A Tribute to Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon

Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon
Reference 740.036 (left) and 740.056

I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan. It is a legend… If we ever got attacked by aliens and if they ask as what have you done for all these years? I think the series is one of the achievements to show… You know, the book basically revolves around the one ring, created by the Dark Lord Sauron. A ring that has irresistible temptation among all races. Now you might say, dude, what the hell are you talking about? But please excuse me. My admiration for this watch awakens the Smeagol in me. Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is my one ring…

This is a watch that encompasses all the ingenuity and experience of the watchmakers from Glashütte. Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is a true example of how A. Lange & Söhne is still learning, developing and indeed, never stands still. Yet, without concrete examples these are just words thrown around. We need pictures, close-ups and there are many. I hope to fill every expectation created with such an entrance with bits and pieces given in the relevant parts of the article. Please enjoy.

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Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon in Saxony

A. Lange & Söhne introduced the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon in 2016. Measuring 41.9 mm in diameter and a rather proportionate 14.6 mm in thickness with a dense platinum case, the watch is heavy, assertive, and present. Indeed, it poses a density that can match to its superb complexity. I think this is one of the best watches to carry A. Lange & Söhne’s engineered approach to case design.

Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon’s case is constructed in three steps, in a classic A. Lange & Söhne fashion. The protruding caseback is brushed from the back and polished towards the sides which gives the illusion of thinness. The caseband, also brushed, contrasts with the caseback, bezel above and the continuing, notched, polished lugs. At the top, the bezel is polished. The bezel starts straight and then slightly closes in towards the center to align with the dial.

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As you might infer from its size, on the wrist, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is apparently not the most comfortable watch. It feels top heavy, and due to extended protruding case back sometimes wobbly. However, it is a presence that you just love to feel. It reminds you what kind of a horological arsenal you are carrying. It grabs the attention once in a while, giving you an opportunity to look at it, where you forget to read what time, and just get lost within that dial.

To give you a reference point, I find its comfort very much similar to the first generation Datograph. That is why the piece comes with a platinum deployant buckle, which perfectly balances its weight.

On the case side, as with all A. Lange & Söhne perpetual calendars, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon features a corrector pusher for calendar indications. Thanks to this arrangement, all indications can be moved forward by one increment. There are also recessed pushers on the band that allow to move indications separately.

However, it is the dial where we really see A. Lange & Söhne’s progress over the years.

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When starting in 1994, A. Lange & Söhne had to come up with its own identity to distinguish itself from the established competition. This approach shaped the watches, from cases to typography to movement architecture… In line with such understanding, A. Lange & Söhne’s journey to complications and dial design have mostly been unorthodox. For example, every watch with a date, except the 1815 and Richard Lange collections which are purely based on traditional designs, carries a big date window. Such a strong element naturally dictates and somehow limits the rest of the choices on the dial.

Until Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, A. Lange & Söhne executed perpetual calendar and chronograph both together and separately. For example, Langematik Perpetual utilizes the big date window and serves the rest of the calendar information in respective sub-dials with a hanging leap-year indication. Datograph Perpetual, which came out in 2006 improves upon the perpetual calendar complication, still with hanging indications. In my opinion, both of the mentioned pieces lack a certain balance with indications hanging from somewhere. But it is a learning curve. Fast-forward to 2016, with Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, A. Lange & Söhne found the most optimal layout that could carry the signature big date.

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With Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, there are no more hanging sub-dials. Hence, the dial appears symmetrical, though-out and serious. The day/night and leap-year indications are very well placed within sub-dials as the third layer. To avoid further use of hands, the indications are now displayed via disc. This is an improvement both design and technical wise.

On the other hand, the hierarchy within sub-dials could have been better. Since reading the day, and month to a degree, is more important than reading running-seconds, one improvement might have been placing the calendar indications on the periphery of the sub-dials. Though I must admit that the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon offers by far the most balanced, and optimal information layout in the whole high-complications collection.

Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon vs Datograph Perpetual

The platinum version carries the fan-favorite black date discs. Back in the days, A. Lange & Söhne produced a “Darth” Datograph in full black appearance as a unique piece. Since then, the blackest we got was the reference 403.035. With Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, the menacing look returned, and it is obvious that this was part of a trend… the 1815 Chronograph followed only a year after in dark mode. A trend that I thoroughly enjoy and looking forward to the next iteration.

The dial is crafted from solid silver for the platinum version (740.046) and pink gold for the white gold (740.056) version. Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon’s dial is a feast of patterns and layers. A closer look reveals the grained surface and finish. The sub-dials are given concentric circles to further differentiate from the main dial to increase legibility. No two elements mix together, and every part offers information in its own style and floor.

