Lange Odysseus – The Definitive Guide
After tens of articles you have read and hundreds, perhaps thousands of photos you have seen; you might think that What’s left to say about Odysseus?. Indeed, apart from the blogs or parent company owned retailers who either churned out praises all over or paraphrased the press releases, the great GaryG and SJX have already expertly tapped into Odysseus Datomatic; former from the ownership perspective, latter from an expert, critical journalism angle. However, after 2 years of its launch, and the market craze surrounding it, I think it makes sense to look at Lange Odysseus once again – both the watch and its market development.
Rarity in Luxury – Why Does It Matter?
The luxury industry and its values went through a complete transformation over the last 100 years. From independent individual manufactures to luxury brands, to mass producers (relatively) to luxury houses to conglomerates. As a result of such scaling, uniformity in products started to come to daylight – which is one of the main reasons why luxury brands started to play the heritage cards (Laenan, 1989) more than ever before. Marketing strategies shifted fundamentally from emphasizing functionality to extended self – Patek’s genius Generation Campaign.
As a result of such industrialization, the rarity (in absolute numbers) aspect, one of the most fundamental principles of luxury, as we know it, got lost. Think about it; Patek Philippe crafted reference 1463 for more than 25 years from 1940s to 1960s; only to produce 750 examples! Today, this is Patek’s three days of production. This is also a great point to understand why people turn towards vintage. It is unique, numbers are finite, and it is never going to be produced again – unless someone reissues an identical copy…
Granted that rarity forms one of the main pillars of collectability and the symbolic value we attain to objects; it is inevitable that companies would play with such a phenomenon on purpose where all else is mass. In conjunction with the article’s main topic, this is where the steel A. Lange & Söhne watches, its journey to Lange Odysseus and the crazy market of the watch come into play.
Lange Odysseus and Stainless Steel
Since its re-birth in 1994, A. Lange & Söhne “officially” produced only five steel models: Lange 1, a unique Tourbillon Pour le Mérite, 1815 service watches, Double Split and Lange Odysseus. Among the four, only the Lange 1 and steel Odysseus were produced in series, whereas the other two remained as unique pieces. In other words, until 2019, A. Lange & Söhne did not touch the mediocre alloy next to the precious ones.
You can find the full story on steel Lange watches, here.
However, for the last 10 years, a stainless-steel, water-resistant A. Lange & Söhne watch has been whispered in every corner of the forums. Like the one ring becoming a myth, a steel Lange watch was nothing more than a fantasy for many. What many did not know was, the steel Odysseus was in the making for the last decade and the rumors were not for none. Even though the management declined such rumors many times, everybody knew that it was inevitable, especially after the demand surge towards the Royal Oak, Nautilus, and many potential customers who’ve been looking for a fine steel watch but cannot get the former two.
Following such a thirst for an A. Lange & Söhne steel watch, the Lange Odysseus was destined to become precious and attention grabbing – so it did. Think about it, the first serially produced stainless steel watch from A. Lange & Söhne… Finally, a Lange that one can wear day in day out, swimming, playing with kids, or during Saturdays for the boys. The brand’s production numbers were the spice needed and the Odysseus became what it is today. Of course, this is just a part of the story, and the other part is the watch itself, which demands a lengthy examination all around.
Odysseus, named after a Greek hero who fought his way back to his home for 10 years, depicts the lengthy development process of the watch. Anthony De Haas mentions the story started 15 years ago, we made three attempts, and it is finally here. Some of you might remember that it was Jaeger-LeCoultre who had a line with the same name in the 80s and the 90s. Therefore, Lange seems to choose the most fitting one from under the Richemont umbrella.
Lange Odysseus, as A. Lange & Söhne describes it, is a sporty-elegant wristwatch, a term that I’ll be referring to frequently. Measuring at a 40.5 mm in diameter and an accompanying 11.1 mm in thickness, with 120 meters water resistance and a screw-down crown, Lange Odysseus successfully fills-up its “sporty” shoes, size-wise. Design however, requires its own paragraphs.
Gerald Genta and Audemars Piguet created a genre in 1972 with the Royal Oak: luxury sports watch. The watch simply broke the rules of fine watchmaking with every single detail, but most importantly with its case and its integration to its magnificent bracelet. This trailblazing, and possibly the most iconic watch of the history, was followed by many others – most notably the Nautilus but not limited to it. Laureto, Ingeniur, etc… Indeed, how can one not? Well, Odysseus did not.
