the balance cock of my cherished 1815. The motif is unique to the artisan. The deft engraving on my watch was courtesy of Stefanie Rohn. I hope to visit the atelier in the future with further Lange models on my wrists; if only to identify the artists who were party to the pleasure they have imparted to me.
I make no secret of my respect for A. Lange & Söhne nor my desire to acquire further models within their range.
It is the quiet enjoyment of Lange ownership that I particularly savour. There is nothing outré or ostentatious with the timepieces from Saxony. Many friends and acquaintances don’t know the discreet joy of Lange ownership. This is not the mass-manufacturing of watches performed by the omnipresent household names. This is horological art from Saxony.
There is only one problem with the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar and that is the purchase price. It is not excessive for the complexity and craftsmanship conferred, but it is slightly beyond my own financial grasp at this juncture in my life. Nevertheless, I have a tenacious resolve to pursue the dream of ownership and my aspiration for a horological ménage à trois remains unabated.
- Model: A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar
- Model reference: 421.025
- Case: Platinum; diameter 41.9 mm; height 14.7mm; sapphire crystal to the front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds with stop seconds; rattrapante chronograph with minute counter; perpetual calendar with date, day of week, month and leap year-display; Moon-phase display; power-reserve indicator.
- Movement: Calibre L101.1, manual wind; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 43 jewels; power reserve 42 hours
- Strap: Black crocodile leather strap on platinum deployant.