1815 Tourbillon – An in-depth look
A hole in a clean dial is almost never attractive, and kind of unoriginal, right? In the end, it has been done for decades, over a dozen models at least. And this is something we do not expect from A. Lange & Söhne. Simply because it is a brand built on being meaningfully different. Yes, the two words written in italic is the reason why the 1815 Tourbillon deserves an in-depth article. This is a watch that offers much more than its look, for the one who is a true watch enthusiast.
The 1815 tourbillon was introduced in 2014 as the brand’s sixth watch with the tourbillon escapement. Indeed, this is a very high number for a manufacture which at the time was only 20 years old. The pathway was paved by the likes of the legendary Tourbillon Pour le Mérite in 1994 to the rather overpriced Cabaret Tourbillon in 2008… Considering that the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite and Tourbograph are from the 1815 collection, the 1815 Tourbillon happens to be the direct successor of both pieces.
Measuring at a reasonable 39.5 mm in diameter, 1815 Tourbillon demonstrates that it is a modern descendant of its predecessors. On top, it has a sleek 11.1 mm thickness, in case one would like to hide such ostentatious pieces under the cuff when necessary. It is there when you want it, especially in platinum, but disappears easily when you get onto something else.
The case construction is classic A. Lange & Söhne, done over three-steps with welded, notched and generously angled lugs. While the pink gold 1815 Tourbillon carries a fully polished case band, all the other metals feature alternating polish / brush finish. Though I believe this was changed around 2018, so, the current 1815 Tourbillon models in pink gold also carry alternating finish.
A delightful detail that I like in the 1815 collection pieces after 2013 is the stepped bezel. Such an extra touch adds another beautiful layer and detail to the case, so the case gets narrower towards the bezel step by step rather than a single slope. An extra work never hurts. It also accentuates the welded lugs even more.
Now, the hole on the dial… We have been seeing the tourbillon on the front-side of the wristwatches since the 1980s. Franck Müller claims the throne for the first ever exposed tourbillon in 1984. To me, however, the protagonist of the era is Audemars Piguet who offered the first tourbillon with automatic winding with the caliber 2870. The slimmest of its time, an absolutely brilliant piece. Then, the likes of Daniel Roth with Breguet, upped the ante, followed by A. Lange & Söhne, etc.
Among all brands, it was Patek Philippe who always refused to expose the tourbillon since its foundation. Mr. Barat, head of complications at Patek Philippe, explains it as follows: A tourbillon is not an indication, it is a complication. That’s why we issue a certificate with our watches with tourbillon guaranteeing an accuracy of -1/+2 seconds a day (super cool btw). The reason we did not want to put on front is because the UV lights get through the sapphire glass and dry up the lubricants.
Patek Philippe launched the reference 5303 and put the tourbillon on the front for the first time ever. Mr. Barat explains the reasoning as now they have the possibility to treat the glass to block the UV light, therefore the sunlight cannot hurt the lubricants. An admirable mindset to say the least.
If we take a general look over the early tourbillons, what we see is that the watches are designed around the tourbillon, not the other way around. When we look at Breguet 3450, or Journe for example, or early Audemars Piguet tourbillons, we see that the tourbillon is given its own space on the dial, meaning it does not interfere with the overall design. 1815 Tourbillon on the other hand is a hole within the basic 1815 model, which is the reason I dissed at it, calling not very original – or just because of this, it is original?
On the other hand, the 1815 Tourbillon is in perfect harmony with A. Lange & Söhne’s overall design in tourbillons. So, I believe it just depends on where you see it. Albeit the design originality can be questionable, the craft is not, and 1815 Tourbillon has a couple of reasons why it is above and beyond of many, many other high-end watches with a tourbillon. However, before getting into that, let’s examine the dial.
1815 Tourbillon carries all the hallmarks of an 1815 collection watch. Thick, printed Arabic Numerals, blued steel Alpha hands, rail-way minute track, three-dots on each quarter, and of course stepped, silver dial. But most importantly, it carries possibly the most beautiful tourbillon made by A. Lange & Söhne.
The tourbillon carriage is an identical copy of the A. Lange & Söhne pocket watch number 82013, sold at Sotheby’s in 2019. Meaning, three arms with closed, curved ends, offering a delightful number of inward angles. The classic Glashütte style, or the most famous I should say, is Alfred Helwig’s obviously, which features the same three-armed construction with open ends. A. Lange & Söhne used this construction only for Lange 1 Tourbillon editions. 1815 Tourbillon, however, has just the best one.
Held by a multiple faceted, black polished bridge with black polished screws, the 1815 Tourbillon recovers its lack of originality, and offers a craft that only a few can match – at an independent watchmaking level. The amount of time and mastery required to create such a masterpiece is immense, no wonder, there’s a lady who constructs tourbillons at A. Lange & Söhne, and only a few who can give such delightful angles to such delicate construction.
Apart from the regular production models, however; there are two special 1815 Tourbillon editions. One of them is special, and the other one is very, very special.
1815 Tourbillon Enamel
The reference 730.079, 1815 Tourbillon Enamel was introduced in 2018 as a limited edition of 100 pieces. This is a number that I think extremely high for A. Lange & Söhne and for such a complicated watch. If the 1815 Tourbillon Enamel is limited to 100, then how many are there of the regular ones, one might ask…
I see a missed opportunity with the 1815 Tourbillon Enamel. It does not make full sense to fashion a special edition watch in the same manner as the regular production pieces. Although it has a delightful tribute to Langematik Anniversary with its red “12”, a full enamel dial with a hidden tourbillon would make this watch extremely special, and actually meaningful. Not because it is not beautiful, on the contrary, it is just stunning; but it could be something much more.
