Up Close: A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Thin Honeygold “Homage to F.A. Lange”

Executed perfectly and priced right.

Unveiled earlier in the year to mark the 175th anniversary of the founding of A. Lange & Söhne, the 1815 Thin Honeygold “Homage to F.A. Lange” is one of a three-piece set created for the occasion, along with the Tourbograph Perpetual and 1815 Rattrapante.

The 1815 Thin is a simple watch done well. Like the rest of the anniversary editions, the 1815 Thin has a Honeygold case, and more unusually, an enamel dial, a feature that’s rarely found on entry-level Lange watches. And for those reasons, the 1815 Thin is surprisingly good value, despite being a pricey timepiece.

Initial thoughts

Though it costs a substantial amount of money, the 1815 Thin is actually strong value. To start with, it’s an A. Lange & Söhne – which means sterling quality – and also a limited edition, with the case in an unusual metal, plus a dial in fired enamel.

Though it’s the largest run in the anniversary line up, the 1815 Thin is a limited edition of just 175 pieces. And though Lange has made several limited editions in Honeygold – which costs substantially more than ordinary gold to machine – the cumulative number of watches in the metal is fairly small, at just over 1,000.

The 175th Anniversary “Homage to F.A. Lange” trio in Honeygold – (from left) 1815 Thin, Tourbograph Perpetual, and 1815 Rattrapante

Enamel dials are also uncommon for Lange, and decidedly rare in a time-only watch. The last time Lange offered a time-only watch with an enamel dial was 19 years ago with the Langematik Anniversary. All recent watches with enamel dials are complicated and expensive – like the 1815 Tourbillon or one-off Homage to Walter Lange in steel – or extremely complicated and extremely expensive.

Beyond its intrinsic features, the watch also looks good on the wrist. At 38 mm it is sized just right, unlike its bigger counterpart that feels a bit too wide relative to the thinness of the case. And though the dial is a stark white expanse, it looks interesting enough thanks to the contrast between the colours of the case and dial.

One weakness of the watch is a philosophical one – ultra-thin watches are not quintessentially Lange, a brand better known for its complicated and heavily engineered watches. And by the same token, the movement, while finely finished and attractive – replete with details like the polished teeth of the exposed wheels – is straightforward and not particularly interesting.

More broadly, the concept of the 175th anniversary editions make sense, since 175 years is an anniversary that makes sense to celebrate. The 165th anniversary of a decade ago was a peculiar milestone to commemorate, and perhaps driven by the need for a hit product in an economically-difficult period, coming just after the financial crisis of 2008.

In summary, for the US$35,000 or so retail price, the 1815 Thin is a compelling buy.

Honey and enamel

First used a decade ago in the 165th Anniversary Homage to F.A. Lange set, Honeygold is a gold alloy that’s a visually a cross between yellow and rose gold. It has an unusual colour that’s a little more muted than ordinary gold alloys, while also having a magenta tinge under certain light.

Beyond its colour, the metal also has useful physical properties. According to Lange, Honeygold is created by alloying gold with silicon, along with other metals, which also results in increased hardness. That in turn renders Honeygold cases far more costly to fabricate. Lange development chief Anthony de Haas once explained to me that the drill bits used to mill Honeygold cases wear out at the same rate as those used for platinum cases, explaining the price premium relative to yellow gold.

The metal’s appeal also lies in its uncommon nature. Exclusive to Lange in watchmaking – the alloy is presumably supplied by a specialist that sells it to firms in other industries – Honeygold has only been used for the cases of 1,325 Lange watches, an exceedingly small number over a decade.

Material aside, the case is traditionally Lange in style. It features a brushed case band against a polished bezel and lugs, along with details that refine the look, namely the chamfered edges of the lugs as well as the small step at the base of the bezel.

Notably, the back is secured with screws, a more robust set up that’s the norm for all Lange cases, instead of the snap-on back that is typical for ultra-thin watches since it helps reduce the minimum case thickness.

The dial of the watch is a bright white enamel that’s done well, with a smooth, glossy surface and neat printing. Admittedly the dial isn’t extraordinary, but the quality is excellent.

Ultra-thin

Recognisable as a Lange movement, the L093.1 is nonetheless different from the typical calibre. It’s been decorated in a style unique to the 175th Anniversary watches.

