We keep beating the A. Lange & Söhne drum here at Watchonado and there is actually a very good reason for it. They are some of the best watches in the industry at the moment. The Lange 1 is an example of what brought them back into the limelight. Let’s take a look at why.

Lange went through a pretty tumultuous history. Born in 1845, Ferdinand Lange, followed by his sons Emil and Richard, produced some terrific pocket watches out of a small town known as Glashütte in the eastern state of Saxony. After World War II, the Soviet’s expropriated the company’s property and Lange as a brand vanished with it. However after the fall of the Communist East German government, Lange was revived by the founder’s great-grandson, Walter. In 1994, the released the Lange 1. They certainly came back into the watchmaking world with a bang.

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One of our favourites, the Lange 1

Case

The 38.5mm white gold case of this Lange 1 Reference 101.039 is a great balance between classic and contemporary. For a dress watch, anything in the 36mm to 39mm range is ideal and given my small wrist size, the Lange 1 is a great match. The thing that stands out most is how white the white gold is. Lange does not simply rhodium plate it’s white gold and expect customers to re-plate it again after it fades. They use a special technique that keeps my well-worn example looking as bright as ever. The case has a brushed strip going around the circumference of the watch that breaks up the watch nicely. The polished bezel is unfortunately a scratch magnet and I have found the bezel to pick up more hairline scratches than my other watches.

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A mix of polished and brushed

Nonetheless, there is definitely a silky feel to the case itself. Particular attention by the watchmakers has been paid to the lugs. They are elegant and have finely bevelled edges. The bevelled edge starts thicker at the dial and tapers thinner towards the ends of the lugs to arrive at a nice sharp and clean corner. Front and rear sapphire crystals are completely flat rather than curved like some other manufactures. Anti-reflective coating is applied to the front and rear crystals. Rear crystal coating is quite uncommon, perhaps it ensure that the watch’s owner can admire the movement without obstruction.

You wouldn’t expect any less than a sapphire crystal caseback for the watch as a Lange is just as enjoyable from behind than in front. It is held onto the case by flat-head screws and has immaculately engraved brand markings and precious metal stamps. The beauty of this caseback is that it exposes a large amount of the movement. Other watches that we have seen provide a much smaller view, whereas Lange have ensured that we are able to admire as much of the movement as possible.  Water resistance is only to 30 meters but this is not uncommon for gold dress watches.

Movement

The manual movement is an in-house L901.0 that beats at 21,600 vph. The large three-quarter plate based movement is made of German silver. It actually isn’t silver but rather an alloy (copper, nickel and zinc) unique to German watchmaking that picks up a nice patina as it oxidises over time. It doesn’t require any plating, what you see is what you get. The first thing you’ll notice is how well finished it is, and this is a tough job on German silver as it is quite delicate.

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The mesmerising L901.0 movement

Lange are known to have some of the best finished movements in the world.  Glashütte stripes adorn the majority of the base plate while the hand engraved balance cock adds a touch of personalisation to the movement. The engraved balance cock is a finishing trait of typical Saxon watchmaking. There are a small handful of engravers at Lange and each person has their own unique style. Not sure who exactly engraved this one but if we asked Lange they could certainly tell us. Edges on the movement and its parts are finely polished and bevelled by hand. Sharp edges are a big no-no here. Finally, delicate perlage is applied to the button cut out section of the base plate.

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Hand engraved balance cock

Movement jewels, blue screws and gold chatons are used extensively. The gold chatons are gold bearings that hold the jewels in place rather than pressing the jewels into the plate and having friction hold it in place. It’s not a necessity but just shows the attention to detail and focus on historic hallmarks that the Lange watchmakers have. The movement winds ever so smoothly. It definitely has a nice buttery feel to it. A welcome change from other watches we have previously reviewed. The crown is easily pulled from its winding position into a clear setting position whereby the seconds are hacked. There is no mistaking where you are.

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Heat treated blue screws and rubies pressed into gold chatons

Adjusting the time is equally as smooth. With regards to date adjustment, it’s as easy as pushing the button at the 10 hour mark on the case. This pusher advances the date by one day. There are 2 windows for each digit in the date. The second digit cycles from 0 through to 9, and the first digit cycles from blank, to 1, 2 and 3 appropriately. For example, when moving from 19th to the next date, the first digit flips to 2 and the second digit flips to 0. Then when advancing from the 31st, the first digit flips to a blank window while the second digit goes back to 1.

The Lange 1 uses a traditional one-piece regulator arm/index assembly and the swan neck regulator is used for fine adjustments. All Lange movements are first assembled for testing, then disassembled to be cleaned and touched up again, and assembled again ready for fitting to the case. This increases the amount of time it takes Lange to produce a watch significantly. Power reserve comes in at 72 hours. Overall, a simply magnificent movement that is stunning to look at but also extremely reliable and functional.

