Truthfully, telling the time with a wristwatch is not all that necessary these days, as anyone can look at a phone, computer, and a host of other devices. That has not deterred watch manufacturers from constantly pushing the boundaries of what can be done with a mechanical timepiece, mind you. Most watch enthusiasts revel in brands devising new achievements, such as the extremely long power reserve that Lange achieved with the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 31 130.025. Although this timepiece has now been dethroned, its 31-day power reserve gave it the title of the world’s longest for many years.
The Lange 31 initially debuted in 2009, and it was not like anything the brand had created previously though many elements are distinctly in line with the brand’s design language. Ferdinand Lange, the founder of the brand, was originally a clockmaker, where he worked for Johann Gutkaes. One of their most famous clocks was the five-minute clock located in the Dresden Semper Opera House. This clock was the initial inspiration for the outsized date, a staple of most A. Lange & Söhne timepieces, including this one. This watch resembles the Saxonia timepieces, even though it is significantly larger in size. The launch of this piece came in two variations, one in platinum and one in rose gold. Later in 2015, Lange would release a three-piece set of Lange 31s, one in rose gold, one in platinum, and a version in white gold, all with diamond baguette bezels. The brand released the final limited edition version of the Lange 31 in white gold in 2017. Though there was no successor to the Lange 31 model, it has influenced many pieces, such as the Zeitwerk collection and the Terraluna.
The indomitable size of the Lange 31 is the first thing onlookers will notice. With a case size of 46mm and a thickness of 16mm, it would be hard not to spot it. This piece is made in platinum, making it incredibly heavy as well, so much so that Lange developed a new platinum oversized quick-release deployant buckle just to ensure the piece stays on the wearer’s wrist. The brand managed to compensate for the size by designing short 22mm wide lugs that easily hold the alligator strap tightly to even smaller wrists. These lugs are high-polished with beveled edges and turned down to add better ergonomics for the wearer. The pusher at ten o’clock is used to advance the large outsized date in typical Lange fashion. The bezel and caseback have a polished finish, while the middle case has a brushed satin finish.
The dial of the Lange 31 is made of sterling silver with a rhodium finish, and the overall layout is quite minimalistic. Extending from the center are the white gold sword hands that reach to the short white gold batons applied to the dial as the hour indices. The A. Lange & Söhne logo is printed at the top of the dial, and under the outsized date are the words “Monats-Work,” meaning months of work in German, giving meaning to the 31-day power reserve indicator. That sizeable power reserve indicator encompasses most of the right side of the dial, and the ending 0 and markings are printed in red, signifying that the power is completely drained at that point. Overall the design is unique for Lange but very authentic for the brand.
Inside the Lange 31 sits the Caliber L034.1, a mechanical engineering masterpiece. The immaculately finished caliber consists of a total of 406 parts and is fitted with 62 jewels throughout the movement. Peeking beneath the three-quarter plate finished with the Glashütte ribbing, one can see a small portion of the two massive spring barrels that power this timepiece. Filling those two spring barrels is about 1800mm in length of spring, which is about ten times longer than the average wristwatch. That is so unconventional that winding this movement cannot be done through the crown. The owner needs to insert a key into the watch’s caseback and wind it manually to get the whole 744 hours of power reserve.
This brings up the second and possibly more intriguing aspect of this movement: how the timepiece regulates all that power. A patented constant force mechanism builds up the energy in increments over every minute. Then it continuously releases the power into the balance wheel, which beats at 21,600 vph and allows for even and accurate timekeeping throughout the entire 31 days. Insanely impressive given that those mainsprings store over 3 Joules of energy when fully wound. All this and the brand ensures each and every component is finished in typical Lange fashion, with many finishing techniques and even some surprises like a clear sapphire jewel set into the constant force mechanism.
Versus The Competition
The Lange 31 is such a unique timepiece it is hard to compare; however, the A. Lange & Söhne Double Split 404.035 has many similar characteristics one might also consider. The Double Split, like the Lange 31, was the first of its kind. The Lange Double Split was the first wristwatch to split both the seconds and minutes in a chronograph. This function allows the user to time two different events that may be several minutes apart. The size and weight will also be similar to the Lange 31, as the Double split is platinum with a case of 43mm and a little over 15mm thick. Both have become models that truly showcase A. Lange & Söhne’s dedication to pushing the envelope for mechanical watchmaking.
The Lange 31 is undoubtedly not for every collector in the watch world. Its size alone will cause some collectors hesitation; however, it is like nothing else on the market. It will appeal to the heart of a true watch enthusiast that is enamored with what the limits of mechanics are capable of achieving. It will appeal to die-hard collectors of Lange timepieces who already have many other Langes in the collection. It will also appeal to collectors who might just enjoy watches capable of breaking world records. This type of collector might have a Bulgari piece for its thinness, a Patek timepiece for the minute repeater, or another first-of-a-kind timepiece. Many collectors want watches that were purely created because a brand could make it possible.
The Lange 31 is a unique timepiece that has earned its place in the history books for both Lange and horology as a whole. It has an undeniable presence due to its size and complications. This timepiece is the epitome of a watch brand building something “because they could,” and it will forever be special because of that.