A Critical Look at the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar (Tourbillon)
Following the discontinuation of the Langematik Perpetual last year, the only standalone perpetual calendar in the catalogue, A. Lange & Söhne had to fill the void. Indeed, there are some complications that every high-end watch manufacture must offer such as rattrapante chronograph, repeater, and the other one is the perpetual calendar with its historical importance, usability, and charm. Please welcome: Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar.
This is a very interesting launch for numerous reasons – a launch that begs the question what this launch means for those who bought a Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon some years back… However, before diving into this analysis, I would like to closely examine the Lange 1 Perpetual calendar pieces, for the brand’s product strategy does not take the beauty and mechanical ingenuity away from these watches. Please enjoy a detailed and a critical walkthrough of the old and the new collection.
Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar + Tourbillon
Invention of the perpetual calendar complication as we know goes centuries back to Thomas Mudge. Since then, we have seen many, many iterations of this grand complication. It was Patek Philippe who brought us the first ever serially produced perpetual calendar wristwatch reference 1526. Along with possibly the most optimal layout for the complication: Day, month in apertures and date at 6 o’clock – possibly the most imitated one too. Yet, Lange 1, an icon of its own, with a perpetual calendar had to be something more daring, something undone. We received the first one with a tourbillon in 2012 and in 2021, A. Lange & Söhne launched the same, without the tourbillon, with fan-favorite colors.
As I have heard from several long-time A. Lange & Söhne employees, integrating a perpetual calendar to Lange 1 design goes back to the era of Blümlein; as most things do. He was the one to come up with the idea to merge both. It was both a technical and a design challenge. Following numerous tries, the team at the time shelved the project. Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar simply could not be done. Evidently, and luckily for us, watch guys in Glashütte are pretty stubborn and it is their persistence that gave us masterpieces such as Datograph, Triple Split etc… It took years to create the such a masterpiece of a perpetual calendar, but it arrived eventually.
A. Lange & Söhne Introduced the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon in 2012. In my opinion, the piece offers one of the most delightful proportions of any A. Lange & Söhne piece at 41.9 mm in diameter and 12.2 mm in thickness. Its size perfectly accompanies the rather classical format of Lange 1; hence it is not a behemoth on the wrist; but rather an extremely complicated and legible perpetual calendar in an unusual format. The newly introduced Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar follows almost the exact same structure, with the exception of being 0.1 mm thinner. Hence, the following inspection of the case applies to both pieces.
The signature A. Lange & Söhne case details such as the brushed band and notched, stepped lugs fit just right to Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar. Possibly because this watch is not just a classic perpetual calendar, no. It appears rather industrial, serious. To be honest, it reminds me of Rammstein. Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar is something like Deutschland of the band, provocative, different, but through and through their own. I just love the contrast between the brushed surfaces and the instant transition to polished lugs with notches… This watch feels built.
However, I must admit that this watch looks best in white metal, as it feels engineered, industrial.
As with all perpetual calendars of the brand, Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar features corrector pushers for advancing all calendar displays or separately correcting the month, day of the week, and moon phase.
Since 2012, Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon has been introduced under five different references in various case metals & dial colors. I find such a diversity and production number rather excessive for such a model, more on this in the final part. Below, please find Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon references:
- 720.025 – Platinum case with argenté dial (2012, limited to 100 pieces)
- 720.032 – Pink gold case with silver dial (2014 -)
- 720.038 – White gold case with grey dial (2016 -)
- 720.048 – Platinum case with engraved dial (2014, limited to 15 pieces)
- 720.066 – White gold case with silver dial (2019, limited to 25 pieces)
The new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar comes in pink gold (345.033) and white gold (345.056) with brown and salmon dials, respectively. The salmon reference is limited to 150 pieces and available through boutiques.
The star of the show for the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar or Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon for that matter, however, is not the case. Surprisingly, as most A. Lange & Söhne watches, it is not the movement side either. It is the inimitable dial of this delight.
Lange 1, introduced in 1994, is more than a watch. It is a design icon from eastern Germany, symbolizing the region’s comeback to the watchmaking industry at full force, and full of original ideas. Carrying such a meaning Lange 1 is not a watch to just throw a complication in the dial. Anything done with it must be distinct yet visually precious. Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon is the best example of such a mantra.
