1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar
There are complications that every manufacturé should master to claim a seat in the roundtable of high-end watch companies. When combined, these complications form a traditional grand complication, which many manufacturés in the 90s crafted those for the flexing contest: The Split Seconds chronograph, perpetual calendar and repeater. A. Lange & Söhne had never been a powerhouse on the third one, albeit had a proven track-record for the first two. The combination of those however only arrived in 2013 with an overtly traditional timepiece: 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar.
The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar is quite possibly the most pocket watch look alike watch that one can get from A. Lange & Söhne – perhaps after the Grand Complication, which is a replica of a pocket watch itself. The watch does not offer any innovation or novelty neither in terms of design nor technicality. However, there might be a valid reason for it, which I am going to dissect in the dial section.
In 2013 SIHH, A. Lange & Söhne introduced the Grand Complication. A watch that combines rattrapante, perpetual calendar, Sonnerie, repeater based on a pocket watch mechanism made by Louis Audemars back in the 1900s. Unfortunately, I have never seen Lange’s Grand Complication at a level I would adore. Because the watch simply measures 50 mm in diameter and 20 mm in thickness; so, it is far from being a technical accomplishment with the modern means the manufactures have, also far from being a wristwatch. Next to such a cocktail however, A. Lange & Söhne introduced the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar at a more wearable size with almost identical visuals – perhaps as a runner-up prize for those who cannot reach out to €1.9 million Grand Complication.
There are obviously a handful of companies to have both the market positioning, and the technical capabilities to combine the split-seconds chronograph with the perpetual calendar. When it comes to such a complication the first one that springs to mind is obviously Patek Philippe with the reference 5004. However, such a majestic combination was especially in trend in the first half of the 90s with very interesting offerings from the likes of Blancpain and IWC. Among these, the reference 5004, which is essentially a 3970 with a split-second chronograph module, measures 36 x 15 mm like a biscuit and the latter two measure around 42 x 15 mm. Therefore, it is safe to say that the sheer complexity of such combination sacrifices significantly from wearability, albeit brings joy that only a few can.
1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar measures 41.9 mm in diameter and 14.7 mm in thickness. If you can wear a Rolex 126600 Sea-Dweller though, you can pull this one off too. However, I must say that it is not the most comfortable watch in the world, both due to its size and its protruding case-back which we see in almost all complicated A. Lange & Söhne watches. Good news is that a deployant clasp helps tremendously!
1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar’s case is built in the signature A. Lange & Söhne fashion. The three-steps of the construction are easily identifiable: Bezel, band, and case back layers. The bezel meets with the case-band with a step and narrows down towards the top. This detail reduces the thick perception of the piece. Each part is polished for the pink gold version whereas the platinum version carries alternating finishing techniques and offers a brushed case-band. In my opinion, the brushed band brings a much better contrast with notched, polished lugs as well as the two other layers. Although 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar is a rather romantic, old-times piece, I still think that a white metal suits the best for its engineered and non-genevan case structure.
The case of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar features three pushers for the split-seconds chronograph function and four different recessed pushers for the calendar indications. The pushers carry beveling that matches the angle of the case, a delightful detail. The pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the chronograph. The pusher at 10 o’clock activates the rattrapante hand and the 4 o’clock resets them, without the flyback.
Moving onto the dial, I think this is where the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar suffers from. Not from a visual perspective, but from a philosophical one. Allow me to explain:
A. Lange & Söhne does not have the glamorous past that Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin carry. Simply because A. Lange & Söhne had never been able achieve its full potential due to two world-wars Germany fought in a mere 25-year span. From the hyperinflation to sanctions, A. Lange & Söhne went downhill from the 1915s till its expropriation in the late 1940s. Therefore, the lack of heritage so to speak pushed the modern A. Lange & Söhne to always be original, different, and free from its past. Different is the important word here. Because without meaningful differentiation, I highly doubt that we would speak of the brand today and the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual fails (or succeeds) right here – depending on your perspective.
It fails, because: The four sub-dial layouts for the split-seconds perpetual calendar complications have been utilized for decades from the early pocket watches to the aforementioned IWC and Blancpains of the 1990s. We can say that it was Patek Philippe with the reference 5004 to bring a different flair to the execution of such combination. Indeed, I understand that the piece was meant as an adage to old pocket watches, alas, I cannot fit the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar to the A. Lange & Söhne philosophy I know – one that does not chase the tradition blindly and always has an appetite to do the different.
