Introducing the A. Lange & Söhne Little Lange 1 “25th Anniversary”

The third of the series.
A Lange & Sohne Little Lange 25th Anniversary FRONT

Since SIHH 2019 in January, A. Lange & Söhne has unveiled one limited edition Lange 1 each month to mark the Lange 1’s 25th anniversary. It started with the Lange 1 “25th Anniversary”, then the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase “25th Anniversary” a month later, and now the Little Lange 1.

While largely overshadowed by its bigger brother, the Little Lange 1 has been present almost since the beginning of the brand, making it well suited for a commemorative watch.

It was introduced in 1998, four years after the Lange 1, at the request of retailers in Asia who wanted a smaller version of Lange’s signature watch. The Little Lange 1 just 36.8mm, the watch is 1.7mm smaller than the full sized, 38.5mm Lange 1.

Though conceived as a men’s watch, Lange has since dedicated the series to women, more or less, offering the timepiece in brighter colours. Last year, for instance, Lange unveiled three versions with guilloche dials in grey, brown, and purple.

A Lange & Sohne Little Lange 25th Anniversary

The Little Lange 1 “25 Anniversary”, however, is a more subdued affair, dressed in the same colours as the other anniversary models. That means a silver dial and printed blue numerals.

In this guise, the anniversary Little Lange 1 resembles the originals of 1998, and more like the smaller version of a men’s watch.

A Lange & Sohne Little Lange 25th Anniversary dial close up

A Lange & Sohne Little Lange 25th Anniversary engraved balance cock

The Little Lange 1 “25th Anniversary” is fitted with the manually wound L121.1 movement launched in 2015 as the second generation Lange 1 calibre. The movement features an instantaneous jumping date display and a power reserve of 72 hours, courtesy of the twin mainsprings.

Like the other anniversary watches, the engraving on the balance cock is filled with dark blue lacquer, and also includes a “25” that replicates Lange’s oversized date display.

A Lange & Sohne Little Lange 25th Anniversary SIDE

With ten 25th anniversary editions planned – one a month from January to October, when the actual anniversary date occurs – there are another seven more limited editions to go, each announced on the 25th of the month. All 10 anniversary watches will be sold as a set – only 25 sets will be made – but each watch has its own retail price, making it possible for a retailer to split a set.

Price and Availability

The Little Lange 1 “25th Anniversary” (ref. 181.066) is limited to 25 pieces and priced at €35,500 including German VAT, or about 54,200 Singapore dollars.


Update April 16, 2019: The 10 anniversary watches will be sold as a set.

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Hands-On with the Slim d’Hermes Titane

A sporty touch for the modern dress watch.
Slim Hermes Titane watch 8

Launched in 2015, the original Slim d’Hermès is a modern dress watch – slim, clean, and lightly designed – and relatively formal in style. The Slim d’Hermes Titane, added to the line at SIHH 2019, takes a different tack.

It’s light, modern, and sporty – and accented gently by Hermès’ signature orange – despite retaining the same clean design and signature custom typography by graph designer Philippe Apeloig.

Hermès injected a hint of sportiness with colour, material and construction. The use of subtle details that combine to create something quite different, but nevertheless restrained, is typical of Hermès.

Slim Hermes Titane watch 1

Though the material is new, the case size is exactly the same, 39.5mm in diameter. Already a thin watch with a case 9.06mm high, the use of titanium makes the Slim d’Hermes Titane lighter than its steel or precious metal counterparts. It feels lightweight and elegant on the wrist.

Slim Hermes Titane watch 4

The case is simple, but it cleverly employs starkly contrasting surface finishing for an unusual and appealing effect.

The bezel is finished with circular brushing (with the graining perpendicular to the radial brushing on the dial), while the lugs and case band have a granular, frosted surface.

It makes for stark contrast between the two components, despite the material being identical. And it further helps frame the dial, and leaving the lugs to recede into the background.

Slim Hermes Titane watch 5

In a first for the Slim d’Hermès, the dial relies on a “sandwich” construction. It’s a multi-level affair made up of three pieces – an anthracite dial plate printed with SuperLuminova numerals; a chapter ring open-worked for the hour numerals, further enhancing the stencil-like font; and the recessed small seconds.

