At the start of the 21st century, A. Lange & Söhne introduced the Lange 1 Tourbillon reference 704.032. The timepiece was released in two metals as a limited edition, sized at 38.5 mm and a slim 9.9mm thick. Only 250 examples of the 18k rose gold version were produced while 150 platinum examples were also available. Manufacturing took place between the years 2000 and 2003. The watches were very well received and sold out.
The A. Lange & Söhne brand has a storied history beginning in 1845. The brand’s production is centered on Saxony, Germany. After World War 2, this region fell behind the “iron curtain” comprised of Soviet satellite nations. Regrettably, following more than a century of watchmaking, the brand was forced to close down as the then-owner, Walter Lange, fled to France in 1948. Upon reunification of East and West Germany, the brand was reborn in 1994. Its “second life” began with four timepieces: the Arkade, the Saxonia, the Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite,” and the Lange 1.
The Lange 1 Tourbillon reference 704.032 represents an important progression in the fundamental geometric characteristics which mark the Lange 1 an enduring success. To begin, the hour and minute pinion, date indicator, and traditional location of the seconds pinion form the vertices of an isosceles triangle. A line between the center of the hour / minute subdial and the pinion for the power reserve indicator bisects this triangle and creates two equally sized right triangles. The date indicator is large in size and presented by two digit wheels. The date is set using a pusher located to the northwest of the hour and minute subdial.
Of course, in the case of the reference 704.032, the tourbillon complication displaces the seconds indicator. It finds a new home in the 8:30 position of the hour and minute subdial. Hour indicators are applied in rose gold to the two-tone silver dial. There are Roman numerals at 12, 3, 6 and 9. Interestingly, the base of these numerals always points towards the center of the subdial. The hour and minute hands are alpha style.
The sixty seconds tourbillon, itself, is highly unique. It is held in place by a black-polished bridge and screw with an anchor point that is visible from the dial side. The mesmerizing movement of the steel tourbillon cage is visible through a partially “open heart” segment of the dial. The tourbillon complication has 72 components, including the balance wheel, the Nivarox balance spring with a curved overcoil, and the escapement. Perlage serve as the backdrop for the tourbillon. By far, the most unique aspect to this complication is the choice of bearings for the tourbillon: two faceted diamonds rather than the more typical choice of synthetic rubies.
A. Lange & Söhne released the Lange 1 “century” Tourbillon in 2000 as an homage to another tourbillon which played a prominent role in its history. At the turn of the prior century, during the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, the brand unveiled the so-called “Jahrhunderttourbillon” pocket watch. This earlier “centennial tourbillon” had a chain and fusee mechanism, which evens out the delivery of torque from the mainspring, thereby enhancing accuracy. The number 4100 pocket watch was the first tourbillon which A. Lange & Söhne displayed internationally.
We can see, then, that the Lange 1 Tourbillon reference 704.032 bridges the Soviet era gap in the brand’s history. In some ways, the watch’s L961.1 movement does likewise. It runs at 21,600 beats per hour, a rate which sits between pocket watch and more typical modern wrist watch frequencies. The manual wind movement has two barrels, which provide an estimated 72 hour power reserve. The “doppelfederhaus” marking on the dial translates to “double barrel” in English
The 378 components of the movement are finished to the highest standards. For example, the sapphire display caseback reveals two ornately engraved and curved bridges. The second diamond tourbillon bearing is visible on the shorter of these bridges. The plates and bridges are hand finished with polished anglage and additional perlage is visible through the caseback. A constellation of blued screws is also presented through the display caseback.
Many of these screws hold eight chatons in place. In modern watchmaking, the jewel bearings for a watch’s pivots are typically pressure-fit in place. A more traditional approach, the one on offer with the Lange 1 Tourbillon, first places a jewel in a chaton, or “collar.” The collar is then affixed to the movement with screws. If a jewel is in need of service, the watchmaker can undo the screws, remove the chaton containing the jewel, and then go to work. This potentially reduces the amount of handling and / or stress the movement experiences during servicing.
The chatons and blued screws are most prevalent in the three-quarter plate, which is a hallmark of A. Lange & Söhne. This design enhances the rigidity of a movement, thereby increasing the accuracy of timekeeping and reducing flex on components. A three-quarter plate does increase the difficulty of assembling a watch, since all pivots must be aligned with their corresponding jewel bearings before the plate is put in place. The three-quarter plate in the Lange 1 Tourbillon is finished with Glashütte ribbing (also known as Geneva stripes) and made of German silver.
The watch’s unique number out of the run of 250 (in the case of the rose gold edition) is engraved on the caseback. “Lange” is also engraved on the buckle for the strap and the brand’s name is embossed on the crown. The Lange 1 Tourbillon was originally offered with an alligator skin strap. The lugs holding the strap are 20mm wide and stepped from the case.
The Lange 1 Tourbillon was a worthy and highly successful sequel to the Lange 1. In September, 2019, the brand released a modestly updated version of the Lange 1 Tourbillon in order to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original Lange 1. It is remarkable that, less than ten years after its rebirth, A. Lange & Söhne was able to produce such a stunning and well-executed example of high horology.