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Watch Review

The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date

Paul Altieri

About 45 minutes south of Dresden, nestled in the Ore Mountains just 12 miles from the border of the Czech Republic, the town of Glashütte stands. With a name whose meaning points to glass manufacturing having taken place in the region at some point, and a known history of silver mining, Glashütte is a town has survived and prospered thanks to its ability to reinvent itself. Since 1845, it has been the German capital of watchmaking and produces some of the finest luxury watches in the world. And that’s all thanks to the vision of one great man: Ferdinand Adolph Lange.

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A. Lange & Söhne and German Watchmaking

A Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk
The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date (Image: A. Lange & Söhne).

When he arrived in Glashütte, Lange found a town in decline. An injection of industry and optimism was needed. Having spent time training in Switzerland, the native German Lange returned with ambitions of revolutionizing watchmaking.

Lange set about designing the ‘optimal’ architecture for a watch. In order to increase the movement’s stability with a view to reduce friction and thus improve accuracy while simultaneously reducing wear and tear, Lange settled upon the use of ¾ plate that covers the vast majority of the mechanism.

A Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk
Like other German manufacturers, the Zeitwerk Date uses a movement with a 3/4 plate construction (Image: A. Lange & Söhne).

Zeitwerk Date Movement: The Best from A. Lange & Söhne

The ¾ plate has seen many shapes and styles over the years, but has remained an ever-present element of German caliber construction. Few brands can hold a candle to A. Lange & Söhne when it comes to movement aesthetics, and the style of German watchmaking married with the use of German silver makes for an absolutely delightful result. In the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date, the brand employs the services of the L043.8 caliber.

The L043.8 boasts a constant-force escapement that provides the balance with a homogenized stream of power throughout its extended 72-hour power reserve, as well as delivering an impulse once every minute to advance the display. That 72-hour power reserve is a huge step-up in functionality, doubling the previous reserve of 36-hours.

A Lange Sohne Zeitwerk Date Movement
Like other A. Lange & Söhne movements, the Caliber L043.8 is impeccably finished (Image: A. Lange & Söhne).

Of course, winding a Lange movement is a real pleasure, but reducing that daily necessity is certainly a significant upgrade. It is a pity that the handsome power reserve indicator beneath the 12 o’clock position will get less ‘practical’ use, but it is still an excellently proportioned and attractive addition to an otherwise pared-back dial.

And besides, if you miss interacting with the 516-component movement, there’s nothing to stop you slipping the watch off your wrist and admiring its splendor through the sapphire glass display back. And should you be lucky enough to cross time zones, the hour wheel and date can be advanced simply, by actuating the pushers at four and eight o’clock, respectively. The advance mechanism relies on spring-powered tension to fire the hour or date wheel forward by one increment. As a result, you literally can’t change either halfway. There should be no danger of either the hour or date getting stuck in transit: It will either change, or it won’t.

The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date model is the latest update to the already popular Zeitwerk range. Known for the large, digital display that dominates the watch face, the Zeitwerk family is perhaps the most contemporarily styled in the A. Lange & Söhne catalogue.

A Lange and Sohne Zeitwerk
The Zeitwerk Date displays its calendar around the perimeter of the dial, with the current date appearing in red (Image: A. Lange & Söhne).

The Zeitwerk’s Innovative Date Display

To freshen up an already fresh design, A. Lange & Söhne have decided to follow in the footsteps of fellow Glashütte brand, NOMOS, by adding a ‘satellitic’ date.

The NOMOS Glashütte Tangente neomatik 41 UpDate debuted at Baselworld 2018 to great acclaim. The simple premise used by NOMOS was to print the days of the month on the dial and for them to be ‘activated’ when flanked by two red dashes shown through apertures that interspersed the numerals. It was a simple idea executed ingeniously to give the appearance of complexity when nothing could be further from the truth.

We are conditioned in watchmaking to see the date change in a single location. Because we only ever see the date through the a window, our minds are able to conveniently ‘forget’ that there is an entire ring beneath the surface that moves every single day.

A Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk Date
While this method of displaying the date may seem complex, it is actually mechanically somewhat simple to accomplish (Image: A. Lange & Söhne).

The current trend making the rounds in Glashütte is a lot simpler than it appears. All the manufacturer has to do is to swap the numbers on the date wheel for a solid red block that takes up one day’s worth of real estate.

In the case of the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date, the red block moves beneath a glass chapter ring. The underside of the glass is printed grey, with the days of the month left uncoated, revealing the date wheel beneath them. The red block ‘activates’ whichever day it is sitting directly beneath, turning it red and adding an instant flash of visual interest to the dial.

A Lange & Sohne Zeitwerk
A pairing of a 3/4 plate design and the use of German silver makes for a very German movement (Image: A. Lange & Söhne).

To accommodate this new function, the case of the newest Zeitwerk is the beefiest family member so far. The size has jumped up to 44.2mm, which sounds awfully large for a watch of this style. That said, it wears very comfortably. The stoutish lugs and their ergonomic curvature hold the watch head close to the wrist. As a result, the watch retains its elegance despite its increased heft. This watch is 12.3mm thick on the wrist, but the diameter keeps it from standing up too much.

A Lange Sohne Zeitwerk Date German Silver
The Caliber L043.8 has a constant-force escapement that provides the balance with a homogenized stream of power throughout its 72-hour reserve (Image: A. Lange & Söhne).

Final Thoughts on A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date

In conclusion, this is one of my favorite watches of 2019 so far. I am a firm proponent of the German style, and believe A. Lange & Söhne produce some of the country’s finest wares. I was already a fan of the Zeitwerk collection, as I was the new date display from NOMOS Glashütte. It’s cool to see Lange’s take on it. It is an interpretation I commend and find to be an even more elegant way of presenting the date.

Priced at €89,000 (at the time of writing)the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Date doesn’t exactly fall into the ‘impulse buy’ category, but if you do have that kind of change kicking around, you might want to consider it. The Lange has the looks, the credentials, and even the investment angle to separate you from your cash.

I can but dream, but dream I will. Because in my opinion, they don’t get much better than this.

Paul Altieri
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