Two elements set it apart in an obvious manner – the frosted finish on the three-quarter plate, instead of the usual striping, as well as the grey-lacquer filling of the engraving on the plate as well as balance cock. The result is a look that’s slightly more muted than the average Lange movement – and more evocative of 19th German century pocket watches – but still as refined, especially in its details.

All of the engraving on the movement is filled with dark grey lacquer

The engraving on the balance cock is similarly filled, though the colour is less obvious due to the rhodium plating

Just below the balance wheel sits the bridge for the pallet lever, which is narrow but finished well

Though the movement is simple, everything is properly decorated. The border between the frosted top of the three-quarter plate and its polished bevels is particularly fine, and interrupted only by the black-polished cap for the escape wheel jewel. A handful of other details stand out, including the jewels for the going train, all of which are in screwed gold chatons, as well as the finely-shaped regulator index.

But movement nerds will note the most unusual detail – the exposed crown and barrel ratchet wheels. Hidden under the three-quarter plate in nearly all other Lange movements, the two wheels are visible due to the slimness of the movement, which dictates a construction that reveals the two wheels.

While unusual for Lange, the two exposed wheels bring the advantage of being able to admire two well-finished components that are ordinarily hidden. Both the winding click and click spring are black polished, while the wheels are circular grained while also having bevelled, polished teeth.

The two wheels are also finished differently here as compared to the standard version of the L093.1, which has its wheels finished with radial graining. The circular graining on the anniversary version of the movement is arguably more appealing visually, as it renders the finishing on the teeth more obvious.

Concluding thoughts

The 1815 Thin is an extremely simple watch, but one that is executed well and expensively, both in terms of materials and finish. Despite that, it is priced well. It’s not quite affordable, but is certainly accessible for a Lange, and one of the best values in terms of high-end, time-only watches for the year.


Key facts and price

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Thin Honeygold “Homage to F.A. Lange”
Ref. 239.050

Diameter: 38 mm
Height: 6.3 mm
Material: 18k Honeygold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: L093.1
Functions: Hours and minutes
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wind
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Leather with 18k Honeygold pin buckle

Limited edition: 175 pieces
Availability:
At boutiques and retailers
Price: US$34,400; or €32,200 including 19% German VAT

For more, visit Alange-soehne.com.


Correction December 24, 2020: The L093.1 movement is entirely in house and does not  share components with other movements as stated in an earlier version of the article. 

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Insight: Marco Lang Introduces the Zweigesicht-1

Impressive quality and novel features explained.

Marco Lang is now an independent watchmaker in the literal sense, having left Lang & Heyne last year. He’s set up a one-man workshop in his hometown of Dresden, and has just announced the first watch of his newly-established eponymous brand – Marco Lang

Mr Lang’s first creation is the Zweigesicht-1, a highly-finished, time-only wristwatch with a few novel twists. Zwei gesicht is a literal description of the watch, translating as “two face” – the watch has the time display on both sides, with easily removable lugs that allow it to be worn on either side.

The Zweigesicht-1 worn movement side up

Initial thoughts

As a watchmaker known for a devotion to old-school quality, Mr Lang’s second act promised to be noteworthy. The Zweigesicht-1 appears to live up to expectations, being a simple watch executed in an elaborate manner and finished by hand to a high standard.

Harsh sounding to non-German speakers, the Zweigesicht-1 is ironically intricately constructed and finished. But unlike his earlier work that was modelled on pocket watch movements, the Caliber ml-01 looks modern and original, while still incorporating finely-shaped components as well as gears made of solid, 14k gold.

The contrast of the steel bridges against the rose gold-plated base plate is jarring – especially with the aggressively pointed bridges with border outlines – but there’s not mistaking the quality, even in images, because Mr Lang knows what he’s doing.

The chapter ring for the time display on the movement side is solid silver and filled with translucent blue vitreous enamel

Though the case and dial design are clearly reminiscent of his later work at Lang & Heyne – an inevitability given the authorship – the style has been modernised. The dial especially is cleaner and more modern, avoid the weight, pocket-watch aesthetic that was a defining trait of Lang & Heyne design, but also a shortcoming, depending on your taste.

Beyond the updated styling and impressive new calibre, the Zweigesicht-1 is equipped with removable lugs that allow it to be worn on either side. Removing and reattaching the lugs is a straightforward affair, but nonetheless requires a deft hand due to the size of the captive screws that release the lugs. While the concept is a good idea in theory – and something a a skilled watchmaker like Mr Lang can do with his eyes closed – buyers of the watch might find it fiddly.

