Up Close with the Lange Datograph Perpetual in White Gold, with the Face-Lifted Grey Dial (with Pricing)

Distinguished by its cleaner, more contemporary dial, the face-lifted Lange Datograph Perpetual in white gold nonetheless looks and feels much like the first generation model, with the same gorgeous movement.

The first generation Datograph Perpetual in white gold (ref. 410.030) was produced briefly from 2009 to 2011, with perhaps less than 100 were made. That short-lived but attractive combination of white gold case and grey dial was revived earlier this year with the face-lifted Datograph Perpetual in white gold (ref. 410.038). In recent years A. Lange & Söhne has face-lifted its Datograph, most recently with the new pink gold, Up/Down model. The same just has just been done to the new Datograph Perpetua.

Lange has a clear design code for each of its lines, with Arabic numerals for the 1815 and Romans for the Lange 1. The Saxonia is the simplest, with baton indices for the hours. And because the Datograph line is now part of the Saxonia (sort of), all its constituents watches feature that clean, modern aesthetic.

The new Datograph Perpetual features a new dial that has been tweaked in a subtle manner, so much so that it looks almost the same as the old dial from a distance. The most obvious change is the removal of the Roman numerals; now all the indices are baton markers.

Five minute markers on the outer edge of the dial have also been removed, enhancing the clean look. And “Glashütte I/SA” is now printed just below the moon phase, short for “Glashütte in Sachsen”.

The constant seconds, day of the week and power reserve indicator are on the left sub-dial

The rest of the dial remains unchanged, and so still possesses the shortcomings of the first generation model. Each of the two sub-dials packs in three different indicators, while the moon phase is tiny, almost like it’s trying to hide itself. Though the new dial is cleaner, the Datograph Perpetual still lacks the legibility of the equivalent model from Patek Philippe, the ref. 5270.

A close-up of the minute counter (on the outermost ring), month and leap year indicator (at the bottom)

Fortunately the view from the back makes almost everything forgivable. It’s equipped with the calibre L952.1, a movement based on the original Datograph calibre L951.1. The movement is a joy to look at.

It features Lange’s in-house, adjustable mass balance but unlike the current Datograph Up/Down movement, it lacks the upgraded mainspring and extended power reserve. That means the Datograph Perpetual runs for a brief 36 hours when fully wound, somewhat of a detriment for a perpetual calendar which requires effort to set once it’s stopped.


The black polished chronograph levers

The hand-engraved balance cock, a signature feature of Lange movements

The Datograph Perpetual in white gold costs €119,000 or US$137,800.

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Explaining the Ancient Technique of Gold Filigree

An ancient technique several millennia old, filigree makes its debut in watchmaking with the Ronde Louis Cartier XL Filigree Panthers, with the dial made up of intricately worked gold and platinum wires that form a panther motif. 

La Maison des Metier d’Art is a farmhouse beside the Cartier watch manufacture in the Swiss town of La Chaux-de-Fonds that has been transformed into a workshop dedicated to metier d’art, or artisanal crafts. The workshop employs well known techniques like enamelling and engraving to decorate timepieces, but also applies age old crafts that have never before been used in watchmaking, like gold filigree. This decorative art was used for the first time on the Ronde Louis Cartier XL Filigree Panthers wristwatch, featuring a pair of panthers formed with tiny twisted threads of gold and platinum.

Filigree is precious metal wires soldered together to form a motif, something that dates back some 5000 years to the Sumerians. The technique subsequently spread across the world to Ancient Egypt, Greece, India, Medieval Europe, and now Cartier’s converted farmhouse.

The dial of the Ronde Louis Cartier XL Filigree Panthers begins with extraordinarily fine wires of gold and platinum on spools, much like a roll of fabric thread. The gold thread is 22k, softer than the 18k normally used for watch components, while the platinum thread is the conventional 950 platinum alloy common in watchmaking.

The raw wire being plaited by hand

Wires of differing diameters are used to create various sections of the motif. But these are raw precious metal wires, with a lengthy process of handwork ahead to turn them into a watch dial. Various plaiting techniques can be applied to working the wires, resulting in a different appearance, ranging from fine to coarse.

A sample of gold filigree threads plaited in different ways

For the Ronde Louis Cartier XL Filigree Panthers dial, the wires are twisted and rolled, then curled and cut into tiny rings, forming the elements that make up the body of the panthers. The filigree is then enhanced with black lacquer spots and diamonds, with green emeralds for the eyes. From start to finish the dial takes a month to complete.

Curling and cutting the wire
The complete filigree dial

The Ronde Louis Cartier XL Filigree Panthers is a limited edition of 20 pieces in yellow gold. The case is 42mm in diameter, with the hand-wound 430 MC movement inside (it’s actually an ultra-thin movement made by Piaget).  While it is the first wristwatch to feature a filigree dial, the Ronde Louis Cartier XL Filigree Panthers will not be the last, now that the technique is a part of Cartier’s metier d’art repertoire.

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Introducing a Spherical, Enamelled Pendant Watch from Hermès

Hermes brings its delicate and tasteful sensibilities to the Pendentif Boule, a ball-shaped pendant watch in white gold decorated with cloisonné enamel. 

A day after the Apple Watch Hermes, the Parisian leather maker unveils a timepiece at the other end of the spectrum. Pendentif Boule translates as “ball pendant”, a simple name that belies the complexity of its decoration. Less a timepiece than a pendant that happens to include a clock, the Hermès Pendentif Boule is decorated with a flower motif executed in cloisonné enamel, with intricate white gold wires formed by hand comprising the outline of the flower. The Pendentif Boule is actually a white gold half sphere, with the other half being the crystal over the dial of the watch. Tiny gold ribbons are shaped by hand into the shape of flower petals – these are known as cloisons or cells – then bent ever so slightly to fit the curve of the sphere. These are then applied to the sphere one by one to form the floral motif. Each metal ribbon has to fit the sphere exactly with no gaps, otherwise the enamel would leak out.

Once the motif is formed, the enamel is painted by hand and fired in an oven, one colour at a time. Repeated trips to the oven to set the enamel at 800°C are required before the entire motif is complete.

Inside the white gold ball is a quartz movement, with the time displayed on a mother of pearl dial. The sphere measures 21mm in diameter, and is accompanied by a matching 18k white gold chain.

Various enamel samples

The Pendentif Boule costs SFr55,000 or S$79,400. That works out to about US$56,500.

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