The underlying principle of the Lange 1 is the separation of all indications from each other while adhering the rule of thirds. Now, think of how would you create the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar while abiding the rule? The date indication is irremovable as it is the signature part of the piece. So, we need to think about day and month. Perhaps replacing the power reserve with either the day or the month could work; but where does the other one go? As mentioned, these were the questions that Lange designers could not find an answer for in the early 2000s and caused them to put the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon project aside.
The answer arrived almost a decade later with a patented month display mechanism that does not break the iconic proportions of the design. However, before moving onto that, I would like to work outside in.
Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar dial design is fundamentally a mirrored Lange 1. This is a design template inspired from the Daymatic, introduced in 2010, the first automatic member of the Lange 1 family. Since the mechanisms are the opposites (manual vs automatic) of each other, the mirrored design makes perfect sense.
Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon adds the peripheral month ring display, moon phase, leap year and day/night indication on top of the Daymatic’s outline. As mentioned, such an outline brings a whole new understanding to perpetual calendar. It is distinct, highly legible, and perhaps most importantly through and through a Lange 1. The inner bezel has a slight tilt, which continues with the peripheral month display. Such an arrangement brings a much-needed depth to the dial of the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar. The central portion of the dial measures 38.5mm in diameter, so Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar completely preserves the perfect ratio of its inspiration.
The only difference other than the day/night indication between the tourbillon and the standard version are that the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon features a Tourbillon inscription in its hour/minutes dial and the new versions do not. I mean, it is already hidden. So, just let it complete its understatement. I never understood why anyone would write this there.
Apart from the dial colors, another difference between the new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar pieces is the hands. While the salmon color reference features the rhodium plated white gold hands, the brown color reference carries lumed, pink gold hands. It is odd that A. Lange & Söhne opted for the lumed hands. Because the reference 101.033, clearly the inspiration for the reference 345.033, carries straight pink gold hands, which I find much more suitable for the Lange 1 collection.
Both of the new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar pieces as well as the previous references with tourbillon feature recessed sub-dial peripheries with guilloche stamp. This adds a much-needed depth and contrast to the dial along with the signature big-date.
Now it is time to explain why the project was shelved a decade before the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon’s introduction. The answer lies within the caliber L082.1, the first ever fully integrated perpetual calendar movement of A. Lange & Söhne. This one is, in my opinion, the only caliber from the brand which has a better view from under the dial than its case back.
Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon – Caliber L082.1
Perpetual calendar is a mechanism that display the correct day, date, and month until the year 2100 if the watch is kept wound. Because the Gregorian Calendar system omits the leap-year in every century, hence the need for correction. Many watches on the market, for example Langematik Perpetual or Datograph Perpetual work with a perpetual calendar module added on top of the caliber. You can understand this from the below the center placement of the crown in many of these pieces. Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon’s caliber L082.1 on the other hand, is a modular construction. Meaning: It was built just for one thing.
Below, please bear with me as I attempt to explain how the mind-blowing perpetual calendar mechanism of the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon works:
The energy from mainspring flows to the gear train and hours/minutes hand continue to run. For Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, the hour wheel also moves the 24-hour wheel, which is the central part of the perpetual calendar mechanism. 24-hour wheel carries a snail cam on top to deliver the instantaneous switching impulse to the mechanism via transmission lever with fingers. One end of the finger is attached to the moon star for the Moon phase mechanism, and one is to the day star, which advances for one step every-time the 24-hour wheel completes its rotation.
Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon’s innovative instantaneous month switching relies on almost the exact principle. The month ring is driven via its internal gearing. It rotates about its own axis once a year. The inside of the gear rim features a circumferential contour with wavy recesses. A spring-loaded sampler lever glides along this contour and is deflected by a magnitude that corresponds to the depth of the respective recess. The more it is deflected, the shorter the month.