This mindset of differentiation is buried deep within A. Lange & Söhne’s identity. Differentiation was A. Lange & Söhne’s only chance of re-birth in the 1990s. To this day, the brand successfully preserves such a valuable asset, always trying to offer something different from the rest. Lange could try to make Odysseus’ case something non-round, could remove the lugs, could show screws somewhere – but no. If they would, the Odysseus wouldn’t be A. Lange & Söhne, but another copycat in the cemetery of stainless steel, blue dial sports watches of the last decades. Even though the aesthetics is a completely subjective matter, I applaud Lange designers’ decision to keep the Odysseus within A. Lange & Söhne.
A classic Lange case design consists of the following elements: A round case constructed on three steps as case back, band and the bezel with alternating finish and either welded, or soldered lugs with generous angles and notched base. The most important element here are the separate, strong, and bold lugs, personally conceived by none other than Günter Blümlein, again, to differentiate A. Lange & Söhne from its Swiss counterparts where the lugs mostly flow from the case rather than forming their own presence.
Since the lugs are one of the most important details of an A. Lange & Söhne watch, the brand did not want to sacrifice such an element for the sake of an integrated bracelet. For the better or the worse, that is subjective. Though it is clear that such detail makes Lange Odysseus, well, Lange.
In addition, Lange Odysseus shows splendidly integrated pushers on the crown-side. I don’t think that this was done to copy Patek Philippe Nautilus, which Lange would avoid at any cost. Here, I see a brilliant design choice. Odysseus could come with regular pushers on the side. Yet, this would break the visual integrity of the watch, making it just another Lange watch. Here, the integrated pushers complete the visual harmony, leaving no hanging element apart from the crown. I do enjoy the asymmetry here and I think that it’s going to be completed if we see a chronograph version. The pusher at the top controls the date and the bottom the day.
The combination of brushed and polished surfaces is just a delight on top. The passing from the brushed side of the lugs to mirror-polished notch and continuum to the pusher is just brilliant. Lange Odysseus’ case is a steel, complex sculpture.
The bracelet, however, is a different story. It is the part that got the most outrage from the community, and for some parts, deservedly so. In the end, it is a bracelet that was born with a compromise (lugs), desperately trying to look integrated…
Lange Odysseus is not the first bracelet watch that the brand has put out. From 1994 to the mid-2000s, we have seen a wide array of bracelets for Lange watches, made by the famed Wellendorff. From the rather classic variants that we see on Lange 1 pieces to adventurous ones on Langematik Perpetual, there was a time when Lange spoiled the collectors with stunning bracelets. A consequence, everybody was expecting something brilliant, original, somewhat daring and comfortable. I must admit that the Lange Odysseus bracelet partly fails in the first two, controversially accomplishes the third, and excels the fourth.
Lange Odysseus’ bracelet does not offer any originality in terms of its sheer design. In this regard the bracelet is far from being characteristic overall. When it comes to dazzling you, I think Nautilus, Royal Oak and Overseas from the big ones, and Moser from the smaller ones offer much more.
However, from a daring perspective, Odysseus goes 100% out. Simply because just as many things A. Lange & Söhne do, it is unusual, assertive. Only Lange could preserve the lugs and attach such a bold bracelet to a dress watch looking dial watch and here we are.
At the beginning, I mentioned that the sheer design is not original – but the integration is. How it fits makes Odysseus recognizable. This is a very important aspect as I think that the recognizability of the watch is a tremendously important parameter – such as Lange 1… The bracelet looks broad, non-integrated to the case – which the first editions actually are. Indeed, even though advertised as integrated, the first Odysseus batch does not have a fully integrated bracelet. This was updated, I believe, sometime in 2020.
When it comes to comfort however, it is above and beyond the rest. This is where you feel Lange once again with incredible detail on finishing, and its transformation to utility. The dance between the brushed, soft surfaces and the polished bevels is just brilliant and buttery smooth on the wrist. During the day, you just find yourself rubbing the bracelet, just to feel its silky links and connections. If the hairy-wrist guys are a market segment to produce a piece for, Lange Odysseus is the watch!
