A. Lange & Söhne Introduces the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold

In an alloy that shapes the acoustic quality.

Well before A. Lange & Söhne debuted the entirely classical Richard Lange Minute Repeater a year ago, the brand’s flagship striking watch was a Zeitwerk. Available in white gold or platinum before, the digital chiming watch now returns in a warmer metal as the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold.

While remaining the same mechanically, the new repeater strikes a different tone according to the brand because of the case metal, a gold alloy slightly harder than conventional gold that is exclusive to Lange.

Initial thoughts

The new Zeitwerk repeater is more appealing than its predecessors in my eyes just because I like the gold-and-grey combination. The platinum model was monochromatic while the blue dial on the white gold model felt too modern for the watch.

The movement remains exactly the same as before, which means it’s the same impressively complicated calibre that has the usual Zeitwerk features like a constant force mechanism, as well as the added complexity of an unusually constructed minute repeater with various safety mechanisms catered to the digital display.

But one aspect of the new repeater is interesting, and that’s the case metal. I’ve yet to hear the watch in person, but Lange’s product development head, Anthony de Haas, is quoted as saying the new repeater “in honey gold… sounds different to all other materials ‒ truly distinctive.” Given the significant increase in hardness of honey gold relative to ordinary 18k gold, that sounds credible.

Honeygold continued

Lange has utilised its proprietary gold alloy for a variety of limited editions that span almost the entire catalogue. Priced at around €450,000, the new Zeitwerk repeater is one of the most complex (and expensive) honey gold models to date, but perhaps the most logical use of the alloy given that the case metal will shape the acoustic outcome.

Something of a cross between yellow and rose gold, honey gold is substantially harder than conventional 18k yellow gold by about half, depending on the specific alloy. With the same density as ordinary gold but greater hardness, the honey gold case should in theory transmit sound better.

Case metal aside, the new repeater is identical to its predecessors. The case has the same dimensions of 44.2 mm by 14.1 mm, making it a large, almost chunky watch.

Inside is the L043.5, a hand-wind movement derived from the first-generation Zeitwerk calibre (explaining the short, 36-hour power reserve) but with an integrated repeating mechanism. The hammers and gongs are visible on the dial, while the governor sits on the back near to remontoir.

Because the repeater is powered by the mainspring instead of an auxiliary spring as is convention, the movement incorporates various safety mechanisms to ensure consistent timekeeping and robustness.

Amongst them is an automatic disengagement of the repeater mechanism if the power reserve falls below the 12-hour mark, which is indicated by a red dot on the power reserve display. That’s because at that point the mainspring no longer contains sufficient energy to power the repeater and movement.

Key facts and price

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold
Ref. 147.050F

Diameter: 44.2 mm
Height: 14.1 mm
Crystal: Sapphire
Material: Honeygold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: L043.5
Features: Digital hours and minutes, power reserve indicator, and decimal minute repeater
Winding: Hand-wound
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Power reserve: 36 hours

Strap: Crocodile with folding buckle

Limited edition: 30 watches
Only at A. Lange & Söhne boutiques
Price: In the region of €449,000 including taxes

For more, visit Alange-soehne.com.


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Greubel Forsey Unveils the Gimballed Tourbillon Cardan

A new swing on the inclined tourbillon.

Having teased the launch of its eighth “fundamental invention” earlier this summer, Greubel Forsey has unveiled the Tourbillon Cardan featuring a 16-second inclined tourbillon suspended by a set of cardans, otherwise known as universal joints or gimbals. And for the nerds: the tourbillon is suspended in a mechanised gimbal that makes a fixed oscillation driven by the tourbillon, rather than a free-swivelling gimbal with differential gearing.

Initial thoughts

Despite a recent focus on sport watches, the Tourbillon Cardan is a reminder that no one does oversized, over-engineered watches quite like Greubel Forsey. The Tourbillon Cardan feels like a bridge between the past and future of the brand, suggesting the Tourbillon Cardan has been in development for several years.

The dynamic and visually compelling nature of the tourbillon, the large sizing, and the traditional form of the case recall the Greubel Forsey of years past, while the minimalist aesthetic and the choice of titanium for the case material are clear hallmarks of the brand’s future trajectory.