It succeeds, because this is a superbly executed 1815 collection watch. For a person who enjoys traditional designs and does not have such mental problems with the watch, the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual possibly the best option in the market. It is a pocket watch of the 20th century adapted on the wrist – perhaps apart from an enamel dial.
1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar carries all of the hallmarks of the 1815 collection such as the rail-way minute track, three-dots on each 15-minute markers, red markers on each quarters, Arabic numerals, and layered dial structure. The chronograph and running seconds indications are fitted to the 12 and 6 o’clock positions whereas the calendar indications are placed at 3 and 9 o’clock, respectively. The touch of red brings so much of a liveliness to the dial, breaks the monochrome appearance successfully.
The most outer layer is the minute track and from there, with a gentle step, we have the main dial where the hours sit. Another step reaches to month, date, and chronograph minute counter layers. Finally, at the deepest recess, we have the power-reserve and the Moon phase indication. In addition, four overlapping hands bring an immense depth to the dial, making it a joy to observe the piece from every angle.
The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar references do not only differ from the case material, but also the material of any metal on the dial. While the pink gold reference (421.032) carries pink gold and blued steel hands, which makes the piece a bit ostentatious and flashy, the platinum reference (421.025) carries rhodium plated white gold and blued steel hands, delivering a calm and serious appearance. Thinking that there are 11 hands on the dial, as well as a delightful Moon phase disc made of gold, I find the soothing appearance of the platinum 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar a bit more charming than its pink gold counterpart. Though it is obviously a matter of taste.
Blue of the Moon phase disc, however, is just a delight in both metals. It is made of solid pink gold for the 410.032 and white gold for the 410.025 and coated with a rather strong blue – which I must admit I enjoy better in the platinum 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar.
Apart from the two regular production pieces above, A. Lange & Söhne introduced the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst in 2017 with a special event in Florence. Possibly one of the most elaborate and ostentatious watches ever made by A. Lange & Söhne, the Handwerkskunst edition is limited to 20 pieces and retailed at €290k upon introduction. Please visit my cornerstone article over at SJX for the complete guide on the model as well as other Handwerkskunst editions.
Now, let’s flip the watch and dissect its more interesting part, caliber L101.1.
As with every chronograph mechanism from A. Lange & Söhne, the caliber L101.1 of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar is a true delight. However, it is not perfect and comes with its own missing points. The movement was conceived in 2010 and was introduced in 2013. The movement offers 42 hours of power reserve, beats at a traditional 3Hz and consists of 631 parts.
From technical point of view, as it does with its dial side, the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar’s caliber L101.1 does not offer any novelty. It is a rather modernly constructed split-seconds chronograph movement, with a great technical similarity to the ones constructed by Habring over Valjoux 7750. Just like Habring’s construction, the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar’s chronograph mechanism is operated via three-pushers instead of the more traditional crown-based system. In my opinion, this creates a bit of disparity between what the watch wants to be from the front and how it works on the back. Please allow me to explain.
Years ago, there was a heated debate at Timezone.com between Walt Odets and Peter Chong over Datograph and its caliber L951.1. To cut it short, Mr. Odets puts forward the following: “What disturbs me is that in pursuit of this tradition, so much money is spent on the visible top plate… There are simply some inconsistencies in the watches (referring to the lack of Breguet overcoil and few other details), and they usually divide the line between “show” and “go.” They’re great watches, but they’re not completely honest”. This 20-year-old comment also applies to the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar.
A. Lange & Söhne introduced the piece in the 1815 collection, which is inspired from the pocket watch era of the brand. Therefore, every detail of the collection tries to follow the traditional motifs, as mentioned on the dial section. Same goes for the movements too e.g., every 1815 collection watch comes with a screwed balance. In the context of the 1815 Rattrapante Calendar however, a traditional rattrapante mechanism is operated via crown. Therefore, there is a mismatch in between what A. Lange & Söhne wants to display how they do it. A food for thought.
But I would like to dig deeper into 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar’s backside. In my philosophy, the more I understand a complicated watch, its quirks, and its operational principles, the more I enjoy the piece. Therefore, I would like to go over the working principles of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar’s user activated complication.
