‘A donkey in Saxony is a professor in Rome’: Introducing the new A. Lange & Söhne 2020 watches
The new A. Lange & Söhne ODYSSEUS grey and the new ZEITWERK Minute Repeater deep-blue are a sight for sore eyes.
There is a German proverb that goes, ‘a donkey in Saxony is a professor in Rome’.
Powered by the expertise implied that lends its masterly touch to A. Lange & Söhne timepieces, the Maison has new offerings as part of Watches & Wonders 2020.
What’s New? The Swap
Introducing the two new A. Lange & Söhne watches for 2020. In a nut-shell, 2019’s ODYSSEUS and 2015’s ZEITWERK Minute Repeater watches have been introduced in new materials and dial colours. The latter also has the distinction of introducing a world first in terms of complications but more on that in just a bit. In a case of swapping, the ODYSSEUS is now available in a grey colour in addition to the existing blue, while the ZEITWERK Minute Repeater is now available in a blue colour in addition to the existing grey (or rhodié as the Maison likes to call it).
The new ODYSSEUS is also presented in a different case material, white gold with an integrated rubber or leather strap instead of the steel casing and bracelet while the ZEITWERK Minute Repeater is being presented in a white gold case with a deep-blue dial instead of being cased in platinum.
The former is defined by its sporty-elegant appeal that’s only enhanced with the large-format date and day display and the latter is most striking for being the world’s only watch that combines a mechanical jumping numerals display with a decimal minute repeater. The execution of the minute repeater is the key defining feature of this release as its striking mechanism sounds ten-minute intervals instead of the usual quarter-hours with double strikes.
The Maison is growing its latest collection, the ODYSSEUS. The brand added this to their existing range of LANGE 1, SAXONIA, 1815, RICHARD LANGE and ZEITWERK families last year on 24 October 2019, exactly 25 years to the day after the debut of the first new-era timepiece collection by Walter Lange and Günter Blümlein.
A cornerstone of Saxony’s precision watchmaking industry since it was first established in 1845, A. Lange & Söhne has come to be known for its lavishly decorated movements and the outsized date windows on dials since its re-birth in 1990s.
Imbibing the very spirit of the Maison, the three-dimensional ODYSSEUS took the integrated bracelet game to a whole new level last year and following hot on its heels is this new version that takes the tool watch definition to new and versatile heights. The relatively smaller dimensions of 40.5mm diameter and 11.1mm thickness have been retained and so has the architectural playfulness of the satin contoured finish of the slightly cantilevered middle band of the three-part case.
The ZEITWERK Minute Repeater now comes in a 44.2mm diameter case that contrasts beautifully with the deep-blue dial and compliments the rhodiumed German silver time bridge.
The ODYSSEUS Grey
The Movement of the reference 363.038 and 363.068
The heart used — calibre L155.1 DATOMATIC® — is a self-winding manufacture movement decorated and assembled by hand and precision-adjusted in five positions. It features a unidirectionally winding central rotor with platinum centrifugal mass.
It beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h). It comprises of 31 jewels, features 312 components and boasts of a decent 50-hour power reserve when fully wound. The movement is encased inside a 40.5mm diameter and 11.1mm thick white gold case covered by a sapphire crystal of Mohs hardness 9. The case has a screw-down crown at 3’o clock for winding the watch and setting the time; and two buttons at 2 and 4’o clock for correcting the day of week and date.
The grey brass dial with partially embossed groove structures shows the central hours & minutes hands, a sub-dial at 6’o clock showing the seconds dial with stop seconds; the day-of-week window at 9’o clock and a date display at 3’o clock.
In terms of design architecture and aesthetics, the 2020 version is pretty much the same as the 2019 version. However, replacing the concentric circles on the sub-dial and peripheral ring of last year’s steel version are the embossed radial grooves, and frankly, the latter look much better and more defined.
Legibility like on most A. Lange & Söhne is exceptional. The rhodiumed gold notched baton appliques, and lancet-shaped white gold hours & minutes hands are in-filled with luminous material that stand out in stark contrast to the brass grey dial. The numerals of the outsize date and the letters of the large-format day display also stand out in white on grey. And the red 60 on the bevelled argenté-coloured flange ring with the printed minute scale provides a subtle colour accent.
