The genuinely knowledgeable watch collector might be aware of a man by the name of Philippe Dufour. This collector should also be familiar with the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph 403.031 in 18k rose gold with the black dial, affectionately nicknamed the “Dufour” or “Dufourgraph.” This Lange timepiece carries this name because Philippe Dufour owns one of these references, and has repeatedly sung the praises of this model. This story of him, a renowned watchmaker, wearing this Datograph has been shared among Lange collectors for many years and has only increased the affection for this version.
The year is 1999, and it has only been five years since the rebirth of the Lange brand. During this time, A. Lange & Söhne is ready to reveal the first edition of one of its most significant timepieces, the Datograph. This first version was a platinum model with a black dial and silver subdials. This piece was so consequential because brands of the time were not making their own in-house chronograph movements, not even the likes of Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin. This version in rose gold with the black dial was the second model to debut in 2003, and after a relatively short run, it was discontinued in 2005. The rose gold silver dial version of the Datograph came out in 2005 to replace the discontinued “Dufourgraph.” The following year the brand released its next evolution of the Datograph with the Datograph Perpetual. Then in 2012, the original Datographs were discontinued and replaced by the Datograph Up/Down. There have been some additional pieces of note here and there, such as the even rarer Datograph 403.041 “YellowJacket”; however, those previous pieces are the most fundamental models in the Datograph’s history.
The Lange Datograph has many distinctive features that set it apart from most other timepieces, aside from what is visible through its display caseback. The dial of this piece sometimes is unjustly under shadowed by its movement. The dial is complex and busy, but it’s also extremely well thought out and functional. The alternating Roman Numerals and baton hour indicators are unique to this piece. The white background of the large outsized date and the silver subdials stand out starkly against the black of the rest of the dial. The white painted tachymeter that traces the edge of the dial gives this piece a distinct sportiness. The warmth of the fully high-polished rose gold case complements and unifies the black of the dial and its brown alligator strap. Its 39mm case fits nicely on any wrist, and the fact that all of this watch’s functions are used via the pushers on the case makes it relatively easy to use. There is no need to fiddle around with any crown positions, which is an excellent plus for its functionality.
The Datograph houses the caliber L951.01, which began development one year after the refounding of the company. This movement is arguably the most impressive chronograph caliber in modern times, if not one of the most important. It features a flyback chronograph with a jumping minutes indicator and Lange’s trademark large date. It is manually wound just as the watch purists love and has a column wheel which gives a very satisfying feel when engaging the chronograph functions. A single barrel mainspring offers a 36-hour power reserve when fully wound, and the movement oscillates at 18,000 vph. The German silver patinaed movement and the gold of the balance wheel and engraved script contrast nicely against the blues of the screws and reds of the 40 rubies. Every bit of this movement’s 405 parts is meticulously finished to the highest level, making it stand out against its peers, such as Patek’s Caliber CH 27-70 used in the 5070 models of the same period.
Versus The Competition
The best comparison to the original Datograph is the Patek Philippe 5070, but the perfect version to compare the rose gold “Dufour” Datograph is the Patek 5070P Platinum Chronograph. These are pretty similar in price, size, look, and complications, but beyond that, they share comparable sentiments in collectors’ minds. Collectors know that this version is the lowest production version of the 5070, much like the rose gold black dial is the shortest running version of the Datograph. Also, where the Datograph has the story of being worn by a prestigious watchmaker, the 5070P is the end of an era because it is the last of the Lemania based calibers used by Patek. The stories that make a watch unique to collectors are even more important sometimes than other aspects of a timepiece.
The collector who buys a “Dufour” Datograph most likely wants the rarest versions of a timepiece a brand has to offer, something that is collectible and highly sought after. This watch aficionado is also most likely part of a watch community that would know the significance of this particular version in that collection and enjoys sharing it with said group. This timepiece will hold a special place in the collection. While it is most likely one of a few Lange’s in his or her array of watches, it could be a singular trophy piece to highlight this brand in their repertoire. Either way, it would make for a spotlight piece in any enthusiast’s collection.
The A. Lange & Söhne Datograph “Dufour” makes for a perfect timepiece. It is the ideal size for any wrist, has a great aesthetic, is exceedingly rare, and has an intriguing history. They say that actions speak louder than words. If it is good enough for Phillip Dufour, a person who creates some of the world’s finest watches, it is more than good enough for any watch lover.