According to Revolution’s resident vintage expert Ross Povey, there is something about A. Lange & Söhne that instills a zealous following in those who covet and collect its watches. True believers also keep relatively quiet about their love for the watches, because they like their club just the way it is — exclusive. And for good reason, too. Morgan Stanley’s latest report that was created in partnership with WatchCharts has highlighted that against the backdrop of a softening market on collectible watches, Lange has bucked the trend and shown solid growth in the secondary market through the first to third quarters in 2022.
Jumping Digital Display
We love it when opposites attract, like sweet and sour or a great buddy cop movie with an irascible long-time cop paired with an excitable young recruit, so it’s no surprise that the combination of classical mechanical movement and a modern digital display in horology makes for an inspiring timepiece. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk line first launched in 2009 with its iconic jumping digital display driven by the L043.1 mechanical movement and inspired by the collaboration between Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes and Adolph Lange on the famous five- minute clock at the Semper Opera House in Dresden.
Each new model through the years has expanded the collection in innovative ways. In 2022, Lange released two new versions in platinum and pink gold with subtle updates to the display and an increase in the power reserve. Here, we’ll take a look at the different models of the Zeitwerk over the last 14 years and explore the newest variations in detail.
The Original Zeitwerk
In 2009, the concept of a mechanical watch with a digital display was an exciting concept, and the Zeitwerk delivered with a dial that featured jumping hours with a dual-disk mechanism to show the first and second numerals of the jumping minutes in two windows. The stop seconds were displayed in a secondary subdial that was balanced by a power indicator.
A. Lange & Söhne’s patented constant force escapement is the core technical element of all Zeitwerk models. Located between the barrel and the balance, it not only ensures an even transmission of power from the wound mainspring to the escapement throughout the course of its power reserve, but also plays a vital role in managing energy consumption crucial in such a watch; the use of jumping disks demands significant energy, because the three disks in the watch have to snap forward at the top of each hour, at least one of which advances each minute. A known solution is to drive each display with a separate gear train and barrel as seen in the IWC Pallweber system, but this only takes up precious space or increases the size of the watch.
Hence, a remontoir proved to be the most ideal solution. Every 60 seconds, the energy buildup in the remontoir spring is released to advance the numeral disks instantaneously. At the same time, A. Lange & Söhne developed a barrel design to power the L043.1 movement with a strong mainspring that delivers a high energy burst. The first model included a yellow gold, white gold and pink gold variation as well as a limited edition of 200 platinum pieces.
The Luminosity Effect
In 2010, A. Lange & Söhne released the Zeitwerk “Luminous” version that featured a semi-transparent sapphire crystal dial so that the jumping numeral disks could be seen in action. This also allows UV light to filter through to the numerals that were not actively displayed to charge the lumen coating for better low-light visibility and off-the-scale coolness factor.
The 2010 Zeitwerk “Luminous” was a handsome watch as well with its impressive luminosity after dark, smoky dial and rich black PVD-coated time bridge that contrasts with the polished platinum of the case. Lange only made 100 of these pieces, making it a rare and iconic collector’s item.
According to Langepedia.com, the complication and the combination of this unique use of lume on the Zeitwerk has, of course, so enamored the watch community that it’s bestowed the timepiece with the uber cool moniker, “Phantom.”
In 2021, A. Lange & Söhne released a limited edition of 200 Zeitwerk Honey Gold “Lumen” that combined the visual interest of the semi- transparent dial and bright lumen display in a warm colored case made from the brand’s proprietary Honey Gold.
Zeitwerk Honey Gold “Lumen” also ushered the second generation of the Zeitwerk movement with caliber L043.9. It maintains the Zeitwerk’s instant minute and hour displays, all of which are kept in line thanks to the incredible patented constant force escapement that was created to manage the immense energy and its dissipation required by the Zeitwerk. The L043.9 now also incorporates a pusher at four o’clock for quick setting of the hour display (first introduced in the Zeitwerk Date). This is achieved by a clutch mechanism that uncouples the hour ring from the jumping numerals mechanism each time the pusher is depressed, and advances it when the pusher is released. The new movement also boasts 72 hours of power reserve, up from 36 hours in the basic Zeitwerk’s L043.1 movement.
The Sound of Time
The Zeitwerk Striking Time, introduced in 2011, featured A. Lange & Söhne’s first attempt at an acoustic indication of time. A striking mechanism is visible on the dial side and is designed to chime at the hours and the quarter-hours. The black polished hammers are elevated with each jump of the numbers until the driving springs are fully wound and released to strike one of two gongs. The quarter-hour is indicated with a higher pitched tone and each hour rings with a lower pitched sound. This version was developed with a white gold case and a limited edition of 100 platinum case pieces. In 2014, Lange released a pink gold variation as well for a robust lineup of these unique watches.