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Another improvement on the dial could have been the placement of the chronograph seconds’ hash marks. The chronograph seconds’ hand extends through the tachymeter scale; hence, it would have been better if the tip of the hand matches the hash marks. In return, this would give more space to the dial too.

Power reserve indication placed around the tachymeter scale is just genius. The power reserve indicator at Datograph Up/Down kind of breaks the balance. Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, however, takes this element to enhance the balance even further. Just a brilliant touch.

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The Moonphase disc at 6 o’clock, despite its limited size, has a charm that few others can match. Crafted from solid white-gold for both references, it is accurate to 122.6 years in continuous operation. It gives that romantic touch to this overly engineered, overly German beast, makes the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon a bit more restrained.

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Courtesy of Lesrhabilleurs

Overall, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon preserves the balance its patriarch struck in 1999 masterfully. From the multi-faceted baton markers to broad lumed hands as well as color harmony of both of the references, the watch is a true masterpiece of design; and I must say apart from only a few points mentioned above, is impeccable.

One final note over the white gold version can be its chameleon dial. This is one of those watches that you have to see before you buy. Because every photo of it that you’re going to see online is going to be different. Pink gold’s appearance depends drastically on the lightning and it is the best to judge with your own eyes.

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Note how strong the pink in here, it is not always like this

Sure, the dial side is extremely charming, balanced, soothing. Yet, despite its attraction, it is not even the main show. Watch fans know that a chronograph from Lange creates an irresistible temptation. However, this… This is something else.

The Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon offers a view from the back which in my opinion cannot be matched by any other A. Lange & Söhne watch. I still remember my awe when I first laid my eyes upon the magnificence of the caliber L952.2. I had to pinch my arm to convince myself that this thing was real, and they actually managed to develop over the Datograph’s caliber L951.1. Well, here it was, as real and giant as Napoleon’s arrogance.

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A. Lange & Söhne introduced the caliber L951.1 in 1999. To many, the movement shook the watchmaking world from the ground. Simply because none of the big brands at the time, neither Patek Philippe nor Vacheron Constantin or Audemars Piguet had their own chronograph movements. Technically it was a traditional, horizontal clutch column-wheel chronograph caliber. However, those curves, the finish, the construction… Even today, it is regarded by many as the most beautiful chronograph movement ever made.

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Caliber L952.2 of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is the continuation of such heritage. Anthony De Haas, the product development director of A. Lange & Söhne since 2004, also points out that keeping the proportions and aesthetics of the caliber L951.1 was the paramount consideration while adapting the movement to carry a tourbillon. I say they have done a brilliant job.

As the name speaks, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon’s caliber L952.2 carries a flyback chronograph with instantaneous minute counter, an instantaneous perpetual calendar, and a tourbillon. It is made of 729 parts, offers 50 hours of power reserve from a single barrel and beats at 2.5Hz.

Caliber L952.2 comparison L952.1

De Haas further continues on the construction of the movement: It was hard to construct this while respecting the proportions of the original mechanism. On the other hand, you have to create enough space to integrate a nice and big tourbillon cage… The energy balance in the movement however was the main problem to solve.

Imagine that you are the owner of this magnificent watch. 6 hours before midnight, the spring that powers the instantaneous perpetual calendar indications starts to charge up. In the meantime, you decide to play with the chronograph, which creates another layer of friction, thus, requires energy. And finally, we have the running train as usual. When all of these happen, there should not be a loss in amplitude. Indeed, timekeeping is at paramount importance and even when all three mechanisms are activated, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon manages to keep fantastic time.

I believe understanding the working principles of these watches make them much more enjoyable. Therefore, I’d like to deep dive into its technicality and hope to elevate the pleasure you’re going to get from this piece.

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The top half of the caliber l952.2 carries the chronograph mechanism, and the brain of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon’s “graph” part is the column wheel with 8 teeth, at the bottom of the capture above. When the button at 2 o’clock is pressed, the operating lever spins the column-wheel. With this move, the tail of the clutch lever (the middle part with gold chaton and three screws) falls in between the pillars of the column wheel. Clutch lever then moves horizontally and meshes with the chronograph wheel (at the top of the image) and the chronograph starts running.

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The flyback also works with a similar principle. When the button at 4 o’clock is pressed, the flyback lever pushes the heart lever which is connected to the flyback lever (the claw shaped, polished part in the middle). Therefore, when the heart lever is pressed downwards, it presses the flyback lever to the left; thus, the flyback lever presses the coupling wheel and detaches it from the chronograph seconds wheel and stops the chronograph.

