Lange 1 Tourbillon
In the year 1900, A. Lange & Söhne introduced a tourbillon pocket watch with the carriage crafted by Fridolin Stübner. It was named Centennial Tourbillon, eng. Tourbillon of the Century. Pocket Watch No:41000 carries a stunning enamel depiction Minerva before Paris, and brought the special jury prize to A. Lange & Söhne.. And then, it was exactly 100 years from this when A. Lange & Söhne introduced another tourbillon to mark the millennium. The pushing force behind this time was the great vision of Günter Blümlein at the expense of going against the design codes of the brand’s flagship collection. A watch of controversies with a heavy inspiration from the past was born: Lange 1 Tourbillon.
This is a watch full of interesting stories from its creation to its case, dial, and the movement. Indeed, Lange 1 Tourbillon demands an extensive walkthrough.
Lange 1 Tourbillon, just like its base version, measures 38.5 mm in diameter with a bit of added thickness at 10.2 mm. It is joyously wearable, and full of quirky and signature Lange details.
The piece is constructed on three steps: case back, case band and bezel. While the back and the bezel are mirror polished, the middle section is brushed. Such alternate finishing offers a tremendous contrast, a visual stimulus… It further contributes to Lange 1 Tourbillon’s rather industrial construction, completely matching its mechanical excellence. Pink gold reference carries a fully polished case.
The polished lugs are notched at the base, angled on the sides, and welded into the brushed band. A detail (notches) implemented by Blümlein himself to distinguish A. Lange & Söhne cases from Swiss Competitors… Blümlein says that I want a Lange watch to give the same feeling as closing a Mercedes door. Lange 1 Tourbillon delivers such a joy through and through with every inch.
The Lange 1 Tourbillon was offered in the year 2000 in platinum (704.025) and pink gold (704.032), limited to 150 and 250 pieces, respectively. In the following years, A. Lange & Söhne re-issued 165 pieces in 2010 in honey gold (722.050), Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst in 2014 (20 pieces) and the 25th Anniversary Edition in 2019 (25 pieces). Therefore, it is safe to say that the collection was milked to the last drop – hopefully now.
The dial, however, is where things start to get interesting for the Lange 1 Tourbillon.
Lange 1, introduced in 1994, is a modern icon. It is the brainchild of the likes of Kurt Klaus, Reinhard Meis, and Günter Blümlein, resulting in a look that is completely distinctive and aesthetically captivating.
Up until the year 2000, the Lange 1 collection had not received any additional complications. The change over the collection was mainly experimental with differing dial / case combinations. The first edition which brought something substantially different was the Lange 1A, made to celebrate the new manufacture building back then.
At the turn of the millennium, A. Lange & Söhne endowed the collection with possibly the most storied complication of watchmaking and introduced the Lange 1 Tourbillon. However, it had not been easy. According to a long, long time watch and an A. Lange & Söhne enthusiast and a great friend @l951.1 the story goes as follows:
Blümlein wants to offer a tourbillon piece following the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite’s success in 1994. Upon further thinking, he decides to add a tourbillon to the brands flagship collection i.e., Lange 1. He opens up the idea to the team, mainly Reinhard Meis who is a legend and was the head of development at the time. Meis dislikes the idea; stating that the underlying idea of the collection is to separate all indications, so that none overlaps.
In his memories of Blümlein, the creative genius of MB&F, Max Büsser often mentions one memory he fondly remembers. One day Büsser and Blümlein argues about a watch design. After a bit back and forth, Blümlein ends the conversation stating Mr. Büsser, creativity is not a democratic process!
Indeed, Blümlein did not leave his ground and thus gave birth to the Lange 1 Tourbillon.
The piece still preserves the intended proportions of its inspiration. For example if you would connect the center of hours/minutes, big date and tourbillon carriage, you’d get an equilateral triangle. The sub-dials as well as the date frame preserve their proportions. However, any touch to such a proven and well-thought design comes with instant consequences; which is the reason why A. Lange & Söhne kept almost all exactly the same when updating the Lange 1 collection in 2015. Therefore, it is safe to say that Lange 1 Tourbillon is the biggest departure from the original piece.
Lange 1 Tourbillon’s main differences from its inspiration is the instantly attention-grabbing black polished tourbillon bridge and the relocated sub-seconds dial. As you can see now, hours/minutes and seconds indications overlap, going against the established principles of the collection. You can see that every other detail is still there.
You might rightfully ask why they did not put the seconds on the tourbillon carriage. That is because the Lange 1 Tourbillon’s whirlwind rotates counterclockwise as it is directly connected to the train.
What I like is, Lange 1 Tourbillon successfully preserves the controversial soul of its origination. It is as edgy, interesting, and unique in its execution. Now, whether this means beautiful or not… That lies within each one’s taste. For me, I prefer the original one. Perhaps Meis was right, the tourbillon feels kind of forced to me. Yet, each to its own. The craft is unquestionable – at least mostly.
Lange 1 Tourbillon’s carriage construction is almost an exact replica of some of the 13 tourbillon pocket watches that A. Lange & Söhne produced in its heyday. Back in the days, the brand basically had two types of carriage constructions: Three, closed arms and three, open arms. The Lange 1 Tourbillon is inspired from the latter whereas the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite from the former.