To complete this sporty-dress look, the watches come on either a hand-stitched dark brown with grey seams leather strap or a black rubber strap, both on a white-gold prong buckle.
The ZEITWERK Minute Repeater
The reference Ref. 147.028F features the calibre L043.5 which is a manual-winding manufacture movement. The hand decorated and assembled movement features a three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver, balance and escape-wheel cocks engraved by hand and is precision-adjusted in five positions.
The movement measures 37.7mm in diameter and 10.9mm in height, comprises of 771 components and 93 jewels — of the 93 jewels, three are set in screwed gold chatons — beats at the low frequency of 2.5Hz (18’000 A/h) and is encased inside a 44.2mm diameter and 14.1mm —thicker than the 12.3mm thick case of the 2019 ZEITWERK DATE — white gold case.
The watch offers a 36-hour power reserve — when fully wound if the striking mechanism is not activated — that is half of the 72-hour power reserve of last year’s ZEITWERK DATE but still impressive as minute repeaters tend to not rate high on water-resistance anyway.
The deep blue watch face with a rhodiumed German silver time bridge and rhodiumed gold hands (at 6 and 12’o clock) shows the functions of hours and minutes that are indicated with jumping numerals at 9 and 3’o clock respectively, subsidiary seconds with stop seconds at 6’o clock, striking mechanism with decimal minute repeater — operated by crown for winding the watch and setting the time; pusher for activating the striking mechanism — and a power-reserve indicator at 12’o clock below the branding.
It has been possible to make this one water-resistant as the Maison has used a unique pusher mechanism for triggering the repeater. Usually minute repeater watches have to use a separate spring but since in this watch the power for the striking mechanism is delivered by the mainspring barrel instead, the slide that is used to tension the separate spring is replaced by a pusher and since a pusher, unlike a slide, can be sealed, the watch is water-resistant.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
In regards to the new 2020 A. Lange & Söhne ODYSSEUS grey, what can we say except it’s a great attempt in carrying forward a collection that is simply in its infancy for the brand.
Different strokes for different folks, but as much as this feels like a more refined and elegant version of last year’s release, I would have preferred if the ODYSSEUS remained as the solo steel watch member in A. Lange & Söhne’s family. There was a distinctive charm to having a dedicated steel sports watch that was so uniquely A. Lange & Söhne yet stood out. I would have preferred if the Maison released the new colour and design in steel and perhaps maybe even added a further complication to the dial.
Another point of debate could be the lugs. Now beauty is in the eyes of the beholder but again personally, the lugs seemed a perfect match when used in conjunction with the integrated bracelet but on straps, look too obtrusively jarring. Mind you I am going off press pictures here and the hands-on experience could dictate completely different opinions. This is one watch I am excited to try out in person to see how it feels and looks.
That said, the finishing of the dial and inter-play of various textural elements really works well against a white gold case. The dial is made of grey brass and features several levels with different surfaces that we have detailed in our earlier review of the 2019 version here.
There is no doubt that the latest A. Lange & Söhne ODYSSEUS is a charming watch. Now while it doesn’t feature anything extraordinarily different than the existing steel integrated bracket watch offering from the brand, it does have a personality of its own. Embedded in it are the A. Lange & Söhne design codes we have so come to fall in love with.
In terms of the ZEITWERK minute repeater, it’s in a class of its own. The last minute repeater we personally admired was the Patek Philippe Minute Repeater 5078G-010 that is a part of the brand’s rare handcrafts collection. The stand out feature of this release is the unique time display of the ZEITWERK collection. Others even go as far as calling this collection their grail watches, and why shouldn’t they?
The ZEITWERK collection is known for its innovative digital time display system as it was the first mechanical wristwatch with constant-force escapement and precise jumping digital display that indicated the hour and minute with jumping numerals. Featuring a patented constant-force escapement between the barrel and the balance that acts as a pacemaker for the instantaneous advance of the numerals discs in one-minute intervals, the collection is soaked in the Maison’s design language yet stands out against any watch in its class across any brand.
Released only in very limited numbers of 30 pieces, the new 2020 A. Lange & Söhne ZEITWERK Minute Repeater is truly a grail worthy watch.
Ever since its resurrection in the 90s, A. Lange & Söhne has got the Midas touch. These two new releases simply tip their hat to the fact.
For more information on this watch and other A. Lange & Söhne watches, head to their website here.