Work of Art
Limited to only 30 pieces, the 2012 release of the Zeitwerk Handwerkskunst edition gave us a beautifully decorated timepiece full of incredible detail. The dial featured a tremblage engraving in black rhodiumed white gold with relief engravings of the A. Lange & Söhne logo and power reserve indicator inscription.
The three-quarter plate was made of untreated German silver and featured hand engraved lettering. Artists decorated the balance and escape wheel cocks with free-hand relief engraving and the upper side of the bridge was embellished with black polishing.
The creation of these time intensive pieces resulted in a rare watch that was as beautiful as it was complex.
Ringing in the Minutes
Expanding its acoustic capabilities, A. Lange & Söhne released the platinum and silver Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in 2015. The design team worked to create a case and movement that put the harmonious sound quality at the forefront. The chiming feature is activated with the press of a button and emits a low-pitched tone for the hour, a double tone for each 10 minutes and a high-pitched tone for each minute, aligned cleverly to the triple disk architecture of the jumping hours and minutes.
In 2020, Lange created a limited edition model with a white gold case, and a solid silver and deep blue dial. They made only 30 of these extraordinary timepieces.
The Song of Decimals
In 2017, A. Lange & Söhne continued its acoustic watch theme and upped the ante with the Zeitwerk Decimal Strike. Two differently tuned gongs indicate the full hours and the 10-minute intervals with two hammers of polished steel. The hammers and hammer bridge are decorated with a lovely tremblage engraving. Encased in the Lange exclusive Honey Gold with a solid silver dial, the Zeitwerk Decimal Strike was a limited edition of 100 pieces.
Red Letter Day
2019 brought a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Zeitwerk line and A. Lange & Söhne gave us an impressive new addition. The Zeitwerk Date introduced a unique date display that circled the dial with the days of the month and highlighted the current date in red. This red indicator is a small segment of color that travels around a ring under the dial and jumps to the next date at the stroke of midnight.
The neutral gray and silver of the dial with the white gold of the case made for a versatile and attractive timepiece that, for the first time in the Zeitwerk line, displayed day as well as time.
Introduced in 2022 were two new variations of A. Lange & Söhne’s iconic original Zeitwerk — a 950 platinum case with a solid silver and rhodié dial and an 18K pink gold case with a solid silver and black dial. The L043.6 movement brought some innovation in the barrel design with two mainsprings that doubled the power reserve from 36 to 72 hours.
Lange also worked on simplifying the setting of the hour with a pusher at four o’clock to advance the display, making it a breeze to adjust for travel or time zone changes. Another advancement is the introduction of an oscillation system with its own balance spring and patented beat-adjustment system.
The caliber L043.6 utilizes three jumping numeral disks. “To switch the disks of the jumping numerals mechanism to forward on time every minute, the movement requires much more energy than a classic time display,” explains Anthony de Haas, A. Lange & Söhne’s director of product development. “Not only are the numerals disks very heavy by watchmaking standards, but they also have to be quickly accelerated and braked again. This calls for considerably higher forces than the uniform rotation of a pair of hands of much less weight. The greatest amount of energy is needed at the top of the hour when the movement advances all three disks at the same time.”
According to Lange, when fully wound, the Zeitwerk now has sufficient energy to perform 4,320 minute jumps or, more precisely, 72 jumps with all three disks, 360 jumps with only two disks, and 3,888 jumps with only one disk.
At 41.9mm, the timepiece is eye-catching in either of the platinum or pink gold case. The caseback is sapphire crystal for a marvelous view of the mechanicals that have been decorated by hand with engravings on the balance cock and escape wheel.
The pink gold model is paired with a black alligator strap and the platinum version is paired with a dark brown alligator leather strap.
Digital and Mechanical Marvel
A. Lange & Söhne amazed watch connoisseurs with the innovation and unique jumping hours and minutes of the Zeitwerk, but it couldn’t rest on that achievement alone. Over the years, the brand has continued to innovate and grow the line with an impressive array of complications and materials. Each new variation has had something important to explore and we’re excited to see what will be next for the Zeitwerk series.
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk
References: 142.025 (950 platinum); 142.031 (18K pink gold)
Movement: Manual winding caliber L043.6; 72-hour power reserve
Functions: Jumping hours and minutes, and subsidiary seconds with stop seconds
Case: 41.9mm; 950 platinum or 18K pink gold
Dial: Rhodium colored or black; Arabic numerals
Strap: Dark brown or black alligator leather; platinum or pink gold pin buckle
Price: Upon request