While 165 years is objectively impressive, it is not a traditional anniversary. 150, sure. 175, alright. That said, anyone who follows the watch industry—at any level—knows that brands love an excuse to release limited editions. Sometimes it feels forced, with a special dial or a caseback engraving. Then there are times when brands pick a seemingly arbitrary period of time, call it an anniversary, and commit the whole of their genius to delivering something absolutely splendid. Such is the case with A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite” 712.050 which is part of the “165 Years – Homage to F.A. Lange” collection.
Those in the know may be double checking their numbers: 165 years? Wasn’t there a big chunk of time there when Lange ceased to exist? Those armchair experts are right, if a bit nitpicky. While Ferdinand Adolph Lange originally founded the Glashütte manufactory in 1845, the Soviet occupation of Germany following World War II saw the brand nationalized. It wasn’t until 1990 that Walter Lange, the great- grandson of the company’s founder, re-registered the trademark and A. Lange & Söhne was brought back to life. The 165 Years – Homage to F.A. Lange collection was released in 2010, 165 years after F.A. Lange—and 30 years after Walter Lange reestablished the company. While 30 years may seem a more legitimate anniversary (and may have been the true impetus for the collection), for a brand whose main competitors have all been in continuous operation for well over 100 years, it makes good marketing sense to celebrate 165 years. Whether 165 or 30, though, the Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite” represents a continuation and a celebration of the brand’s commitment to the highest level of watchmaking.
The A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite” is presented in a stunning 41.2mm honey gold case. The gold is a proprietary alloy first introduced with this 50-piece limited edition in 2010. It features a warm golden-bronze hue but has the advantage of a hardness tougher than platinum–all the luxury of gold without the delicacy. The 14.3mm-thick case is classic Lange: horizontally brushed, straight-sided caseband, polished convex bezel, and generously curved lugs that feature polished tops and brushed sides, with a subtle chamfer. Arched rectangular pushers actuate the chronograph, with an additional pusher at 10 o’clock for the rattrapante function. The screwed-in caseback features a sapphire crystal showing off the movement, set in a solid honey gold caseback ring embossed with the expected text, including the numbered edition, on a frosted background. The watch head is fastened to a brown alligator strap with a branded honey gold tang clasp.
The dial of the Tourbograph is made of solid 18k white gold and features a silver guilloche fan pattern in the center dial. At 9 o’clock is the 30-minute chronograph totalizer, balanced at 3 o’clock is the 36-hour power reserve indicator. Hogging the spotlight, though, is the open tourbillon cage with its polished bridge and diamond endstone. The dial features black-printed scales and numerals, including a railroad minute track. Surrounding the entire dial is a sloped slange featuring a 60-minute chronograph scale. The main handset is blued with a lance shape. The primary chronograph hand is blue with a polished gold rattrapante hand. The rattrapante adds another level to this watch: instead of a simple single-handed chronograph, the wearer is provided with the ability to time two events simultaneously.
On full display through the sapphire caseback is the manual wound in-house caliber L903.0. The intricate mechanics of the tourbillon, power reserve indicator, rattrapante chronograph, and fusée and chain transmission require over 1,000 components working in harmony, including 85 for the tourbillon and a staggering 636 for the fusée and chain (which is visible at 10 o’clock, just above the central bridge). The combination of a tourbillon and a fusée and chain is all in the name of accuracy: the tourbillon counteracts the effects of gravity on the balance, while the fusée and chain is a constant force mechanism that compensates for the rate variation inherent to a mainspring’s release of energy. The movement features numerous hand-finishing techniques including filigree, anglage, and brushing, making it as beautiful as it is complicated. It beats at 21,600vph with a power reserve of 36 hours, and features 43 jewels, two of which are diamond endstones (one on each end of the tourbillon).
Versus the Competition
You may think that because of the unique combination of complications, the Tourbograph stands alone in the world of horology. You’d be partially right: there aren’t other watches that feature the same combination, but thanks to brands’ inclination to integrate every complication they can, there’s a wide variety of watches that compare. One such timepiece comes from Patek Philippe, the 5270 Perpetual Calendar Chronograph. The watch combines a perpetual calendar and a chronograph, and while the dial doesn’t hold a flame to that of the Tourbograph, the inclusion of the solid rose gold 5-link bracelet sets it apart.
Though it only features a chronograph, the F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain comes from one of the finest modern watchmakers and its complication is unique. Instead of the rather limited single 30-minute subdial on the Tourbograph, the Centigraphe features 20-second, 10-minute, and foudroyante 1/100-second counters in an atypical 2-6-10 layout. The rose gold of the case is warm and the movement, though mostly occluded by the bridges, is finished to the highest degree.
There are plenty of options with the Lange family as well, including this boutique edition 1815 Chronograph. While it’s decidedly more restrained than its Tourbograph sibling, it still embodies the same craftsmanship for which the brand is known, and adds to that a beautiful silver dial with painted blue numerals and markers.
This anniversary edition of the Tourbograph celebrates an important brand’s history and also incorporates some of the most sought after complications in watchmaking. It’s perfect for the Lange enthusiast or someone seeking a unique set of complications in an exquisite execution.
With aesthetics and execution that are simply beyond reproach, the A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite” serves as a reminder of the masterful craftsmanship that has defined the brand for 165 years, and a proper homage to F.A. Lange.