The processor of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar or any chronograph by Lange for that matter is the column-wheel. It is the link between the pushers and the function we see. The chronograph becomes active when the operating parts of the chronograph mechanism connects to the running movement. When the user presses the start button, the column wheel spins forward and pushes the clutch lever’s tail in between the pillars. With this motion, the clutch wheel moves horizontally and meshes with the chronograph wheel. To stop, pressing the button again, the clutch lever sits on the pillar again and disengages from the chronograph mechanism.
1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar has two hands that sit on interlocking shafts. Simply put, when you activate the rattrapante while the chronograph is running, you actually block the rattrapante gear. Upon release, just like the flyback function, the rattrapante wheel spins to rejoice the main chronograph hand and sits on top of it. When the rattrapante pusher is activated, the column wheel that is responsible for the clamp rotates one step, the clamp closes and arrests the rattrapante center wheel. When the pusher is pressed again, the rattrapante clamp opens. Thus, the rattrapante hand instantly joins the running chronograph hand.
The spring in the rattrapante center wheel synchronizes hands (chrono + rattrapante) when the clamp releases the rattrapante wheel and the rattrapante wheel (+ hand) jumps back to the chronograph hand’s position. 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar’s chronograph + rattrapante section consists of 136 parts. The adjustment of all these wheels, and levers to operate at ultimate precision at every push requires nothing but an extreme dexterity.
One stark visual difference that you would recognize in 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar’s caliber L101.1 from other chronograph pieces of Lange such as the Datograph or Triple Split, etc. is the lack of depth, and the flatness of the bridges and levers. This was done to keep the thickness of the watch at a wearable level. Although this sacrifices from the visual depth that we are used to from A. Lange & Söhne, it keeps 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar at an understandable 14.7 mm thickness.
In movement comparison we have of course Patek Philippe. The current 5204R measures 40.2 mm in diameter and 14.3 mm in thickness. It is a truly traditionally contrasted rattrapante mechanism with a crown-pusher. The 0.4 mm difference in between is completely negligible as the diameter / thickness ratio of the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar makes a better sit on the wrist. On the other hand, Patek Philippe 5204 offers almost 50% more power reserve beats at 4Hz, houses an isolator mechanism, and made of almost 50% less parts than its Lange counterpart – which is a clear sign of movement expertise here. Of course I keep the Patek Philippe 5372 out of the equation, as that watch and its mechanism is simply out of this world and competition.
Even though the caliber L101.1 lacks the depth, it is still a brilliant caliber featuring numerous different finishing techniques in harmony. The moving chronograph parts such as levers and rattrapante clamp are made of steel and brushed whereas the signature parts like column-wheel are flat polished, forming a brilliant contrast with the reserved surfaces. Then we have the beautifully shaped and beveled central bridge with two gold chatons and stripes. The balance cock, even though it is hardly seen, is still hand-engraved, emphasizing A. Lange & Söhne’s attention to detail and respect for its own hand craft tradition.
All said, the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar is a great piece. It is the only one in the market to offer a true, traditional interpretation of such a combination. It is understandable that this would not appeal to some, while it is an obvious choice for others. Moreover, it is without question that it is a very well done piece in terms of craft and expertise.
The only problem I have with the watch is its disharmony between how it looks and how it operates. The 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar with a traditional starting point deserves a traditional movement construction, in other words, a crown-pusher for the rattrapante.
There are only a handful of modern alternatives for the piece. Patek Philippe 5204, which in my opinion offers much better case design, legibility and technicality. On the other hand there is Habring Perpetuel Doppel being the best value for the complication. Luckily for the collector, these three pieces offer completely different value both in design and price, so the choice is purely based on taste and budget.
1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar retails at $253k for the platinum piece and €230k for the pink gold version. However, both versions can easily be found for around $145k and $130k in the secondary market. The reference 5204P had a retail price of $317k in 2012 and 5204R was priced at $283k in 2016. Patek Philippe holds better value in the market. Currently the pink gold variant trades around $240k in the secondary market. That is a $100k difference in the pre-owned market, and the choice is yours.
Habring on the other hand offers the absolutely best value at €21,5k for a split-seconds perpetual calendar watch. Obviously, it is not as elaborately finished nor detailed as the other two. But it is surely a watchmaking marvel and a homerun for those who just want the complication.
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