Impressive as it is, the swivelling tourbillon is not entirely a new idea. Zenith once had a double-axis gimballed escapement in its catalogue that was more complex than the Tourbillon Cardan but suffered from so-so reliability due to that very complexity.

Greubel Forsey has approached the gimbals in a more concise manner, with the gimbals oscillating in a fixed motion that is being by the rotation of the tourbillon. This does away with the free-swivelling aspect that calls for differential gearing, so this execution appears to be far more sound in terms of functionality but also simpler.

At CHF470,000, the Tourbillon Cardan is positioned near the top of Greubel Forsey’s current collection. At this level, “value” is not the first word that comes to mind but as an expression of maximalist technical watchmaking, watches like the Tourbillon Cardan have few peers. Though not strictly a limited edition, output will be limited to 11 pieces per year over the next five years.

The 8th “fundamental invention”

Impressive both technically and aesthetically, the Tourbillon Cardan is substantial in size. It has a titanium case that measures 46 mm at the bezel, and is 18.15 mm thick including the domed sapphire crystal (the height of the case is 13.81 mm thick). 

And of course the Tourbillon Cardan is finished in the Greubel Forsey house style, which is a marriage of traditional methods and contemporary aesthetics. Though monochrome in its appearance, the movement offers a satisfying range of contrasting textures, from the hand-frosted titanium mainplate to the barrel-polished arch over the tourbillon cage; this arch alone requires 30 hours of hand finishing. 

The raison d’être of the large watch, however, is what the brand calls its eighth fundamental invention: a pair of cardans arranged at 90° that tilt backwards and forwards every 48 seconds, driven by the rotation of the tourbillon, to optimise the position of the brand’s signature 30° high-speed tourbillon.

Unlike conventional gimbals, which keep an object horizontal, the cardans oscillate between +30° and -30° and are synchronised to the position of the tourbillon. Since the upper tourbillon bridge is mobile, tilting back and forth in the cardans, it gives the Tourbillon Cardan a distinctive aesthetic that calls to mind the brand’s first fundamental invention, the Double Tourbillon 30º.

Force and finesse

With any new technical innovation in watchmaking, it’s reasonable to question the real-world benefits. In other words, do the gains in timekeeping performance make up for the additional complexity? Tourbillons, in particular, add inertia to the system, draining energy that could otherwise be allocated to a heavier or higher-frequency oscillator. With a fast-rotating cage, these effects are compounded.

The brand has overcome this challenge with both force and finesse. In terms of force, the engineers at Greubel Forsey have packed four co-axial series-coupled mainspring barrels to deliver stable energy for 80 hours. These barrels are fast-rotating, making one full turn every 2.7 hours. This reduces mainspring adhesion, resulting in smoother power delivery. As is characteristic of the brand’s movements, one barrel is equipped with a slipping mainspring to prevent accidental damage due to over-winding; a welcome safety feature.

In terms of finesse, the tourbillon cage has been slimmed down to just 0.92 grams; an impressive figure given it contains the large 12.6 mm balance wheel developed for the Signature 1. Made in-house to the brand’s own design, the proprietary balance wheel offers inertia of 18.9 mg.cm2, good for a healthy 198 microwatts of balance power. 

While we don’t yet have verified timekeeping data for the Tourbillon Cardan, the movement’s technical characteristics are very promising and suggest a capacity for outstanding real-world performance. Furthermore, Greubel Forsey takes chronometry seriously, winning the short-lived Concours de Chronométrie in 2011 with a similarly complicated watch.

Key facts and price

Greubel Forsey Tourbillon Cardan

Diameter: 46 mm
Height: 13.81 mm (18.15 mm including crystal)
Material: Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Tourbillon Cardan
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and power reserve
Winding: Manual wind
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Vegan leather with titanium folding clasp

Limited edition: No, but production is limited to 11 pieces per year
Availability: Through Greubel Forsey retailers and direct from the brand
Price: CHF470,000

For more, visit Greubel Forsey.


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