The other one is, for me, one of the best ever watches to leave the A. Lange & Söhne premises in Glashütte: 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst. This is a complete watch. It is an absolutely flawless, very well thought out, extremely meaningful piece carrying a matching craft all around. It is a special edition in every meaning of the word from its honey gold case to way, way better finished movement and tremblaged dial. In a world where the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst sells over $600k, I do not see why an 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst would go under $500k. Though this is another story…
I mean, just look at it. Not to mention that there are only 30 of these around the world. An absolute masterpiece in every sense of the word.
Now, what makes the 1815 Tourbillon really special? Indeed, we discussed that it is not the most original watch around, etc. but it is A. Lange & Söhne. I wouldn’t expect them to just put a tourbillon and leave as it is – we never see them doing something like this. Right, 1815 Tourbillon offers something unique in its technicality and that was the reason I called this watch only for the real enthusiast. For this, we need to go deeper into the movement.
Caliber L102.1 is the beating heart of the 1815 Tourbillon. It is a classic Glashütte style movement covered with a big plate, decorated with gold chatons and blued screws with a hand-engraved tourbillon bridge and a diamond end-stone, just like the pocket watch tourbillons of the past.
The tourbillon itself however makes the difference. 1815 Tourbillon is the world’s first watch to combine the zero-reset complication with the hacking tourbillon mechanism, which both are patented by A. Lange & Söhne.
Starting with the zero-reset: Introduced in 1997 with Langematik Big Date, it is one of the most German inventions in watchmaking one can see around. You know, when do we use the crown other than winding it? To set the watch. So, why not make it even more precise to the second? This mindset brought a patent to A. Lange & Söhne. When the crown is pulled, the seconds’ hand travels back to zero so the owner can set the time to the second. Brilliant.
Hacking a tourbillon on the other hand was a far more complex endeavor. I don’t know if anyone has attempted before but A. Lange & Söhne is the one who invented it in 2008 with the introduction of the Cabaret Tourbillon. The hacking tourbillon does not only stop the cage, but also halts the balance wheel. Because if only the cage was stopped, the balance would stop slowly and if you needed to restart, you needed to shake the watch.
The patented construction developed by Lange brakes the balance wheel directly. This preserves the potential energy of the balance spring so that the wheel will automatically start oscillating again when it is released. As you may have guessed, it is an extremely delicate system.
A. Lange & Söhne explains the 1815 Tourbillon’s hacking as follows: When the crown is pulled a lever mechanism causes a pivotable V-shaped braking spring with two bent ends to engage with the balance under controlled-force conditions. When one of its arms comes into contact with the balance wheel rim or a cage post, it rests against that element and thus pivots the other arm about the braking spring’s axis of rotation until it, too, comes to rest on the rim or at a cage post. This stops both the balance wheel and the cage, regardless of their momentary position.
Currently, both Moritz Grossmann and Glashütte Original from Glashütte offer tourbillon watches with hacking mechanisms, using different systems with the more or less same principle. Only the Glashütte Original took it one step further with a mechanism that also resets the cage and not just the seconds’ hand as it is the case with the 1815 Tourbillon.
The zero-reset on the other hand works with a heart-cam and a lever, which resets the heart-cam to its zero position when the crown is pulled. You can see it from the front, as the lever right above the tourbillon opening.
On the back, 1815 Tourbillon showcases a coherent view with its front side. A three-quarter plate covering most of the movement with no opening and a tourbillon hole, held by a brilliantly hand-engraved bridge and a diamond end-stone. I find this kind of boring, especially after seeing the ornamental caliber of the 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst… A watch with such MSRP from A. Lange & Söhne should give more. Simply because a Lange watch must be a treat from the back too (most of the time it should be even more so), and not fade.
It is still gorgeous; but the reason I’m disappointed is because we know they can do a whole lot better. Sure, a company needs to operate on a certain margin, but this is not a serial production piece that sells in every ten minutes – so, some costs can be affordable.
Overall, 1815 Tourbillon excels in craft; be it the technicality or finish but lacks the originality and differentiation in design. On the other hand, such a simple outlook is exactly what many people are looking for, and I myself have many friends who support a beautiful 1815 Tourbillon on their wrist. Therefore, the objective part of the story which is the dexterity and art is undeniably glorious here.
Buying an 1815 Tourbillon
When introduced in 2014, 1815 Tourbillon carried a MSRP of $201k for the platinum variant and $164k for the pink gold variant – both with deployant buckle. Interesting thing is 1815 Tourbillon Enamel, introduced 2018 came with a MSRP of $197k – that is cheaper than the regular platinum variant, even with an enamel dial.
It is possible that A. Lange & Söhne thought they’ve priced the 1815 Tourbillon too much to start with and they tried to balance. The market however did not react and since its launch, 1815 Tourbillon hammers almost at half of its MSRP at auctions.
This is the trend in the industry. Now is the time for Lumen, chronographs, early Lange 1 and Handwerkskunst for Lange. Thus, everybody chases those while leaving such technical and craft miracles under the radar, which is a brilliant opportunity for the collector. Not to mention the recent Sotheby’s Auction! 1815 Tourbillon is a steal in the market.
As always, thank you all for your time. In case you’d like to purchase an 1815 Tourbillon or simply looking to sell yours, or simply like to chat further, please don’t hesitate to contact via firstname.lastname@example.org.