Having seen covered the best of independent watchmaking as well as notable complications and artisanal timepieces in Phillips’ upcoming Hong Kong Watch Auction: XVI, we turn to highlights from one brand: A. Lange & Söhne. Long a brand somewhat under the radar and appreciated only by enthusiasts, Lange started to pick up in desirability over the last three years, resulting in record prices at auction for rare or sought-after models.
Consequently, Lange offerings at auctions in general have risen in quantity – but also quality with more and more unusual timepieces coming to market. The Phillips catalogue includes 16 Lange wristwatches and we pick out some of the best, including the 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst to an unusual Little Lange 1 Soirée with a bezel set with pink sapphires.
Registration for bidding and the catalogue can be found here.
Now discontinued in favour of the updated version, the original Zeitwerk is arguably one of Lange’s most important watches. It remains one of the few digital-display watches even over a decade after its launch in 2009 – and is probably the most mechanically robust and reliable.
This example is in white gold with a black dial, a high-contrast combination that made it the bestselling iteration of the first-generation models. It was the only version with a dark-colour dial; the other versions, namely yellow gold, pink gold, and platinum, had silver dials.
The Zeitwerk’s digital display on three large discs – one for the hours and two for the minutes. The minute discs in particular require enormous amounts of energy since one of the discs jumps every minute, and both discs jump every ten minutes.
The secret to the digital display is a constant force mechanism. Also known as a remontoir, the mechanism is a secondary power source that charges and unwinds every minute, providing the impulse that drives the minutes disc while ensuring that energy supplied to the balance wheel is uninterrupted, thus preserving good timekeeping.
Over on the reserve, the L043.1 is visible through the sapphire back. The constant force mechanism is visible under the anchor-shaped steel bridge (which has a peculiar kinked form, something that has been corrected in the second generation). Because of the huge power requirements of the compilation, the movement has a short power reserve of 36 hours, although the second generation Zeitwerk doubles that.
This example dates to 2009 and shows obvious signs of wear, so a service might be in order. It includes the original box and guarantee booklet. The estimate is HK$235,000-470,000, or US$30,100-60,300.
For more, visit the catalogue entry.
While it has seen been surpassed in terms of complexity by the Triple Split, the Double Split remains a milestone for Lange. At its launch in 2004, it was the first chronograph able to record twin elapsed times of up to 30 minutes each – making it a double rattrapante chronograph.
The Double Split made its debut in platinum and was subsequently followed by a pink gold model, along with several limited editions. This was the first limited edition Double Split, a run of just five pieces made for Sincere, the Singaporean retailer that was one of the first to carry Lange anywhere in the world.
Made to commemorate Sincere’s 50th anniversary, this Double Split has an all-black dial along with a red power reserve hand. The dial was actually developed as a prototype before the launch of the model, but discarded in favour of the black-and-silver dial found on the regular production models. Five dials, however, were installed in watches for the Sincere edition, which is numbered on the case band below the split-seconds button.
The rest of the watch is identical to the standard model, which means the L001.1 inside. It’s a hand-wound movement with 465 components and constructed in the usual Lange style, which means beautiful aesthetics and exceptional finishing.
Numbered as “1/5”, this example is in a like-new condition and includes all its original accessories. It has an estimate of HK$500,000-1.0 million, or US$64,100-128,000.
For more, visit the catalogue entry.
One of the stars of the sale – and the most valuable Lange in the sale – is the 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst. A limited edition of just 30 watches, it was launched in 2015 for the 200th anniversary of Ferdinand-Adolph Lange’s birth. Like other watches in the Handwerkskunst range – the word translates as “craftsmanship” – the 1815 Tourbillon sports artisanal decoration on the front and back.
The dial is a solid gold disc that’s hand-engraved with tremblage, a granular finish that is a recurring theme throughout the Handwerkskunst range. The movement, on the other hand, is finished with fine frosting on its three-quarter plate, which features the addition of an open-worked section to reveal the barrel.
Both the open-working and reshaped outline of the plate provide the opportunity for additional hand finishing in the form of inward angles along the bevelled edges. And to maintain the theme of craftsmanship, all the markings on the movement and case back are hand-engraved.
Despite being the “simplest” Lange tourbillon, the 1815 Tourbillon has a surprisingly complex movement. The L.201.1 incorporates a hacking, zero-reset function for the tourbillon: pulling the crown to set the time halts the tourbillon carriage and balance wheel while sending the seconds hand back to 12 o’clock, allowing for precise time synchronisation.
Numbered “23/30”, the present example is in pristine condition and includes all of its original accessories. It has an estimate of HKD1.0-2.5 million, or US$128,000-321,000.
For more, visit the catalogue entry.
Part of the trilogy to mark the 165th year since the birth of Ferdinand-Adolph Lange, this is the Lange 1 Tourbillon in Honey Gold (the other watches in the series were an 1815 Moon Phase and Tourbograph). Like the other watches in the Homage to F.A. Lange trilogy, this Lange 1 Tourbillon is a reissue of sorts since it was essentially a new and improved version of the original Lange 1 Tourbillon.