Marco Lang

Teutonic looks

The Zweigesicht-1 has a simple dial on the front that’s made up of three parts, with a recessed centre finished with clous de Paris, or hobnail, guilloche.

Both the Marco Lang logo and five-minute markers are applied, while the hands are either solid rose gold or blued steel, depending on the case metal. Though simple in shape – they are essentially batons with gently pointed tips – the hands are solidly constructed but delicately finished – subtly facetted lengthwise and polished by hand.

The dial on the reverse is far more intricate. All of the movement is reveal, with the bridges arranged vertically and symmetrically and the time on a sub-dial at six o’clock. Made of silver and filled with translucent blue grand feu enamel, the chapter ring for the time is matched with blued-steel cathedral style hands.

Movement features

The distinctive look of the movement is a result of its architecture that logically flows upwards. Both the barrels sit under the time display, anchored by a large bridge. The bridge that spans the centre of the movement holds the wheels of the gear train, with the crown wheel for winding the barrels – and a delicately-shaped click spring – positioned just beside the crown.

And at 12 o’clock sits the balance bridge, with the four-armed, adjustable mass balance wheel just below, attached to a Breguet overcoil hairspring. And in a nod to traditional watchmaking, the end stone for the balance staff is a diamond, as was often found in top-of-the-line German pocket watches of the 19th century.

The balance bridge with its diamond end stone

The crown wheel (extreme right), with one of the barrels just below

Though traditional in many aspects, the movement does incorporate a new complication: a shock recorder. Located at nine o’clock, the records and indicates the most recent shocks – one in each direction for a total of four – experienced by the movement.

Built with extraordinarily fine steel components, the shock recorder relies on a cylindrical weight that’s displaced when the movement is subject to shock.

The pointers that indicate the impact on each axis and direction

The motion of the weight shifts either one or both of two steel forks, which in turn move the four blued steel hands along the scale, indicating the magnitude of the shock as well as the direction (either positive or negative on the X or Y axes).

The hands move in a unidirectional manner on the scale, and are held in place by fine locking teeth on the scale. A maximum of four impacts can be recorded – one in each direction on each axis. And a recessed pusher on the case band resets the hands to zero simultaneously, allowing for a new measurement.

The cylindrical weight (in red) with the two forks that drive the hands

The calibration of the shock indicator is still a work in progress according to Mr Lang, who is currently wearing the prototype of the Zweigesicht-1 and refining the indicator. He is working to strike a balance between having a sensible threshold for minimum impact such that the indicators can be observed to move, while also not recording the most minimal of forces.

Importantly, the Zweigesicht-1 can be ordered without the shock recorder, which is interesting and surprisingly complicated, but not a must-have. In its place will be a plate with an engraving as well as savings of an appealing €6,000.

Removable lugs

While the movement is the technical and artisanal highlight of the watch, its double-faced nature is novel. According to Mr Lang, perfecting the reversibility of the case was one of the crucial steps in the development of the Zweigesicht-1.

“It was important to me during the construction that you shouldn’t see that the watch can be rotated, so the crown should stay in the same place, and the case should not become more massive or mechanically more vulnerable,” explains Mr Lang, “[At the same time] the wearing comfort remains the same on both sides thanks to the symmetrical construction.”

Both sides of the case middle are identical, meaning that the case back and bezel are mirror images of each other. And the lugs are essentially U-shaped frames that attach to each side of the case middle via fixed posts.

Reversing the watch is a simple affair: each lugs has a captive screw on its underside with a red dot on one half of the screw head. Rotating the head such that the red dot points to the outer side of the lug releases the lugs from the case middle. Both lugs are then reattached in the other direction, and secured by rotating the fixed screw back to its locked position.

The Zweigesicht-1 is delivered with a small screwdriver and loupe for performing the reversing of the lugs.


Key Facts and Price

Marco Lang Zweigesicht-1

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 9.5 mm (without sapphire crystal)
Material: Steel, 18k rose gold, or platinum
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: Caliber ml-01
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, shock indicator, and double-faced time indication
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand wind
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Alligator with shark lining

Limited edition: 18 watches
Availability:
 Direct from Marco Lang, with production of only four to five watches a year
Price:
With shock indicator – steel €57,000; rose gold €65,000; and platinum €68,000
Without shock indicator – steel €51,500; rose gold €59,500; and platinum €62,500

Prices exclude taxes

For more, visit Marcolangwatches.com.


 

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