A TOP-TIER TIMER

The Peak Selections: Timepieces - - The Power of 3 -

Ev­ery year, there’s no miss­ing A. Lange & Sohne’s star nov­elty at the Sa­lon In­ter­na­tional de la Haute Hor­logerie. A me­tres-high ren­di­tion of it tow­ers over visi­tors to the booth of the Ger­man high­end watch­maker at the an­nual watch fair in Geneva. This year, it is the Dato­graph Per­pet­ual Tour­bil­lon. With its dark dial, en­livened with ac­cents like Lange’s sig­na­ture over­sized date at the top and smaller registers at the bot­tom, it soars over the heads of fair­go­ers like a stately tower clock – but a lot cooler, and more com­plex.

Even so, it does not com­pare to look­ing at an ac­tual piece of the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Dato­graph fam­ily, which Lange CEO Wil­helm Sch­mid shows us in a pri­vate pre­sen­ta­tion held in one of the booth’s con­fer­ence rooms.

Hands gloved, he un­veils the watch – it rests on a tray, cov­ered by a piece of black cloth – with a lit­tle flour­ish. It is an ar­rest­ing mix of clas­si­cal ele­gance and dy­namic moder­nity, housed in a beau­ti­fully fin­ished 41.5mm plat­inum pack­age.

Fea­tur­ing a mix of pol­ished and satin-brushed fin­ishes, its case con­trasts beau­ti­fully with its face – a black dial fea­tur­ing de­tails such as the afore­men­tioned big date, as well as a re­fined moon­phase dis­play fl anked by two chrono­graph/cal­en­dar registers.

Amid these con­spic­u­ous fea­tures, we look for the tour­bil­lon promised by the watch’s name. Diffi cult to craft and fun to look at, this ro­tat­ing mech­a­nism typ­i­cally takes cen­tre stage in the lux­ury watches that bear them.

With a smile, Sch­mid turns the watch over, as he shares: “The tour­bil­lon is not vis­i­ble on the dial side – you can see it only through the sap­phire case­back.”

In a sep­a­rate in­ter­view with us, the com­pany’s di­rec­tor of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, An­thony de Haas, of­fers a mat­ter-of-fact ex­pla­na­tion for this: “The main rea­son for this is a tech­ni­cal one. The only place where we could have in­te­grated an aper­ture for the tour­bil­lon is oc­cu­pied by the moon­phase in­di­ca­tion.”

Con­sid­er­ing the com­plex­ity of this time­piece and Lange’s char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally Saxon em­pha­sis on leg­i­bil­ity, it does not sur­prise us that the brand has cho­sen to keep the tour­bil­lon – one of the most dis­tinc­tive marks of high watchmaking – out of sight. Ele­gance, both tech­ni­cal and aes­thetic, is the call­ing card of the Dato­graph Per­pet­ual Tour­bil­lon.

As its name sug­gests, it packs in three com­pli­ca­tions, a fact not made im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent by its fuss-free dial: a chrono­graph, a per­pet­ual cal­en­dar, and a tour­bil­lon. De Haas ex­plains: “The goal was to present an abun­dance of in­for­ma­tion in a su­perbly leg­i­ble lay­out.” (And if this meant keep­ing the tour­bil­lon out of view, so be it.) Af­ter all, there is lit­tle use in hav­ing a bevy of fea­tures in a watch, if a mish-mash of dis­plays and nu­mer­als makes it im­pos­si­ble to read.

Of the 729-com­po­nent Cal­i­bre L952.2 that pow­ers the watch, de Haas elab­o­rates: “A ma­jor chal­lenge was to in­te­grate the tour­bil­lon with the fl yback chrono­graph and in­stan­ta­neously jump­ing per­pet­ual cal­en­dar. This re­quired the de­vel­op­ment of a com­pletely new move­ment, in which the chrono­graph mech­a­nism has been vir­tu­ally built around the tour­bil­lon.” Even though its move­ment is new, the Dato­graph Per­pet­ual Tour­bil­lon re­tains the qual­i­ties that make the Dato­graph such a de­sir­able chrono­graph. To­day, the chrono­graph is the most pop­u­lar com­pli­ca­tion in me­chan­i­cal watches. But there are chrono­graphs, and then there are chrono­graphs – and the Dato­graph be­longs firmly in the sec­ond cat­e­gory of beau­ti­fully fin­ished, in­te­grated me­chan­i­cal stop­watch move­ments. Un­veiled in 1999, it made his­tory by be­ing the fi rst in-house chrono­graph move­ment made by any haute hor­logerie man­u­fac­ture.

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