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A. Lange & Soehne Zeitwerk Handwerkskunst
Sitting at the traffic lights
Few things in life can beat the feeling of taking delivery of a brand new car, unsullied by the negligence of former owners. Everything is fresh. There is a smell which confers newly delivered status like the fragrant fontanelle of a newborn baby.
I confess in my younger, naive days to driving a performance car with my nose in slightly elevated pose. I was proud of my new mode of transport. It reflected my personality or at least the personality I wanted to portray to the wider world.
The traffic lights turned from amber to red and my progress was momentarily halted. I looked through my driver's window to see another car stop beside me at the white line. Its driver was younger and better looking. His car had four wheel drive and a coveted “S” badge on its front wings.
My supercilious smugness evaporated. My snobby bubble was burst. Some would argue I had it coming.
Older and wiser
I no longer feel the need to self promote using material trappings. My self-esteem does not need boosting by parading a particular shade of credit card.
This brings me to a cherished timepiece I have owned for sometime, before writing about haute horology became my chosen career, my A. Lange & Söhne 1815.
I own other watches, but it is interesting the reaction my 1815 evokes when spotted by fellow professionals. Recently I visited a well-esteemed manufacture in Switzerland. I sat in the board room and was asked about the watch I was wearing. “A Lange”, I replied with pride. This was met with ubiquitous nods of approval.
The beauty of A. Lange & Söhne is that it is not a brand for those overly preoccupied with branding or conspicuous consumption. It is not an outré expression of wealth. It is a quiet, exemplar of good taste. The brand from Saxony is the connoisseur's choice.
I smile when I see a fellow wearer of the A. Lange & Söhne. It distinguishes them as someone who understands the matchless craftsmanship practised in Glashütte. There is no look of envy on my face, but a feeling of empathy and camaraderie in meeting a fellow admirer of this horological artform.
With age and grey hair comes wisdom. I wear a watch because I want to enjoy its charms for my own pleasure not to boast that I have in some way achieved a certain financial status.
Once more, I am at a set of traffic lights, albeit this time metaphorical. I look across at the fortunate owner of the latest horological delicacy from those talented artisans of Saxony. He is wearing an A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Handwerkskunst.
Clearly this is a dream, as in all reality with only 30 examples in existence, it is unlikely I will ever see this Boutique only piece, adjacent the red, amber and green illuminated street furniture whilst awake.
But, what is my opinion of this self-confessed Lange lover about this latest creation? All things come to those who wait.
The Zeitwerk model was launched a few years ago to widespread acclaim. I have yet to meet anyone who has not fallen under its intoxicating spell. It is simply magnificent.
This model features a black-rhodiumed white gold dial. Close inspection reveals unusual surface treatment. It is endowed with an elaborate tremblage engraving achieved by skilled use of a burin.
The soubriquet, “Handwerkskunst”, means craftsmanship and wherever you look this watch confers this quality with every square micron of its handsome form.
The A. Lange & Söhne nomenclature, place of origin and the words adjacent the power reserve indicator are presented in relief. The face of the dial looks as if it has been hewn from a solid block of granite, with the aforementioned text proud like the skilled outcome of the stonemason's deftly applied chisel.
The power reserve indicator arcs, left to right, ab und zu, down and up. Red is used to indicate the mainspring's lack of stored energy. A slim, swallow-shaped, gold hand points to the appropriate marking on the semi-circular scale.
Hours and minutes are depicted in digital form, mechanical not electronic. This is a purist's choice. The selected font is with serifs, blending traditional with neoteric in pleasing contrast. The beauty of the bridges, typically found on the movement, has been replicated for the time bridge which spans the dial. The fortunate owner can look forward its untreated German silver acquiring a pleasing patina, maturing with the passage of time.
Subsidiary seconds are located on a subdial towards the southerly aspect of the main dial. The Arabic numerals and small white chapter ring, perfectly convey information with succinct clarity.
A case diameter of 41.9 mm is perfectly judged. I know that in an atelier in Glashütte, an artisan will have experimented with a case diameter of 41.8 mm and 42.0 mm. They will have appraised alternative dimensions, but established that this was optimum case diameter. Nothing happens by accident at Lange. All aspects of design are the product of relentless endeavour and a thirst for excellence.
With only a few examples being created, Lange have chosen the most noble of metals for the case, platinum. Its clean, pure appearance is like the distilled liquor from a Liebig condenser, free of contaminants. Nothing is extraneous with this watch.
The caseback is beautifully engraved by hand. Moreover, a sapphire crystal at its centre affords an enchanting view of the finely finished movement.
The Lange manufacture caliber L043.4 is hand-wound. Lange have pressed my horological buttons with the three-quarter plate, engraved balance cock, gold chatons harnessed within the case. These aspects are at the fulcrum of their DNA and can be found on my 1815. They continue to make me smile even after several year's of ownership.
A. Lange & Söhne have surpassed their usual stratospheric levels of craftsmanship and bestowed this watch with even more hand engraving. For example, the balance and escape wheel cocks are decorated with a special free-hand motif. The mainspring is signed with the manufacture’s name, executed as a relief.
The pallets on the pallet fork are concealed, slightly curving in profile to mitigate friction between them and the escape wheel.
The level of finishing is breathtaking and lays down the gauntlet to the other royal families in the world of haute horology to meet the challenge.
My need to compete for trinkets and trophies is a distant memory, I now label as the folly of youth. I no longer need to quantify achievement with empty symbols of supposed success.
I have become a discerning buyer. I seek the best not for the brand awareness which sometimes drives prices unjustifiably high. I choose items which have an intrinsic worth, tangible yet understated.
I love my A. Lange & Söhne 1815 and would never part company with its beguiling charms. I would dearly love to own A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Handwerkskunst not because it has a bigger engine or larger wheels but because it once again expresses all I love about my favourite brand on a refreshingly pleasing beautifully painted canvas.
- Model: A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Handwerkskunst
- Reference: 140.048
- Case: Platinum; diameter 41.90 mm; height 12.60 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds; power-reserve indicator.
- Movement: caliber L043.4, hand-wound; frequency 18,000 vph; 68 jewels; power reserve 36 hours; 425 parts.
- Strap: Black hand-stitched crocodile leather strap on platinum pin buckle.