In my opinion, the three-closed arms carriage construction looks much more elaborate, delightful, and classical, showcasing a myriad of inward angles therefore truly revealing its craft. Hence, I am not sure why A. Lange & Söhne opted for such carriage construction. Perhaps it is a size problem; simply because the Lange 1 Tourbillon’s cage is pretty small. Moreover, we see the same construction only in Cabaret Tourbillon and Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, which both feature rather small balance springs.
The tourbillon bridge is superbly black-polished; yet again, with wasted opportunities. I never understood why a brand would not finish such highly expensive and exclusive pieces to the top. I understand cost-cutting, but not at this level. Here, the bridge is magnificent, yet the skeletonized part houses only rounded angles instead of sharp, inward ones. It could have been better.
As mentioned, Lange 1 Tourbillon officially comes in 5 different versions. However, apart from the catalogued pieces, there are a couple of rare, unpublished editions that are absolutely delightful and must see!
First one is this platinum goodness. Back in the days, when A. Lange & Söhne was still a relatively small, 3-4 thousand watches producing manufacture, they would add a couple of unique features to the pieces on demand. One of the most common customizations were blued hands. Here we have the Lange 1 Tourbillon in platinum with blued hands. I do not know how many of these are around, but I do not think more than five. So far, only three blued hands versions have appeared at auctions.
Another Lange 1 Tourbillon variant is disguised in the brand’s unofficial coupledom: Pink gold case, black dial. Please remember that the regular production Lange 1 Tourbillon in pink gold came with silver dial in 250 pieces. This unique piece was auctioned by Dr.Crott in 2018. Lange 1 Tourbillon Nr. 120/250 was sold for $132k, way above than the regular pieces.
In addition, there is also a full black dial unique piece in platinum made to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of The Hourglass in 2019. Apart from these three editions, there is also one distinction between special editions and first editions of the Lange 1 Tourbillon.
The tourbillon is covered from the top in the first batch (704.025, 704.032) to hide the date wheels. For the further editions, namely after 2010 (except the Handwerkskunst Edition), the date wheels as well as the tourbillon is exposed.
Caliber L961.1 is the beating heart of the Lange 1 Tourbillon. Its story is as follows: Jaeger LeCoultre caliber 822 to Lange caliber L901.0 with in-direct sub-seconds positioning to L961.1 with tourbillon carriage and the re-positioning of the sub-seconds. The balance is also movedfrom across the crown to 6 o’clock position as it is now directly connected tothe running train without the cut-out with three gold chatons.
Tourbillon is a respectable tradition at A. Lange & Söhne. In the 19th and 20th century, where brands were not able to churn out hundreds of tourbillons as of today and when crafting a tourbillon was a respected branch of watchmaking itself, A. Lange & Söhne put out 13 pocket watches with the whirlwind. Most of these pieces, including the most famous No. 41000 came out of the hands of Fridolin Stübner. General Journal of watchmaking of 1912 praises him as No job was too hard for him.
Caliber L961.1 carries A. Lange & Söhne hallmarks in movement finish and construction. Wide strips, gold chatons, blued screws and hand-engraved tourbillon bridge. Each is done to perfection; with yet again, missed opportunities. The case back does not offer any sharp, delicate corners and only showcases rounded, rather boring lines.
The intermediate wheel over the tourbillon covers most of the view, which is ok as the joy can be had from the front at any time.
Lange 1 Tourbillon models also differ with their calibers. While the first editions in platinum and pink gold carry the caliber L961.1, post-2010 models carry the updated mechanism with the patented stop-tourbillon mechanism. Indeed, A. Lange & Söhne is the first brand in the history to devise a mechanism to hack a one-minute tourbillon. The patent was received in 2008 and introduced with the Cabaret Tourbillon.
All in all, I think the case back view of the Lange 1 Tourbillon is average at its best – for me. I have the same beef with the 1815 Tourbillon. I think that both pieces are overly restrained. Actually, the Handwerkskunst editions of both pieces only confirm my views as the special edition versions carry much, much more elaborate finish with skeletonizing, inward angles, and different finish techniques all around.
Still, the patina that the wide German Silver earns as a badge of the passing years is always a joy to observe. Pity that A. Lange & Söhne removes it during the service.
The caliber L961.1 offers 72 hours of power reserve and beats at a traditional 3Hz.
Buying a Lange 1 Tourbillon
When introduced, Lange 1 Tourbillon carried a retail price of $106k for the 704.025 and $95k for the 704.032. As with most other complicated Lange watches, during the early and mid 2000s, Lange 1 Tourbillon performed very strongly at the auctions, selling %50 above its retail on average.
Then, again as with others, the Lange 1 Tourbillon crashed as well and since the beginning of the 2010s, the pieces have traded at their current prices. Even though A. Lange & Söhne tried to revive the fire with 165th Anniversary Edition and the Handwerkskunst, the Lange 1 Tourbillon did not gather the desired attention.
As of June 2021, amid the market craze for early Lange 1 references, the last auction price for the Lange 1 Tourbillon in pink gold is a mere $62,500. Platinum reference 704.025 tends to ask a bit more depending on the condition. Honey gold tends to go higher than both of the pieces.
I must admit that the mentioned price above is an absolute bargain for the Lange 1 Tourbillon. It is an important piece of A. Lange & Söhne’s history, one of the last watches to carry Günter Blümlein and Reinhard Meis’ legacy and the second centennial tourbillon from the brand. It is different and offers something unique which many watches cannot and for sure, it has its own crowd.
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