Asymmetry Celebrated: The A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE

The human eye is attracted to symmetry. Within the field of evolutionary biology, this is a well documented and thoroughly researched conclusion. That said, I think the scientists are slightly off. Rather than being attracted to symmetry, I believe it is balance that we find so alluring. Case in point — the A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1. No we’re not crazy, even with its asymmetrical displays of different sizes, lots of text, a big date, and scattered complications, the Lange 1 is a supremely aesthetically pleasing timepiece. The original model was a triumph of design and the ref. 720.038FE Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar variant seen here is a mechanical triumph as well.

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE

History

When A. Lange & Sohne reemerged in the watch world back in 1994, the company presented an impressive inaugural collection that was anchored by the Lange 1. The model quickly became a symbol not only of Lange, but of German high horology as a whole. With the success of the Lange 1, the company was able to significantly expand the collection, adding a number of additional variants, each with more complications than the last. 

In 2012, Lange presented one of the most complicated Lange 1 models they have ever made, the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar ref. 720.038FE. The model is incredibly impressive for a number of reasons. Namely, producing a watch that preserves the Lange 1 design language while incorporating the inherent complication of a perpetual calendar proved to be extremely challenging. Clearly the handiwork of the legendary executives Walter Lange and Gunter Blumlein, the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar is a horological triumph. 

Design Details

As mentioned, the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar is incredibly well designed and manages to fit perpetual calendar and tourbillon complications unobtrusively into the standard Lange 1 design language. The piece is built on top of the Lange 1 Daymatic platform which is a direct mirror opposite of the Lange 1 layout. Whereas the Lange 1 has the time on the left side of the dial and the date, power reserve, and seconds on the right side, on the Daymatic, the time is on the right and the other indications on the left. It should also be noted that the Daymatic and the Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar are built on automatic winding platforms, whereas the Lange 1 is manually wound. 

In terms of the dial layout of the tourbillon perpetual, the time is on the right side, the month is displayed around a rotating ring on the perimeter of the dial, a moonphase is tucked into the subsidiary seconds register, and the day of the week takes the place of a power reserve with a pointer function. Further, Lange has positioned the leap year indicator down at 6 and a rotating day/night indicator within the primary time display. That’s an incredible amount of data to fit within limited real estate, yet looking at the watch alongside a Daymatic, it doesn’t appear cluttered. Finding room for complications on the dial side doesn’t hold a candle to the difficulty of reworking the movement architecture to accommodate these positions but Lange has managed to do both and has seemingly sacrificed nothing. 

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE

With a 41.9mm case that clocks in at 12.2mm thick, this watch is very well proportioned. The white gold variant seen here is outfitted with a deep gray, almost anthracite, dial that complements the tones of the case brilliantly. Beyond the dial color, the rest of the watch is classic Lange with its three part case construction, soldered lugs, sword hands, and framed big date window that we have come to expect from the brand. Familiarity can often breed contempt, but for this particular watch, it is a very good thing. 

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE

Inner Workings

Within the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar ref. 720.038FE beats the in-house caliber L082.1 movement. We have already mentioned the common DNA that this piece shares with the Daymatic, so it should come as no surprise that the caliber L082.1 is a modular design built on a base caliber that is also shared with the Daymatic.  

In the world of haute horologerie, Lange is known for their compound complications. Watches like the Datograph Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon combine independently impressive complications into a single package, creating an even more complex achievement. In spite of the modular construction and multiple complications of this watch, it has maintained a relatively slim profile and compact wrist presence. The tourbillon supports are hand engraved in classic Lange fashion, and, as with all Lange tourbillons, the complication is accented by a diamond rather than a synthetic gem. 

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE

The choice to use an automatic winding movement on this watch should come as no surprise. With the exception of chronograph integrations, whenever Lange produces a perpetual, they use an automatic movement. This makes some sense, as those that wish to use a winder to keep the movement running will have that option. In the case of Datograph Perpetual and Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, it makes sense to maintain the manually-wound properties since the movement beauty emerges as a direct result of the manually-wound status. If the brand was to place an automatic rotor over that movement, the cavernous expanse of the caliber would be obscured. 

Assuming the caliber L082.1 remains wound, it will not need adjustment until the year 2100. While each of the aforementioned modules can be individually conceived and perfected, getting them all to work in tandem proves the real challenge. In many cases, multiple functions (day, date, month, etc.) will switch in tandem which causes a significant drain on the power reserve. Furthermore, ensuring that all functions switch exactly at the same time without delay is a serious balancing act. Lange has done it, and they have done it well. My only wish for this piece would be for a bit more visibility of the tourbillon. The gear train that sits just above the tourbillon on the back side of the movement obscures much of the architecture, which is unfortunate since it is such a beautiful caliber. Lange’s approach is the traditional one, and it suits the watch well, just my personal gripe! 

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE

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Personality

As with all grand complications from Lange, the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar is a watch that normally is considered later in a collecting journey. Those that have an affinity for the Lange1 will appreciate the aesthetics of the watch, plus, it’s quite nice to see the brand present a new interpretation of the perpetual calendar display. It’s not often that an entirely new complication layout is introduced, and the Lange 1 becomes an excellent platform from which to explore new designs. The same can be said for the Lange 1 Time Zone, which, like the Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, offers a distinctly new approach to incorporating both the local time and other time zones. 

If you are looking for a watch that will help diversify your dial game a bit, this would be a great place to look. You can experiment with new design and a modern aesthetic without sacrificing the quality of traditional watchmaking for which A. Lange & Sohne is known. This model is one that we can expect to become collectible, both because of its complication and scarcity and its beautiful gray dial, a tone not often offered by Lange. I believe this piece will be a future classic for Lange. 

Versus the Competition

While there are few pieces out there that combine the same kind of balanced asymmetry with compound complications as successfully as the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, there are a few alternatives worth considering. 

First, we would suggest the Breguet 3750BA which also combines a tourbillon and perpetual calendar within a single watch. The 3750 offers distinctive Breguet style in much the same way the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual is unmistakably Lange. With a fully guilloched dial, classic Breguet hands, and a tourbillon aperture at 6 o’clock, the 3750BA is a piece clearly descended from the father of the tourbillon himself. Breguet and tourbillons just make sense!

Next, I’d like to look at one of the most overlooked Lange models on the market. The Langematik Perpetual, reference 310.032 is easily one of the best perpetual calendars available today, yet it receives little to no attention. If a tourbillon isn’t 100% necessary for you, this is the option to look to. Featuring a micro-rotor movement, unique display with outsize date, and a piercing blue moonphase disc the Langematik Perpetual is an elegant piece that remains one of the best values in its segment. 

A-Lange-_-Sohne-Datograph-Perpetual-Calendar-Tourbillon-Chronograph-740.036

Finally, for a manually wound alternative to the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, we recently covered the Datograph Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, which adds a manually-wound flyback chronograph to the other complications. This model has an entirely different movement architecture, and depending on what you are looking for, may suit your tastes better than the Lange 1.

A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE

Final Thoughts

The A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar ref. 720.038FE is a grand complication worthy of everyday wear. Unique enough with its Lange 1 architecture, complicated enough with a tourbillon and perpetual calendar, and practical enough with automatic winding and comfortable proportions, this reference truly is the complete package. For the collector looking to add a masterwork that embodies the Lange design or to make an entrance into the world of high horology, the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar 720.038FE is a wonderful option. 

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