Slim Hermes Titane watch 6

Slim Hermes Titane watch 7

The constituent parts of the dial. Photo – Hermes

Like the case, the dial relies on contrasting surface finishes: sandblasted seconds counter, concentric azurage on the dial centre, and sunburst brushing on the chapter ring.

Slim Hermes Titane watch 9

Powering the watch is the H1950, essentially a VMF5401 automatic by Vaucher that’s been customised for Hermès, which owns a quarter stake in the movement maker (which is in turn majority owned by the charity that also owns Parmigiani Fleurier).

Slim Hermes Titane watch 3

The ultra-slim movement, just 2.6mm high, utilises a micro-rotor and has a power reserve of just 42 hours. Like all of Hermès’ other “manufacture” movements, it’s finished with a stamped, repeating “H” on all the bridges and rotor.

Slim Hermes Titane watch 2

Concluding thoughts

While the watch sits snugly and flat on the wrist, the expansive dial gives it wrist presence. And like Bulgari’s ultra-thin Octo Finissimo, the watch can be as a dress watch because of its dimensions, but at the same time the look is modern and casual.

It costs only slightly more than the basic Slim d’Hermès in steel, making it a relatively compelling buy, since the basic model can look a bit plain.

Pricing and availability

The Slim d’Hermès Titane is priced at US$8,050, or 7,100 Swiss francs.


 

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Why I Changed My Mind About the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02

The Micro Artist Studio one ups itself.
Grand Seiko Elegance 20th Anniversary Spring Drive SBGZ001 7

When I first got word of the recently launched, top of the line Grand Seiko Elegance Collection, specifically the Spring Drive 20th anniversary models SBGZ001 and SBGZ003,I was slightly disappointed.

Not because of anything intrinsic to the two watches, both powered by the new 9R02 movement, but because both are new products from the venerable Micro Artist Studio.

Two more models, in addition to the striking watches, Eichi II, and Grand Seiko 8 Days that are already in the catalogues, instinctively felt like too much for the tiny artisanal workshop, diluting the refined provenance.

But I was wrong. The new 9R02 movement is a masterful calibre, and a striking improvement over the movement it is based on, in terms of construction, decoration and design. It’s likely the best-finished movement to emerge from the Micro Artist Studio.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 1

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 9

Although the 9R02 was the flagship launch at Baselworld, and rightly so, there was only a single example of the movement inside a watch at Seiko’s stand. All the prototype watches shown contained only paper facsimiles of the movement.

But I absolutely had to see the watch and thanks to the heroic efforts of the intrepid Ms Naruse of Seiko I got my hands on the one specimen available.

(The additions to the Grand Seiko Elegance Collection, also known as the “thin dress series”, actually consists of four models, but only the two models in platinum feature the 9R02, which is the movement a serious watch geek should know. The other two watches in the collection, in gold and steel respectively, and both powered by the 9R31 movement, will be covered later in the year.)

The boring technical bit

The 9R02 is derived from the 7R14 movement found in the Credor Eichi II, explaining the obvious similarity in layout and features.

But having been conceived to mark the 20thanniversary of Spring Drive, Seiko’s proprietary mechanical movement with an electronically controlled regulator, the 9R02 has been upgraded substantially, most notably with a longer power reserve of 84 hours, compared to just 60 in the 7R14 of the Eichi II.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 2

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 8

That was accomplished with two features. One is the pair of stacked mainsprings within a single barrel, both operating in parallel. Compared to a similar Spring Drive movement with a standard mainspring, the twin stacked springs lengthen the power reserve by about 50%.

The other is an improved Torque Return System, originally devised for the Credor Eichi I. Essentially a recycling mechanism for the energy that powers the watch, the system uses excess energy from the mainspring to rewind itself, giving the watch an extra 14 hours or so of power reserve.

Grand Seiko Elegance 20th Anniversary Spring Drive SBGZ001 6

According to Seiko, about a third of the energy output from the fully wound mainspring is excess, meaning the watch can operate perfectly on just 70% of the energy.

