The Guide to A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual
Chronograph is a monumental complication and there are only a couple of additions that would deservedly accompany its complexity while elevating its attraction even more. Throughout the history there happened to be many combinations, but none struck as its coupledom with another grand complication: Perpetual Calendar and the Datograph Perpetual is A. Lange & Söhne’s iteration of the iconic coupledom.
Iconic indeed as the first serially produced wristwatch with the combination of chronograph and perpetual calendar goes back to 1941, Patek Philippe’s legendary 1518. Oh, the 1518 is such a watch with such a beautiful, functional and characteristic design, after four generations (2499-3970-5970-5270) the blueprint that was laid almost 80 years ago is still in use and with quite the success, too.
It was a no-brainer for A. Lange & Söhne to come up with a perpetual calendar chronograph. Simply because the coupledom is one of the flagship offerings of its biggest competitor. They had to come up with a similar model – but only with their own, Germanic, different identity. Had they utilized the same or even a slightly similar blueprint for the Datograph Perpetual, they did not stand a chance at all. Because differentiation towards the better was the only chance the modern A. Lange & Söhne got to stay in the crowded marketplace as a late comer.
Günter Blümlein, with A. Lange & Söhne, wanted to create something new and characteristic with respect to tradition, but not essentially based on it. In this sense, for the marriage of the perpetual calendar and chronograph, it makes sense that A. Lange & Söhne easily eliminated the 1815 line due to limited design choices on such a rooted canvas with Arabic numerals and railway minute track… Lange 1 was out of option for technical reasons. Hence, there was only one choice: the Datograph Perpetual.
The noble search came to an end in 2006 with the Datograph Perpetual in platinum (410.025) with silver dial. It was as unusual and characteristic as its patriarch with lowered sub-dials, applied Roman Numerals and magnificent caliber L952.1. The marriage of the perpetual calendar chronograph was the first traditional combination for the brand.
Datograph Perpetual – 410.025, 410.030
The first generation Datograph Perpetual was produced only in platinum (410.025) and white gold (410.030) – with and without the bracelet. While the platinum version stayed in the catalogue for 5 years, the white gold version was introduced in 2009 and discontinued shortly after in a couple of years in 2011.
The Datograph Perpetual measures 41 mm in diameter and 13.5 mm in thickness. Increase in heft, hence the thicker bezel (0.7 mm more in comparison to Datograph) is due to perpetual calendar module. The diameter was further enhanced to preserve the diameter/height ratio as well as the legibility and wearability of the watch.
As with every complicated A. Lange & Söhne watch, Datograph Perpetual’s case houses a protruding case back. This is a functional and visual trick. On one hand, it hides the heft from the side, on the other hand, it accommodates the movement in expense of wrist comfort as it decreases the surface sitting on the wrist. However, thanks to its balanced diameter/thickness ratio and lug design, Datograph Perpetual wears pretty comfortably on the wrist.
Speaking of comfort, the corrector pusher at 10 o’clock is a brilliant and a user-friendly touch. It simply advances all calendar indications by one increment when pressed. A rather life saving button to the 36 hours of power reserve mechanism!
The mentioned pusher is deactivated between 10 PM and 2 AM to protect the calendar mechanism and can only be operated if the crown is pulled so that it cannot be triggered while the watch is sitting pusher side down or on the wrist.
Since the Datograph Perpetual utilizes the same base as the Datograph’s L951.1, the placement of indications is exactly the same with its inspiration. As mentioned above, there’s a 2-mm difference in diameter between the non-perpetual calendar version and this addition is successfully distributed between the tachymeter scale and bezel. Most importantly; Datograph Perpetual masterfully safeguards the line’s character while managing to be recognizable on its own. Of course, the brand’s signature perpetual calendar layout plays a big role here.
A big part of the Datograph Perpetual’s character (and the brand’s in general) is formed by the big date, it had to stay there and this dictated the design choices for the calendar. The big date covers a rather wide area, so the only option for the day and month indications was to distribute them to their respective sub-dials. I must admit that such a design preserves the character just perfectly, alas has its own shortcomings. The design suffers from legibility perspective compared to apertures (like Patek Philippe or Urban Jürgensen) solution. Further; the big date also limits the width of the Moon phase indication at 6 o’clock; which leaves only so much place for this romantic complication.
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Another pet peeve for many enthusiasts is the day/night and leap year indications. Indeed, such non-optimal design is apparent in early A. Lange & Söhne pieces, e.g. Langematik Perpetual, Lange 1 Time Zone. Both of these pieces pre-date the Datograph Perpetual and both feature hanging sub-dials. Thus, my belief is that Lange probably wanted to continue on the same line, on a rather proven design. A friend calls them tumors which I find pretty harsh and disagree. I find such eccentric touch as a positive contribution to Datograph Perpetual’s already out of the box appearance – at least for the first generation.
Two of the first generation Datograph Perpetual watches offer almost completely different value. The platinum Datograph Perpetual, reference 410.025, is a bit more sober, understated and classy if you will with its heavier case, white dial that forms a better contrast with several details on the dial such as the Moon phase. The white gold Datograph Perpetual, reference 410.030, on the other hand is aggressive, edgier and sportier. It was also the brand’s first use of white gold / grey dial combination; which today is a signature coupledom.
All in all, the first generation Datograph Perpetual is a brilliant update over the basic Datograph. Despite the increase in diameter and thickness, the signature elements such as Roman Numerals are proportionally preserved, and it feels that Datograph Perpetual is a continuation; without being mimicry.
