A Detailed Look at the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon

Big, bold and intricate, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon combines one of the most beautiful chronograph movements with a perpetual calendar and tourbillon to create one of the most complicated watches made by A. Lange & Söhne.

Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon – a long name for a complicated watch that was the flagship of the collection A. Lange & Söhne unveiled at SIHH 2016. A large and imposing watch, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is an old-fashioned complicated timepiece featuring Lange’s signature chronograph with a perpetual calendar on the top as well as a tourbillon.

While the argument can be reasonably made that the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is intellectually conservative, maybe even boring – it’s a combination of traditional complications amalgamated in a traditional manner – the watch is impressive, with a reassuring heft. The movement is made up of 729 parts, similar to the number found in a minute repeater with tourbillon. And the movement is also gorgeous, as would be expected for something that is essentially a supercharged Datograph.

But the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is neither just a Datograph with 270 extra components, nor an amalgamation of complications found in other Lange watches. It has been refined and improved in subtle but significant ways, especially with the relocation of the power reserve indicator to a discreet but legible position.

Numbers tell the story 

The origins of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon can be deduced from the movement. The calibre inside is the L952.2, meaning it is derived from the Datograph Perpetual movement, which is the L952.1. That in turn is based on the L951.1, the Datogaph movement. Though the functions displayed on the dial are exactly the same as the simpler Datograph Perpetual, the design of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon has been tweaked to be clearer and cleaner.

At 12 o’clock is the oversized date display that is synonymous with Lange. Unusually the date discs are black, matching the colour of the dial. Typically Lange uses white date discs.

The left sub-dial shows the constant seconds and day, while a semi-circular aperture is a day and night indicator showing white for daytime and blue for night. At three o’clock are the elapsed minutes and months, while the leap year is in an aperture. The moon phase display remains at six o’clock, and is still uncomfortably small when compared to everything else on the dial.

Elegantly discreet is the power reserve indicator at 11 o’clock, show inside a narrow window that is white when fully wound, and gradually turns red as the mainspring winds down. It is easy to read, but not obvious, being visible when needed.

Auf means “up’ and ab, “down”

A complex character 

From the back the view is familiar, being similar to that of the Datograph. Though it is similar, it is substantially different. Significant reengineering was required to accommodate the tourbillon. That’s most obvious in the bridges of the chronograph, which are clearly different from that on the Datograph.

Despite being different the movement still boasts the key attraction of the Datograph movement, richly coloured, layered and three-dimensional. All the parts of the movement have a lavish shine, typical of the exemplary finishing of Lange.

The tourbillon is large, with a cage that is identical to that on other Lange tourbillons, a design that was first used on the first Lange tourbillon wristwatch, the Tourbillon Pour le Merite. It’s based on a tourbillon invented by Alfred Helwig, a notable Glashütte watchmaker of the early 20th century. And it also has a hack mechanism, meaning it stops rotating when the crown is pulled for precise time setting, the same feature found on several Lange tourbillons, like the 1815 Tourbillon.

The tourbillon bridge is steel and triangular in shape, with a correct black polished finish top and bevelled edges. And like many other Lange tourbillons, the endstone is a diamond, explaining the white gem at the tip of the tourbillon bridge.

The base of the tourbillon bridge is hand-engraved, a variation on the Lange signature of an engraved balance cock.

Unsurprisingly, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is a large watch, with a diameter of 41.5 mm and standing 14.6 mm high – making it larger than the Datograph and Datograph Perpetual. That is not extraordinarily large by modern standards, but the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon feels dense on the wrist. The fact that the case is platinum adds to the feeling of size and weight.

Price and value

The Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is eminently and proudly traditional in its construction, so it will appeal to those who appreciate undiluted old school watchmaking. But there’s a nagging feeling there isn’t enough inside that is novel. Limited to 100 pieces in platinum, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is priced at €295,000 including 19 percent value-added tax. That means the tax-free retail is €248,000 – an enormous sum of money.

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