Amongst the key differences between this and the earlier versions of the Lange 1 Tourbillon are the case metal – Honey Gold here and platinum or pink gold before.
An alloy exclusive to Lange, Honey Gold is essentially a cross between pink and yellow gold in colour, but it enjoys greater surface hardness than either of the conventional 18k alloys. Aside from the case, Honey Gold is also used for the dial, hands, and cocks of the movement, a recurring element of the 165th anniversary trilogy.
Another feature that sets this Lange 1 Tourbillon variant apart from its predecessors is larger aperture for the tourbillon to better show off the carriage, as well as the guilloche centre for the time display, another feature unique to the trilogy.
The 165th anniversary trilogy also sports a special movement decoration inspired by 19th century Lange pocket watches, which includes a wave border on the three-quarter plate and hand-engraved italic typography.
Interestingly, the L961.2 inside this watch is quite different from the L961.1 found inside the first-generation Lange 1 Tourbillon. The L961.2 incorporates a hacking mechanism for the tourbillon, so pulling the crown to set the time stops the tourbillon, balance wheel, as well as seconds hand.
The example on offer is numbered “003/150” and includes all the original packaging. It has an estimate of HK$800,000-1.0 million, or US$103,000-205,000. Find out more in the catalogue.
Diminutive in size but still distinctly Lange in style, the Little Lange 1 is just 36 mm in diameter but retains exactly the same dial and movement as its larger sibling, with only the case being smaller. Originally conceived as a smaller men’s watch, the Little Lange 1 quickly evolved into a ladies’ watch. This example is perhaps one of the most elaborate variants of the Little Lange 1 known.
Being a Soirée model, it has a mother-of-pearl dial with a slightly pinkish hue. What makes it special are the 48 baguette-cut pink sapphires on the bezel, because gem-set cases or bezels are unusual for Lange, even for its ladies’ watches. Coloured gemstones are every rarer for the brand. According to Phillips, only five of these watches are known.
Inside is the L901.4 hand-wound movement shared with other versions of the Lange 1. Being one of the first movements developed by the brand, the L901.4 is classic Lange in style and decoration.
This Little Lange 1 Soirée is only accompanied by only an archive extract and has an estimate of HK$400,000-650,000, or US$51,300-83,300. Find out more in the catalogue.
Shortly after the passing of Walter Lange, the last direct descent of F.A. Lange and a key player in the brand’s revival, Lange unveiled the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange”.
Inspired by a novel complication found in vintage Lange pocket watches, the Homage to Walter Lange has twin seconds hands. One is a conventional seconds register at six o’clock, while the other is a central deadbeat seconds driven by a secondary train that can be started and stopped via the pusher in the case.
According to the brand, this unusual complication was a favourite of the late Walter Lange, whose grandfather Richard had invented and patented it in 1877. And of course the calibre number is L1924, a reference to Walter Lange’s birth year.
Although the complication is unique to this edition – the movement has not been reused by Lange – the style of the watch is traditional 1815. Like the rest of the 1815 line, it has a clean dial with large Arabic numerals and railway minute track, a look modelled on vintage pocket watches.
The 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange” was produced in four variations: the three colours of gold along with a unique piece in steel that was sold to benefit charity for a then-record price of CHF852,200. The example on offer is the white gold variant, of which 145. Notably, the least common version is yellow gold, which was limited to just 27 watches.
This example is “new old stock” and appears unused. It’s complete with the original packaging and accessories, and has an estimate of HK$270,000-430,000, or US$34,600-55,100. Find out more in the catalogue.
The final highlight of the Lange offerings is the perhaps the most straightforward – and probably the best value considering the complications – the Datograph Perpetual in white gold. This example in white gold has a second-generation dial that does away with the Roman numerals found on the original version. Instead it opts for batons indices all around for a cleaner, more modern look.
Like the Datograph, the Datograph Perpetual has the brand’s trademark oversized date that is perfectly legible. The rest of the calendar indications are integrated into the twin registers at three and nine. Also incorporated into the registers are a day-and-night display and leap year indicator, resulting in a calendar that can take a moment to figure out.
And like the Datograph, the best view is from the back. The L952.1 inside is visually identical to the Datograph movement, since the perpetual calendar mechanism is entirely under the dial. Three-dimensional and finely decorated, the movement is often regarded as the more appealing contemporary chronograph movement – and rightly so.
According to Phillips, this Datograph Perpetual has been consigned by the original owner and is in “like new” condition, unsurprisingly given that it was sold only in August 2022. It has an estimate of HK$275,000-550,000, or US$35,300-70,500.
For more, check out the catalogue.
Preview and auction details
All lots will be on show during the preview exhibition in the run-up to the auction. Both the auction and preview will take place at Phillips Hong Kong in the West Kowloon Cultural District.
Open daily May 18-25 from 10:00 am-7:00 pm
May 24, 2:00 pm (lots 801-938)
May 25, 11:00 am (lots 939-1070)
All times are local to Hong Kong, GMT+8.
G/F WKCDA Tower
8 Austin Road W
For the full catalogue, as well as viewing appointments and online bidding, visit Phillips.com.
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