Datograph Perpetual – Second Generation
A. Lange & Söhne went through a management change in 2009. Fabian Krone, then the CEO for 6 years left the company and Jeromé Lambert, now the CEO of Richemont, took over for a couple of years until the current CEO Wilhelm Schmid’s arrival. Within this period, Lange went through a transition in design. The brand started to ditch somewhat baroque designs and focused on more modern, minimal and streamline appearances. One strong example of this observation is Datograph Perpetual’s second generation.
In 2010, the brand introduced the Datograph Perpetual in pink gold (410.032). Main updates were the baton indexes and a more slender font. It was more modern per-se, alas in expense of losing its aggressive and definitive soul. The design was also the foundation of the new Datograph Up/Down, which arrived only 2 years after. The second generation Datograph Perpetual Family got bigger in 2015 with the introduction of the splendid white gold (410.038) variant. The pink gold version was discontinued in 2019.
Now, the beauty and character are two different aspects in my book. In this regard, the second generation Datograph Perpetual watches are two very beautiful pieces. However, they just do not have the masculine appearance and the character of the first generation – same story as the Datograph Up/Down…
The Roman Numerals was bringing a very strong and defining character to a Datograph collection. Although I certainly understand the need for modern lines, thinner fonts, etc. I believe it also steals a bit from the soul of the watch. Here, with the removal of the Roman Numerals, the triangle formed by sub-dials and big-date stays as the only focus point. However, previously, this above the center focal area was balanced by the downward central point formed by the numerals. Hence, the new arrangement also causes the Moonphase indication to hang by itself.
Is it a deal breaker, though? Definitely not. The second generation Datograph Perpetual definitely addresses to a broader liking. It is simplified and meaningfully differentiates from one another – grey dial for the sporty and rather masculine, pink gold (410.032) is for class…
Calber L952.1 is basically the caliber L951.1 with a perpetual calendar module on top. Which means, the Datograph Perpetual offers the same breathtaking view from the back as its base. The three-dimensional construction of the movement brings an unrivaled depth; offering a myriad range of angles, finish techniques and new things to discover with every glance.
The contrast between the German Silver’s warm hue and brushed steel’s cold and the harmony between the gold chatons’ brightness and mirror-polished surfaces form an eternal dance on this mechanical computer. Master handcraft is apparent in every inch of this mind-blowing caliber – from engraving to inward angles…
On the technical front, the Datograph Perpetual’s caliber L952.1 comprises of 556 parts, offers a relatively short 36 hours of power reserve and beats at 18,000 bph. The calendar indications are not instantaneous but rather dragging and the switching process is visible from 11PM to 12:30AM. Moreover, the moonphase is accurate to 122.6 years. Chronograph mechanism offers a flyback function with instantenous minute counter.
However, I have to point out one thing: For Datograph Up/Down, Lange updated the movement and increased the power reserve from 36 hours to 60. Why the Datograph Perpetual’s caliber L952.1 is still suffering from the same shortcoming is baffling and unexpected. Moreover, the lack of the power reserve indication does not make things easier. It seems that the brand has solved both problems at Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, hence, an update to Datograph Perpetual line would be very nice, and expected!
The perpetual calendar module constitutes a whopping 233 parts of the caliber L952.1, and even then, measures at a thickness of only 1.9 mms overall. The module houses a patent where it requires only one switching pawl to operate. This in return makes the switching process of the Datograp Perpetual calendar much easier and demands less power from the mainspring. The patent of Jens Schneider, who is also the owner of the Zeitwerk’s, can be seen here.
The Datograph Perpetual’s calendar mechanism is a classic one, operating on a 48-teeth month wheel with varying recesses according to the month’s length. In return, a lever carries the information received from the notched wheel to other indications and the calendar switches accordingly.
Buying a Datograph Perpetual
Platinum Datograph Perpetual’s (410.025) initial price in 2006 was €114,000 and €119,800 when it was discontinued in 2011. In return, the white gold (410.030) variant’s price was €82,500 in 2009 and €85,000 in 2011.
When Lange introduced second generation Datograph Perpetual in 2010/2011 with pink gold version, its retail price was €85,000. However; the next year, Lange increased the prices throughout the catalogue by a huge margin and Datograph Perpetual asking price went up to €94,600 in only one year. Today, the second generation Datograph Perpetual retails for €127,500 or $143,500. To put in persepctive, more than the original platinum’s 2011 price. Unfortunately for Lange, or fortunately for us enthusiasts, the second market prices did not follow such huge jumps.
For first generation of Datograph Perpetual, a quick search reveals that the platinum variant is currently (April 2021) available for around $80k whereas the white gold variant is asking a considerable premium simply because it is not around much.
The platinum Datograph Perpetual, 410.025, with regular leather strap has appeared 18 times in auctions since 2009. Excluding three statistically irrelevant prices (above $95k) the average price has been around $75 -80k. On the other hand, the white gold Datograph Perpetual with grey dial appeared only once at an auction, which was at Dr. Crott more than 5 years ago and sold for around $80k.
The second generation Datograph Perpetual watches perform relatively better compared to first generation and can be found for sale around $90 – 95k in the second market. However, I do not see any reason other than taste to get a pre-owned second generation Datograph Perpetual and pay a premium over the much rarer first generation. Because as mentioned, the change between generations is nothing but visual.
All in all, as the numbers demonstrate the Datograph collection stands as an exceptional value purchase both in retail and the second market – even more so in competition. Although it all comes down to taste; the watchmaking and craft one gets is unrivaled for these pieces – especially in the second market.
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