The challenging part for the creation of the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon was making sure that the watch is going to do all of these every day, instantaneously without skipping a beat. Because a classic perpetual calendar construction relies on a 48-teeth month wheel to switch a hand or an aperture. However, for the caliber L082.1 the constructors needed to find a way to rotate the large ring by 30 degrees on the last day of each month. This increment is four times longer than that of the very lightweight and much smaller 48-tooth wheel.
On top of all this complexity, the caliber L082.1 of the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon comes with, well, tourbillon. It is a stop-tourbillon, which A. Lange & Söhne introduced in 2008 with Cabaret Tourbillon. Which means, when the crown is pulled, the tourbillon cage is halted via a gentle lever. The caliber L082.1 as well as the caliber L021.3 of the new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar beats at 21,600 A/h and offers 50 hours of power reserve with the instantaneous perpetual calendar indications.
Finally, before moving onto the verdict section, I would like to compare & contrast the two pieces from aesthetic and pricing perspective.
L021.3 vs. L082.1
Since both the caliber L082.1 and the new caliber L021.3 of the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar are based on the Daymatic’s movement, both movements are almost visually identical except a few intricate details.
Both movements are covered with three separate bridges. While the new caliber L021.3 exposes a bit more, possible due to its new winding system. Both calibers carry a thick, solid gold and machine, relief engraved rotor with platinum centrifugal winding mass with a skeletonized center portion made of ARCAP alloy. Albeit machine engraved, the relief brings out a stunning depth; alas not as intricate as the hand-engraved balance cock.
Both of the calibers are exquisitely finished, blessed with generous anglage where possible, screwed gold chatons and a myriad of finishing techniques to add more visual depth and variety. Moreover, the new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar’s movement features two sharp inward angles which is a great improvement from its predecessor. I can easily say that the new caliber L021.3 is one of the most beautiful full-rotor movements around.
The biggest visual difference between the two calibers is the feature of a tourbillon, or lack thereof. The caliber L082.1 carries a tourbillon on the back, which I am going to rant about a bit. Now, this would make sense if it were constructed as Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon – a giant cage that is completely visible at all times. However, for the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon the most you see is two intermediate wheels over the tourbillon carriage, which hides the almost the entire mechanism! And please remember that this watch has a retail price of $359k, which one can assume that a portion of this comes from the tourbillon word, added to its title.
Now, here comes the not-so-great move against the previous Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon owners who bought the watch at retail. The new pink gold version without the tourbillon has a MSRP of $115k. In other words, A. Lange & Söhne charged more than $200k for a tourbillon that is hidden 95% of the time and need special effort to be seen for the remainder 5%.
It is a shame because the tourbillon is exquisitely finished as all A. Lange & Söhne tourbillons. It features three-open-armed carriage finished with the splendid black polish technique and a diamond-end stone on top.
I am in complete understanding of the fact that such quirk mechanisms are there for the sole enjoyment of the owner. Alas, not like this and especially not at its MSRP and even more so, not when there is now a reference point for the price that shows how much overpriced the tourbillon version was…
Buying a Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar (Tourbillon)
As of April 2021, the market price for the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon is around $180k for the gold variants, whereas the platinum version asking an understandable premium. This is surely a huge difference compared to the retail price, for about $200k. As an enthusiast who thinks most A. Lange & Söhne pieces are (were) underrated in the market, I do think that the market price definitely reflects the right value for this piece. Even more so after the introduction of the new collection.
I believe the new introductions can have a positive effect on the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon market. Because now, there is actually something to compare and differentiate one collector from the other. There is something unique to own in relation to something.
The new Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar pieces are priced at $105k and $115k for pink gold and 150 limited white gold / salmon dial pieces, respectively. I think it is very properly priced, in exchange of rather forsaking the previous collection’s owners. That said, it shows that A. Lange & Söhne learnt from the past mistakes and is more conscious about the pricing.
I am very much optimistic for the white gold variant. Alas, I am also sure that if you’re a new client, Lange is going to ask for a bundle – meaning, you have to buy another watch that is not very much popular to get this one. Furthermore, I believe it is safe to expect other variations some years down the road.
A big thanks to A. Lange & Söhne PR and Product Development Team for the splendid imagery, and technical addendum they have supplied for the creation of this article. Please visit A. Lange & Söhne boutiques for these two brilliant pieces.
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