A. Lange & Sohne is a brand with no shortage of complicated wristwatches. Particularly in the years following Wilhelm Schmid’s joining A. Lange & Sohne the brand has emphasized the high horology components of their collections, returning to the heritage of the company and demonstrating its technical acumen. Today, we have the opportunity to review one such reference, one of the greatest from the brand, the Datograph Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon reference 740.036, limited to only 100 examples in platinum. This watch demonstrates the Lange design philosophy and showcases the quality of finish for which the brand is so well known and respected.
Since Lange’s reemergence in the watch world, the brand has introduced several significant calendar and chronograph watches in relatively rapid succession. In 2001, the brand introduced the Langematik Perpetual, one of my favorite Lange watches and quite possibly the most underrated model from the brand (and underrated among perpetual calendars in general). My one gripe with the model was that the leap year indication was displayed in a “hanging” subdial, below the month wheel. Next to the other subsidiary dial, which had no hanging indicator, this made the dial look a little asymmetrical.
Next, in 2006, the brand contributed the Datograph Perpetual, combining the Datograph legendary chronograph with a perpetual calendar mechanism. This was yet another magnificent watch, but once more, the watch had extraneous displays for power reserve and leap year, both hurting what would otherwise be a flawless dial display.
Then, in 2016, the Datograph Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon was introduced. This watch was the first in the progression to perfect the dial layout. No hanging subdials clutter the dial. No extraneous information is obtrusively placed where it doesn’t belong. Everything is tucked neatly into its place, and is executed flawlessly. This is one of the reasons that the 740.035 Datograph Perpetual Calendar Chronograph Tourbillon may be the brand’s greatest calendar complication to date. It’s easy to criticize design insufficiencies, but it is so much more difficult to find ways to mechanically solve those problems and improve the user experience. As we analyze the other components of design and movement, you’ll gain an even further appreciation of the brilliant reference.
We’ve touched on the unique execution of the displays, but to review specifically which information the dial provides, within the subsidiary dials we have running seconds and days of the week on the left (there’s also a danger indicator that warns users from changing the calendar functions during harmful hours for the movement), and on the right there’s month, leap year, and chronograph minutes. At six is the moonphase, and delicately placed between nine and ten is a discrete power reserve. Finally, at 12 is the emblematic big date. This is a lot of information to convey, yet this watch looks less complicated than so many compound complication chronographs on the market, from Lange and beyond. This watch has the quality of being quite complex and quite simple simultaneously.
Many of the details we are accustomed to seeing on Lange watches are presented here as well. The classic handset, solid white gold moonphase disc, classic three part case, distinctive lugs, and bold text font all are perfect reminders of this watch’s status as a German timepiece. The dial is fashioned from solid sterling silver which adds substance to the already heavy platinum timepiece. In addition to these hallmarks, this piece is outfitted with Lange’s deployant clasp, befitting a watch of this heft and presence. Most Grand Complications are fitted with this clasp, but for a platinum timepiece, it’s a significant piece of metal and not an inexpensive direction for the brand to go. That said, can we expect anything less from A. Lange & Sohne?
Lastly, we should mention that for the sheer amount of complication crammed into this case the watch is still very reasonably sized at 41.5 by 14.6mm. This isn’t a small watch, and the platinum makes sure that that not so small size is felt, but this piece still wears relatively modestly and isn’t quite as large as some of the other models even from Lange itself. To me, this watch serves as a triumph for Lange, an indication that in spite of the introduction of several killer complicated watches, the brand is always working to improve upon its designs and refine its aesthetics.
While the dial leaves hints of the complications within, one glance at caliber L952.2 removes any doubts. This is one of the single most beautiful movements in the entire Lange catalog, which says quite a bit seeing as Lange is one of the masters of movement design and finish.
This movement is directly based upon the legendary L951, although this watch features the updated 50 hour power reserve in spite of all the added complication over a standard Datograph.
This mechanism features the classic lateral clutch column wheel action that we have come to know and love from A. Lange & Sohne. One concern when adding a tourbillon is that the reworking of the movement required would sacrifice the beauty of the manually-wound movement. Looking at the sheer depth of this caseback, we can be quite comfortable saying that this is certainly not the case. A web of finely finished components decorate the movement, from mirror anglage to strong Glashutte stripes, to fire-blued screws, to golden chatons, to perlage on the baseplate. This is the reason that Lange has the reputation it does.
This movement enjoys hacking seconds, but as a result of the tourbillon, this also means a hacking tourbillon. In other words, when the crown is pulled out, the tourbillon halts immediately in its place alongside the seconds hand. There is quite a complicated braking system that was required to make this mechanically viable. Of course, we have freehand engraving on the component supporting the tourbillon half bridge, since this is at the end of the day a Lange watch. If you want a single watch with a breathtaking movement, we would put this one up there for the contest. It simply doesn’t get much better.
Versus the Competition
The truth is it is quite difficult to find another watch that has a tourbillon, perpetual calendar, and chronograph. That said, we in the past covered the IWC Da Vinci Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Chronograph, which is remarkable. This will certainly give you the complication, although the movement doesn’t really hold a torch to the Lange, because a three quarter plate of sorts obscures the componentry of the movement.
For another sublime combination of high complications, consider the Patek 5207P Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Minute Repeater. Like the Lange, this piece hides the tourbillon on the back side of the case in traditional fashion. Considering the vast complication on this watch, the dial remains uncluttered because Patek uses aperture displays for the perpetual functions rather than the more typical subdial display.
Finally, for just a slightly scaled back version of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, we have the aforementioned Datograph Perpetual (stripping the tourbillon). We have discussed the personal gripes I have with the hanging dials on this model, but if you don’t mind this detail (many don’t), this watch is an objective masterpiece. I admire this watch’s complication, and think it gives the legendary Patek 5970 and modern 5270 a run for their money. There is simply nothing quite like a Lange chronograph, and adding complication adds to the joy. As the saying goes, “the more the merrier”.
This is a grail watch. Ultimately, however, most collectors that buy a watch like this aren’t buying just one six figure watch. In all likelihood, while this may be a grail, it probably relaxes alongside a lineup of equally impactful grails. I envision this piece next to a souscription Journe Resonance or Tourbillon, a Patek 5970, and a first series 3940. This watch is for the collector that likes high horology and complications, perhaps favoring a slightly more discreet expression of extreme wealth than opting for say a Rainbow Daytona.
Half of me hopes that this watch is actually someone’s one grail. The watch they’ve waited 30 years to afford and then spent it all on a single watch that they connect with. Regardless, this is a watch for a serious enthusiast, one who can grasp the full extent of its significance, and one who is more concerned with their personal taste than the tastes of others or the flash of a more blingy watch. Ultimately, the fact that the tourbillon is on the back of the watch rather than visible through an aperture on the front says it all. This is (semi) stealth wealth.
This is quite possibly the greatest contemporary Lange high complication watch. Although the brand has released a number of them through the years, and each is quite special, there’s something different about the Lange Datograph Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon. Everything was just done right. Although I wish it were a bit smaller, I think we may just be able to call this a perfect watch. Where else will you get this much from a legacy brand for so little? Yes, I just said that a six figure watch is a value. Look elsewhere for something half as complicated and expect to pay at least 50% more. In that regard, this one is a complete steal.