Timekeeping

The timekeeping on the Lange 1 is very impressive. Forget COSC certifications, there is no need for that from this watchmaking powerhouse (and because they are German they probably wouldn’t want their watches certified by a Swiss organisation). Out of the manufacture the watch was averaging +5 seconds a day, however after a quick visit to the service center for an adjustment, it has been running a +1.18 seconds per day for well over a year. We should also mention that Lange’s after sales service is impeccable, they are truly a manufacture that cares about the customer rather than the bottom line.

Dial

The first thing you’ll notice is the off-center dial of the Lange 1 that brought A. Lange & Söhne  back onto the watchmaking scene. It is definitely different, yet very refined and tasteful. The silver dial has a matte finish to it while the two sub dials have a very fine circular pattern to it. You won’t notice it until you look very closely and it gives the sub dials a nice sheen that catches light nicely. The sub dials overlap ever so slightly thankfully. The Grand Lange 1 had overlapping dials that proved to be unpopular with collectors. The hour and minute dial has a combination of Roman numerals for the 3, 6 9 and 12 white gold markers, and diamond shaped white gold markers for the other hours. Behind each marker is a small square with lume in it. The hands are distinctive to Lange and are also white gold with lume. The downside is that the lume is very hard to notice in the dark, given such small spaces, not much lume light is given off.

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The iconic off-center dial

The other distinctive feature is the big-date window. An A. Lange & Söhne defining design. Two adjacent white gold windows frame the rotating date discs underneath. On the right side is then the power reserve indicator. AUF marks full and AB marks empty. In between are markers giving you an idea of remaining power reserve. It took me a while to figure out as they are not laid out in a linear fashion. Basically the top two spaces represents 12 hour increments, then the next two represent 24 hour increments.

The Glashütte I/SA marking at the top of the dial represents denotes that it is of Saxon origin while a curved “Made in Germany” marking can be found on the bottom edge of the larger sub dial. The “Dopplefederhaus” marking means that there are twin spring barrels in the movement. In terms of legibility, those with struggling eyesight might want to avoid this watch given the delicate hands, but we’ve had no issues with it. We are really impressed with the dial and how detailed it is.

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Clean, elegant and definitely German

Strap and Buckle

The black crocodile strap on this reference is one of the best crocodile straps I have seen. The scales are nice and square and the stitching is immaculate. On the top side, the strap is not a simple flat strap. The strapmakers have added some square padding to raise the height of the middle section. On the underside is black calf leather lining which is a welcome addition as you won’t be able to see any discolouration due to sweat or water. Finally unlike many other manufactures, Lange decided not to end the watch strap at a point. Instead, it has a rounded-corner end.

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Black crocodile strap with square padding

The white gold pin buckle is extremely simple. On one hand we feel that a watch of this calibre should have a flashier buckle, but on the other hand, it would go against the overall design of the watch. The sides of the buckle take inspiration from the watch lugs, and the “Lange” name is laser engraved onto the buckle. The pin is quite small and hence the holes in the strap are small as well. As with most pin buckles, the watch is worn and taken off quite easily. We would love to try the Lange deployant buckle, but at over $3,000 for one, they certainly don’t come cheap.

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Engraved pin buckle

Package

This is certainly an area that I think could do with some improvement. Namely, the vinyl covered watch box should definitely have been leather covered. At this price point, other manufactures such as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet are offering beautifully lacquered wooden boxes. As you can tell we are big on packaging here, so we are a little disappointed. However after looking at the movement, all is forgiven. A Lange 1 specific manual and the warranty book that are held in a vinyl cover make up the rest of the package.

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Yearning for a more luxurious touch

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 Just to remind you that you own a Lange

Price

Recommended retail price at the time of writing is USD$33,600 after having increased by 4% since last year.  In the Australian market, there is no doubt that there is a little room to move given that it is a relatively new brand here. However keep in mind that their popularity here is ever-increasing.

In Sydney, you can find A. Lange & Söhne at only one authorised dealers:

Watches of Switzerland
199 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9251 0088
www.watchswiss.com

Summary

Pros

  • Magnificently finished movement
  • Consistent watch performance
  • Cutting edge design

Cons

  • White gold case easily picks up hairline scratches (perhaps I am wearing it too much?)
  • Poor lume
  • Packaging does not match the quality of the watch

If you think about the cons we described above, they are quite trivial. This goes to show that there is really nothing wrong with this watch at all. The Lange 1 is a definite winner in our eyes. Distinctive Saxon design paired with perfect German execution has resulted in a charming and elegant watch that has propelled A. Lange & Söhne to the top of the watchmaking industry.