Since the chronograph is a user activated mechanism, it has to work on extremely tight tolerances both for safety and ease of operation.  Adjustment of all these wheels and gears requires meticulous work, experience, and dexterity. Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, as its patriarch, excels in that buttery-smooth pusher feeling.

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Another delightful detail on the caseback is obviously the giant tourbillon mechanism. Prior to Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, A. Lange & Söhne utilized the hidden tourbillon only for the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon in 2012. However, the tourbillon cage for the Lange 1 model was just too small, hidden beneath gears. It was hard to notice its craft and charm. Here, apparently a part of the mentioned learning curve, we are greeted with a giant cage, measuring 12.6 mm in diameter.

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Its construction and finish are absolutely impeccable. Built in a traditional Glashütte fashion with three arms, the cage carries the top-notch craft that one can get from A. Lange & Söhne. The tourbillon carries a myriad of sharp inward angles, brushed and polished surfaces and a diamond end-stone on top to crown this jewel.

It is not only a beautifully constructed tourbillon but also a technical marvel. Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon comes with a stop-tourbillon mechanism. It was patented by A. Lange & Söhne in 2008 with the introduction of the Cabaret Tourbillon. Since then, this delicate mechanism appeared in numerous pieces and the caliber L952.2 is the last one to house this patent.

When the crown is pulled, a fine lever touches the balance wheel. This action halts the operation without damaging any gear; thus, allows for precise time-setting. However, please note that A. Lange & Söhne is not the only one to manage to stop the tourbillon. Glashütte Original improved upon this mechanism with a zero-reset tourbillon mechanism in the last years.

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Apart from all this finishing, technicality and complexity, what makes Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, or any watch with a Datograph in it for that matter, is its three-dimensional construction. The watch, and the mechanism just absorbs you to get lost in it. With countless angles, bridges, it has a glamour, a charisma so to speak, that only a very few can demonstrate. You just want to shrink and take a tour in it. Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is nothing less than a Wonder Land for any watch enthusiast.

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The under the dial side of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon deserves a round of applause too. The perpetual calendar is there with all its glory. I must say that I am a fan of Datograph Lumen, but I cannot even begin to fathom the attraction of a possible Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Lumen with all the intricate mechanism visible behind the smoked sapphire glass, observable every mid-night.

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Even the parts under the dial is finished to an acceptable degree. You see levers that are brushed and chamfered, base plate with perlage and and wheels with solarisation. Even if nobody is going to see them, this shows the manufacture’s respect to itself, to its craft and the client. And yes, until that day comes, I am going to keep dreaming a Lumen on this one.

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For the safety of the calendar mechanism, the corrector pusher at 10 o’clock is automatically disengaged between 10PM to 2AM.

Fishy vs. Darth

A. Lange & Söhne introduced the platinum reference 740.036 in 2016, limited to 100 pieces. Following the much deserved success of the piece (it is one of the very few Lange watches to hold its value, relatively, that is above $250k) we were greeted with the reference 740.056 with the fashionable pink gold (salmon) dial in 2019 with white gold case.

It was not the first time that A. Lange & Söhne tried the pink gold dial. Indeed, all the way back in 1994, A. Lange & Söhne produced a unique Tourbillon Pour le Mérite in platinum with pink gold dial. So, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon is the second in line.

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The platinum and white gold variants are vastly different. While the platinum version hids itself from the curious eyes, appearing in full menacing black, the white gold version rules with its presence and surely a crowd pleaser. The platinum is more versatile, more in line with the “stealth-wealth” notion of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon. The salmon on the other hand asks for the looks, and deservedly gets them.

Is there a better one? Obviously not. It all depends on the taste and what you like. Is there a more A. Lange & Söhne one – one that is humble, silent? Yes, there is.

Buying a Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon

In 2016, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon in platinum (740.036F) was launched with a MSRP of $300k. Being limited to 100 pieces at such price, it was a hard sell which I believe it took couple of years to clean all. Some fell into grey market etc… The watch hit the auction block for the first time on 26 November 2018 at Christie’s. There, including the premium, Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon in platinum sold for $257k.

Considering the huge losses of highly complicated A. Lange & Söhne watches such as Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, Tourbograph Perpetual, Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, it is safe to say that the piece held its grounds pretty well for complicated Lange standards.

Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon re-surfaced once again on 20 July 2020, again at Christie’s. This time, it was sold at $243k.

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The white gold version on the other hand comes with a MSRP of $287k and never appeared at a public sale since then.

What must be known is that the attraction of Datograph has increased tremendously since the last time this watch came to an auction. First generation models demand substantial amounts (compared to a year ago). This recognition spread through all models and obviously, and it would not be a surprise if the majesty of the collection takes its share from this.

Thank you.

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