The bracelet of the Odysseus is made like a lego construct, allowing you to adjust it part by part, even with a toothpick. You just need to press the buttons on the links and take off the line from the rest.
Moreover, the Odysseus comes with a quickly adjustable bracelet. By pressing the A. Lange & Söhne logo button on the back, the bracelet can be adjusted up to 7mms, without taking the watch off the wrist. Such details actually show that the Lange Odysseus is built for comfort and utility with an eye for craft. Please note that such a solution is not exclusive to Lange and was utilized before by different brands.
In 2020, A. Lange & Söhne introduced the Odysseus along with leather and rubber strap options in white gold metal too. Interestingly, the watch looks much more harmonious on a rubber strap, but lacks that distinction and specialty formed with the steel bracelet, which I don’t like so much. Plus, a big portion of the collectability of the Odysseus is formed by the fact that it is the first serially produced steel watch from Lange. So, character, originality, historical importance vs. the looks and comfort – it is up to you to decide.
If I’d ask any Lange enthusiast to give me a defining element of the brand, I’m sure a big portion would immediately speak of the big date window. Indeed, since the re-birth of the modern A. Lange & Söhne, there hasn’t been a more prominent element in the arsenal of the brand. Originally a Jaeger-LeCoultre invention but adapted by Günter Blümlein to form the bridge between A. Lange & Söhne’s past and the present, the big-date has been a faithful servant in numerous watches of the brand.
Lange used the oversized windows to showcase the date, until Zeitwerk. With the groundbreaking model, for the first time we saw two of them in the same watch, one displaying hours and the other minutes. Odysseus utilizes more or less the same outline – two oversized windows with small seconds at the bottom… It is obvious that Lange Odysseus is built on this familiar template, but an array of differentiating choices makes this watch a piece on its own.
Starting with the chapter ring, we see a similar pattern to the one we had with the Langematik Perpetual. Such application brings out a tremendous depth and emphasis on the center of the dial. There, Odysseus uses somewhat of a granular finish, like an eggshell, which reminds of the one used in the 1815 Honey Gold “200th Anniversary” in 2015. Blending of these elements strike like Classic Cask 40 – though you’d be better off with Nautilus, Royal Oak etc. if you enjoy single malt on your dial.
Baton indices are done masterfully. Another design element that we’ve never seen at any other Lange piece. Indices are split in the middle to accommodate the lume. The night-view of the piece is just excellent. Moreover, the baton indices showcase sharp angles, which delivers the much-needed aggressiveness to Lange Odysseus. I especially enjoy the cuts at 5 and 7 o’clock. Broad alpha hands complete the Odysseus dial, both legibility and aesthetic-wise.
Looking at the dial, Lange Odysseus tells one that it is not a sports-watch as others. Though it is not a dress watch either. It tries very hard with many different elements not to be a Nautilus, Royal Oak, or any other derivative; but somehow strikes a brilliant balance and succeeds. I think this is partly because A. Lange & Söhne wanted to depart from its competitors as much as possible. All in all, thinking that Tony De Haas states that this is a sporty-elegant watch. I think the watch fills its shoes just perfectly.
Flipping the Lange Odysseus over, there greets us the caliber L155.1 with an interesting backstory that most watch blogs (except SJX – hats off to him) or parent company owned pre-owned dealers do not mention at all. When introduced in 2019, the brand marketed (they still do) this caliber as a new movement made from the ground-up. Indeed, caliber engineering is one of the standing pillars of A. Lange & Söhne, therefore it is important for brand marketing as well as for collectors who ask why this watch costs €28,8k. However, such statements are filled with voids. To my knowledge and eyes, Lange Odysseus does not carry a new movement made from the ground-up but a specifically tailored version of the Saxonia Automatic’s L086.1.
Is using a base movement to develop and adjust for a new watch wrong? Not at all. A company has to make profits, otherwise we wouldn’t have our beloved A. Lange & Söhne in the first place. I must also add that the modification to the L086.1 to turn it into the caliber L155.1 of the Lange Odysseus is tremendously well done. But there’s no need for misdirection. Below, you’re going to find a side-by-side comparison, so, you be the judge.
