A. Lange & Söhne is known for its traditional timepieces. The Saxonia, 1815, Datograph, and so on, all paint a picture of a historic watchmaker, rooting its designs in the influences of early German horology. The Zeitwerk, however, paints a different picture. Released with much controversy, the Zeitwork is an ultra-modern design, albeit with traditional watchmaking principles behind the rebellious design. Today, we are exploring a reference that has gone even further than a traditional Zeitwerk to challenge convention; the Zeitwerk Lumen in platinum, reference 140.035, dubbed the “Phantom”.
The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk was introduced in 2009 as arguably the boldest timepiece in the brand’s history. The piece was designed to call upon the clock in the Dresden Semper Opera House, with its massive rotating discs displaying the time for all to see. Ferdinand Adolf Lange was involved in the making of this clock, and since the Lange brand revival in the modern era, both the large date motif, and the Zeitwerk, serve as tributes to this legacy.
The Zeitwerk posed a series of mechanical challenges that we will discuss in depth later on, but the important piece to note is that when the Zeitwerk was introduced, it was a fierce rebellion against the classic timepieces the brand had been making up until that point. Thus, at first it was quite a controversial piece. Since the subsequent success of the Zeitwerk, and its rise to fame, the brand has introduced many more Zeitwerk models. These include repeating pieces, calendar complications, and more. The Zeitwerk Lumen variant we are covering today was the first Lumen piece to be introduced when it launched in 2010. This edition was limited to only 100 examples in platinum.
The defining feature of this piece is its semi-translucent sapphire crystal. At night, through this black coated dial, you can see all of the minute and hour digits glowing, hence the name “Lumen”. The Lumen pieces all share this unique dial display, which provides unparalleled visual access to the top side of the movement, a section that is typically obscured by a conventional dial.
This variant is made from platinum, with a classic Lange three-part case. The bezel and caseback side band are polished, while the mid case is brushed for contrast. The crown is placed at 2 o’clock in order to accommodate the barrel positioning. The case is substantial, at 41.9mm by 12.6mm thick, and the platinum makes sure that this presence is felt. That said, with Lange watches, this is part of the intrigue. Collectors are looking for the solidity of the timepiece when favoring a German watch.
As far as the rest of the design, the dial layout follows the traditional Zeitwerk arrangement, with power reserve at 12, hour and minutes at 3 and 9 respectively, and subsidiary seconds in an oversized register at 6. A bridge holds the large flipping numerals to generate a strong presence at the center of the dial. This is the visual of the Zeitwerk; some love this appearance, while others hate it, but before you write it off, make sure to experience a Zeitwerk in person — it may just surprise you.
The Zeitwerk Lumen “Phantom” reference 140.035 is powered by the caliber L043.3. The massive numerals of the Zeitwerk are quite cool to look at, yet few understand the mechanical challenge they create. It’s no coincidence it took a long time for Lange to develop the Zeitwerk, and also that no other brand had created a watch quite like this ever before.
The Zeitwerk is referred to as a “digital” watch. This is different than a digital watch with a battery of course; here, the watch is digital in that its display uses large digits rather than conventional analog hands to display the time.
In order to display these digits, massive discs are required below the dial. The issue with moving these massive discs (similar to a date window), is that it requires a large amount of energy. In the case of a conventional date, this is not so much of a problem, since the switch only occurs once a day. But for the Zeitwerk, this poses a huge challenge since each minute the numerals switch, and at the turn of an hour, the hours, and both minute digits must all switch instantaneously in tandem.
In order to supply this level of energy, a massive mainspring is necessary to provide ample torque. While this may seem like a wonderful solution, it also gives birth to the next issue, which is that a massive mainspring is much too strong to power a delicate escapement! To solve this challenge, Lange added a remontoir constant force mechanism, which effectively balances the power of the massive mainspring for the escapement, without sacrificing the needed energy to turn the large discs.
This should give you just a brief glimpse into the brilliance of the Zeitwerk, which as you can see, is far more complicated than meets the eye (even though what meets the eye looks plenty complicated). Even to just display the hours and minutes is a work of masterful engineering.
Versus the Competition
Although there are a variety of ways to take this, it is probably most interesting to consider the other Lumen watches from Lange as natural competition for the Zeitwerk Lumen “Phantom”. First, the Lange 1 Moonphase Lumen. This variant is limited to 200 examples in platinum. Like the Zeitwerk Lumen, this model has a frosted sapphire dial and visible big-date. This particular example is a Grand Lange 1, meaning that it is slightly larger than the standard Lange 1, and has a slimmed down bezel. The luminous moonphase, also made from sapphire, is engraved with over 1100 individual stars. Alongside the moonphase variant, there is also a standard Grand Lange 1 Lumen for a slightly simpler dial.
Yet another brilliant option is the Datograph Lumen. The Datograph Up/Down is one of the current icons of the Lange collection, and the Lumen variant is one of the rarest iterations (if not the rarest) available on the market. Here, the sub registers are lumed, alongside the date and handset. A blue ring displays the tachymeter scale crisply. Of course, the center of the dial is the same frosted sapphire we have become used to with all the Lumen watches.
Finally, beyond the Lumen watches, many RM references have a similar colored sapphire dial. Take for example, this RM030 Americas Limited Edition. This piece has orange accents and was limited to 30 pieces, but exploits the same dial found on the Lumen collection. If it’s the dial that attracts your attention to the Lange but you are looking for something a little different, this may be just what you are searching for.
The Lange Zeitwerk Lumen “Phantom” reference 140.035 will attract several types of collectors. Most notably, those looking for an extremely rare Lange. If you appreciate the styling of Lange but want a modernized watch, the Lumen pieces are always high up there. The Zeitwerk on its own attracts a more forward looking audience, as the natural extension of mechanical principles into a contemporary package.
As is the case with other limited Langes, the market for these pieces is slowly but steadily on the rise. Investors will jump on pieces like these that can still be had at a relatively strong value to significance ratio.
Regardless, this type of piece will always have another group of collectors who consider a dial of this variety to be heretical. The best watches inspire debate, and for a traditional brand like Lange to release something that is so much of a departure from the norm is a bold move.
For the Lange enthusiast, this watch is a grail. One of the cornerstones of the Lange collections, the Zeitwerk is both aesthetically simple and mechanically complex, an appealing combo. The 140.035, however, brings the Zeitwerk package to an entirely new level of interest, rarity, and collectibility, as a highly limited work of art. The Lange Phantom will always be reserved a special place in the hearts of Lange enthusiasts and the broader collecting community as a whole, and we are thrilled to have had the opportunity to share it with you.