Watches & Wonders 2020: A. Lange & Söhne’s Refined Odysseus And Crazy Zeitwerk Minute Repeater

Lange does what it does best and leans into the sophisticated, in taste and in technicality.

By Thomas Hendricks

A. Lange & Söhne debuts two reimagined and reworked models for Watches & Wonders 2020, digital edition. Today, we’ll discover the other side of the Odysseus and a Zeitwerk Minute Repeater that adds athleticism on top of excellence.

In a plot twist, the Zeitwerk has taken on a blue dial, and the Odysseus opts for shades of gray. The latest generations from the two families represent the logical next steps in each of their lineages as the Odysseus gets a firmer footing in the sport luxury category, and the Zeitwerk pushes further into the supercar stratosphere.

Odysseus Turns Homeward

Lange’s first blue dial stainless steel watch no longer has a blue dial and is no longer stainless steel. The brand’s initial foray into the sports watch world takes a step towards chic, now softened by a strap, white gold, and textured gray dial.

While the original Odysseus could come across as perhaps a little too cold and a little too distant from Lange’s wheelhouse, the latest iteration leaves the crowded pool of blue dial steel sport watches for the more familiar waters of precious metals and natural materials.

The most immediately noticeable difference with the new Odysseus is the move away from an integrated stainless steel bracelet. Owners now have a choice of two straps, both integrated, but this time, in either leather or rubber. These new options increase the visual contrast between the strap and case, expanding the watch into more formal territory with the hand-stitched leather and more casual territory with the rubber.

On paper, a rubber strap with a Lange seems to go together as well as sushi and microwaves, but the pair is surprisingly inoffensive, at least judging by the press images. The strap’s two racing stripes continue the design language across more real estate, and the interior air ducts help with breathability on a hot day. Besides, how fun would it be to swim with a Lange?

Finally, the new dial layers-in added elegance with a contemplative gray color treatment and grooved tracks underneath the hour indices and seconds subdial. The transformation is completed with the new white gold case and applied white gold deployant buckle.

771 Parts, 93 Jewels, €449,000

Lange’s Zeitwerk left little room for improvement, particularly in the niche category of digital read watches. It’s a watch with a singular focus that does one thing very well, tell time. Now one of the world’s most communicative pieces creates a second sensory experience for the viewer, or shall we say, listener?

Just as the display reads concisely from left to right, Lange has retooled the minute repeater for a more straightforward user experience. Instead, the minute repeater sounds at ten-minute intervals instead of the classic quarter hours. Meaning the time of 7:52 would consist of seven single chimes from the lower pitched gong on the left, then five double tones on the left, and two single tones on the right for the 52 minutes elapsed.

On the surface level, this 30-piece limited edition is dressed in a 44.2mm white gold case, replacing platinum for a warmer glow and a warmer chime of the minute repeater. The black dial is now a deep blue made of solid silver that plays well with the rhodium German silver time bridge. The gongs, tuned by hand, tuck neatly into the layout’s existing negative space.

A Machine Trained In Conflict Avoidance

The addition of the minute repeater adds a significant amount of technology to an already complicated watch. The 415 components of the L043.1 in the traditional Zeitwerk have been increased to an astounding 771. Just one of these watches takes seven months to complete.

In true German fashion, the watch is filled with precision engineering and insurance policies. The L1551.1 Datomatic movement even features a toolbox of failsafe protocols to minimize human impact, especially while operating the minute repeater.

For instance, the crown cannot be pulled while the striking mechanism is active because the actuation of the repeater pusher uncouples the wheel train of the winder from the ratchet wheel that drives the striking mechanism. This prevents the wheel train of the winder, including the crown, from rotating during the repeater sequence, which would result in an unnecessary loss of energy.

Likewise, to prevent the watch from running out of power while the minute repeater is in use, the striking mechanism is deactivated when the power reserve is lower than 12 hours. Lange also incorporated a delay in the digital read so that there is no switching while the minute repeater is running. Once the striking sequence is completed, up to 20 seconds later, the numerals advance as usual.

The watch, more than others, requires high amounts of inconsistent energy to perform the digital display and the minute repeater. To help protect against the constant wear and tear of the jumping mechanism, Lange instituted a fly governor to absorb excess energy as the hours and minutes discs slam to a stop. The Zeitwerk also features a constant force escapement to keep pace regardless of the energy level and regardless of what complex and laborious actions are being performed.

Finally, since the Zeitwerk uses a pusher instead of the customary slide mechanism for its minute repeater, the watch is sealed for water resistance of up to 3 bar. And as tired as I am from writing all that out, I can’t imagine the kind of planning that had to have gone into actually developing this piece.

Once again, Lange marches forward with intent in not one but two distinct families. These releases for Watches & Wonders 2020 further crystalize the DNA of the brand and issue a challenge to the industry in the process.

(Images provided by A. Lange & Söhne)

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