The extra energy is instead recycled into rewinding the mainspring and thus extending the power reserve. The Torque Return System operates for the first 48 hours of the power reserve, after which the energy in the mainspring falls to a level where there is no more excess.

And artisanal finishing

The finishing of the 9R02 has been significantly improved over that in the Eichi II. Given that the 7R14 in the Eichi II is already a remarkably well-finished watch, one of the best in current production in fact, that is quite a remarkable achievement.

The most obvious improvement is a decorative flourish of the sort used by the very best watchmakers just to show off: the sharply defined and sensuously curved inward angle on the edge of the bridge, in between the two jewels for the Spring Drive glide wheel.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 7

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 4

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 3

With that the 9R02 eliminates the only weakness of the Eichi II’s 7R14 movement, its lack of a sharp, inward angle on the bevelled edges of its bridges.

Other improvements in the 9R02 are less pronounced but contribute to a slightly more elaborate looking movement. That includes broader edge bevelling on the bridges, as well as noticeably wider polished countersinks for the jewels and screws.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 5

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 10

A new addition I do not particularly like is the solid gold plate engraved “Micro Artist Studio” that’s screwed onto the left bridge; owners also have the options of replacing the engraving with their name or initials.

No doubt inspired by the same on Philippe Dufour’s Simplicity, the plate feels unnecessarily showy.

Other changes are purely cosmetic, most prominent being the blue lacquer filling of the engraving, replacing the gold fill on the Eichi II.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R02 movement 6

The watches

Only Elegance Collection models are equipped with the 9R02 movement. Both have the same platinum case that is compact and slim – 38.5mm in diameter and 9.5mm wide.

The case is smaller and thinner than the Eichi II that’s 39mm and 10.3mm, but because of the proportions of width relative to height the new Grand Seiko feels slightly elegant. It has short and somewhat stubby lugs, while the smaller case diameter means the thinness is less obvious.

The more elaborate of the two – actually the most elaborate time-only Seiko watch – is the SBGZ001, a 30-piece limited edition with the case and dial engraved with a “snowflake” pattern.

Meant to evoke the snow that blankets the area where the Micro Artist Studio is located, the motif is engraved on the case and dial by machine, albeit guided by hand. It is not a hammered finish, although it does resemble such a surface at a distance.

Grand Seiko Elegance 20th Anniversary Spring Drive SBGZ001

Grand Seiko Elegance 20th Anniversary Spring Drive SBGZ001 1

The SBGZ001 has its hour markers and hands executed in the typical Grand Seiko style, which means diamond-cut, razor-sharp edges and mirror-polished surfaces. But unlike ordinary Grand Seiko watches the hour markers and hands are in 14k solid white gold.

Grand Seiko Elegance 20th Anniversary Spring Drive SBGZ001 4

Grand Seiko Elegance 20th Anniversary Spring Drive SBGZ001 5

Notably the Grand Seiko logo and markings on the dial are engraved (by machine, explaining the clean edges of the engraving), a feature reserved for limited edition Grand Seiko models. And the tiny star above six o’clock is the Grand Seiko “SD” emblem, short for “special dial”.

Grand Seiko Elegance 20th Anniversary Spring Drive SBGZ001 2

The second model is the SBGZ003 that’s essentially the same as the “snowflake” limited edition, right down to the white gold hands and markers, but without the engraved decoration on the dial and case.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGZ001 SBGZ003

The SBGZ001 (left) and SBGZ003

Consequently it is significantly less expensive – by about US$18,000 in fact – and is also regular production.

That makes the SBGZ003 significantly better value than its engraved counterpart, which is special but markedly expensive.

Using another benchmark, the SBGZ003 is about US$3000 more expensive than the platinum Credor Eichi II, fair given the superior movement finish.

Price and availability

The SBGZ001 is limited to 30 watches, priced at 8m Japanese yen, or about US$73,000.

The SBGZ003 is part of the regular collection, and has a price of 6m yen, equivalent to US$55,000.

Both prices exclude taxes. The watches will be available starting July 2019.


Correction May 12, 2019: The prices in yen are 8m and 6m respectively, not 80m and 60m in an earlier version of the article.

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