In our minds — and undoubtedly, in yours as well — we have a very specific mental picture that comes up when we think of a digital watch. Perhaps it was the first watch we had as a child, or it’s the one we use to track our workouts now. To think of that digital watch in terms of precision luxury watchmaking? That’s not where the mind goes, to be sure. That is, until you learn of the existence of such a creation as the A. Lange and Söhne Zeitwerk 142.055 Honey Gold Lumen.
While A. Lange and Söhne is truly a historic brand, the company that we know today only stretches back about three decades. Even in that limited time, they have managed to introduce a number of wonderful designs. The one that had the potential to be the most polarizing was the Zeitwerk, which was first introduced in 2009. They were truly rolling the dice that a time display that was all-digital would be well-received. With the benefit of time passing, we can see that yes, this very unique look – inspired by a clock in Dresden’s Semper Opera – was just what the watch world was looking for.
A year after the first Zeitwerk was introduced, A. Lange and Söhne introduced their first luminous model. While we now know that feature as Lumen (in the manufacture’s parlance), the first edition — a Zeitwerk — was known as Luminous. Regardless of the naming, a smoked sapphire disc makes up the dial that then allows all of the digits to be charged, making a read of the time — even in the dark — a much simpler affair. Since 2010, all Lumen models have been made with platinum cases. This release, however, brings us a new material for the line.
For any Zeitwerk model, the immediate focus is going to be on the t-shaped display that is, well, the entirety of the display portion of the display. As well it should, given that this model is all about that digital display. On the left, you have a single disc for the jump hour display, while the minutes (which also change via a jump) are displayed using two discs; across the hours and minutes, the keen eye will notice that the numerals are all the same size. The rest of those numbers, of course, are visible through the sapphire crystal of the dial. On paper, this feels like this should be confusing or cluttered, but to us, it just works. It helps that the “T” obscures part of it, as does the running seconds subdial.
Critically, the numerals that you can see are the ones that will be coming up next in their displays, so they can accumulate the available light to be able to glow in the dark. Should you want to test that out, you can do so quite easily. As on prior Zeitwerk models, the crown at 2 o’clock controls the minute display. For the hour, that’s a new function that was built into this model. There’s a small pusher at the 5 o’clock position, and that allows you to advance the hour. Thoughtfully, A. Lange and Söhne designed it so that the hour advances only upon release of the button. In other words, you don’t need to worry about pushing too forcefully, or too quickly, on the button and risk damaging something in the movement.
The other major differentiator on the A. Lange and Söhne Zeitwerk 142.055 Honey Gold Lumen is the material the case is made of. While all other Lumen models have been platinum, here, they have used their exclusive gold alloy, Honey gold. This is harder than other gold alloys, and brings a unique color to the case. Interestingly, it also first came out in 2010, when the first Lumen model (a Zeitwerk) was introduced. Here, those three are combined for the first time, and to lovely effect.
The A. Lange and Söhne Zeitwerk 142.055 Honey Gold Lumen also heralds the arrival of the second generation of Zeitwerk movements. Officially known as the caliber L043.9, the main item that would jump out from the fact sheet is the dramatically increased power reserve, now at 72 hours. This is done via a pair of mainspring barrels that rely on their constant-force escapement to ensure the kinetic energy is smoothly supplied to the movement. Finishing on the movement is as superb as you would expect.
The other item that should be noted is the delicate bridge that is parallel to the crown. This is a signature of the Zeitwerk line — as it holds the minutes rementoir in place — but is different in this new caliber. In the first generation, it ended up with a bit of an angle to it. Here, you have a crisp straight line, which is a visually-pleasing touch.
Versus The Competition
For considering what the competition to this watch would be, we’re putting aside the presence of a simple “big date” display (which a number of Lange models have). Rather, we’re focusing on the aspect of a mechanical watch movement displaying the time digitally, rather than relying on a handset. That said, each of these watches display in their own very unique ways, making for watches that are quite distinct from one another.
The first watch we would highlight is one that does not immediately appear to be a digital watch would be the M.A.D. Edition M.A.D.1. When viewed from the top, this watch looks for all the world to just be a fidget spinner mounted on your wrist. And sure, that’s what happens when you have a reverse-mounted movement and a rotor that calls to mind some other MB&F creations. So, where are the digits? For that, you need to peek between the lugs on the lower portion of the watch. Here, you’ll see the hours and minutes indicated on two separate rings. A perfect sort of a watch to sneak a glance at the time during a meeting without needing to move your wrist that much.
The other watch that would fit our bill of a digital display of the time would be a member of the Urwerk UR line. For our purposes, we’ll settle on the Urwerk UR-202 AlLTiN. The UR line is immediately recognizable with the rotating tripod that indicates the minutes at the lower part of the dial, with a cube that rotates around each leg of the tripod to indicate the hour. While this is a much different sort of time display than we’re used to, it’s one that comes across as extremely intuitive and easy to use. If the Zeitwerk or the M.A.D.1 feels too “traditional” for you, the Urwerk is the direction you need to head.
In our minds, the owner of a A. Lange and Söhne Zeitwerk 142.055 Honey Gold Lumen appreciates two things over many other aspects: precision and uniqueness. Of course, all watchmaking has a certain level of precision implied. When you have German design and sensibility put on top of that, that creates an aesthetic that, while certainly not austere, is what we would consider crisp and precise.
For that other aspect — uniqueness — this watch certainly has it many times over. A unique time display, a new movement, unique material, and so forth. That said, it’s a sort of uniqueness that the knowledgeable owner would be aware of, but it’s not as bold as, say, the two models we covered in the Against the Competition section. Or let’s phrase it another way. If you’re the sort of person that likes having a very interesting “about me” story that isn’t immediately obvious, this is the sort of watch for you.
For all of the creativity and technical precision that is required to create a watch like the A. Lange and Söhne Zeitwerk 142.055 Honey Gold Lumen, there is a nonchalance to it. This is a watch that knows what it’s about, and gets the job done without a lot of undue fuss. You might also consider the nonchalance as an increase in just regular usability, with the extended power reserve and easier quick adjustment to the hour display. For us, we can’t wait to see what further refinements are present in the line another decade or so down the road.