A TOP-TIER TIMER
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.