Apart from such a speed bump, Lange Odysseus’ Caliber L155.1 is a brilliant one. Albeit the movement ring is relatively wide, the craft is unquestionable as usual. The rotor is made of ARCAP, an alloy Lange uses also with Saxonia’s rotor for it is more stable than gold. Grey rhodium plate is a phenomenal touch, emphasizing the sporty nature of the piece. The DATOMATIC relief engraving is in match with the engraving on the case back ring, forming a great continuum. The platinum mass gives more efficiency to the winding and provides a part of that delightful heft of the Lange Odysseus.
Caliber L155.1 of the Lange Odysseus carries most of the hallmarks of an A. Lange & Söhne caliber – except for the flat-polished escape wheel cap and the usual balance cock. I do not know the reason for the lack of the polished cap. However, the balance bridge, which is a first for the brand, was used to give more stabilization to the oscillating system as this is an active watch by its nature. The bridge is engraved in a special fashion, this time with wave motifs rather than the usual floral version.
Speaking of the oscillating system, Lange Odysseus brings two other first times for the brand: A special balance wheel and a 4Hz frequency. As you can note from the comparison picture above, Saxonia’s L086.1 carries a screwed balance wheel as opposed to Odysseus’ big and recessed screwed balance wheel. This was done to increase the inertia of the system which in return makes it easier to absorb shocks without getting affected. In return, Caliber L155.1 of the Lange Odysseus offers 50 hours of power reserve, which is just fine.
As complications, Lange Odysseus offers day and date. Indications change gradually over mid-night, which is completed around 00:20. Another delightful feature that adds to the comfort of the piece is the possibility to change the day and date backwards. Pass the 11:15 point of the previous day, and indications switch back for the ease of adjustment.
All in all, Lange Odysseus is a very-well made watch catered for a clientele who is looking for something different from the usual suspects or a Lange collector who has been looking for an everyday version of the same design language. But how is Lange handling the latter and the demand boom of the Odysseus?
Buying a Lange Odysseus
Let’s wind our clocks back to 2019. When introduced, Odysseus caused a big split within the community. Many disliked it, many made fun and in between, some collectors managed to snatch the piece while it was still available. Yes, even without a purchase history. Simply because following the uproar, I bet even the Lange management was not sure what the demand was going to be.
Months passed by, and the Lange Odysseus started to get warmer and warmer. Many had the chance to try the watch, and I must say that the Odysseus really shines when it is on the wrist. One collector followed the other, one newcomer followed the collector and Lange Odysseus became the brand’s first non-special, non-limited edition to have a considerable waiting list. Of course, this was not just because of demand but Covid-19… A. Lange & Söhne manufacture remained closed for months and the shortage of supply caused more and more demand, classic luxury theory in action.
Following the serious imbalance in the supply/demand equation, A. Lange & Söhne wanted to take precautions to deliver the watch to the right wrist, which makes complete sense in theory. Because whenever a watch sells over retail, you’re going to have flippers. The strategy was to ask the client to bundle in order to qualify for the Lange Odysseus, based on an application. Many, for specific reasons, have a problem with that. But one common defence against the bundling seems to be “Lange is not in a position to ask this like Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Because their secondary market is so soft, what do they think?” Well, hasn’t that changed?
No strategy is without flaws, and it is going to hurt someone in execution. I see it as A. Lange & Söhne’s complete right to “ask” for this practice, as it is the buyer who has the right to accept or decline. Therefore, I don’t see any problem with this, as long as it is upfront and globally practiced at the same standards.
On the other hand, Odysseus revealed another problem. If you have purchased your watches through an AD for years, and if you apply for an Odysseus at the boutique, chances are you’re going to be rejected. Why, might you ask? Well, because you haven’t bought your watches from the boutique, even if you did not have one in your region. This is a much bigger problem in handling many long-time A. Lange & Söhne collectors. I hope it is better now than it was months ago.
Circling back to the bundling practice; such strategy comes with its consequences. It produces a bubble of not as desirable watches in the secondary market. Because the client purchases a Richard Lange to get the Odysseus, and in a month’s time, tries to sell it quietly. What happens is, we see many Lange 1s, 1815 Up/Downs, Richard Lange pieces now, which hurts the overall value of the pieces.
As of August 2021, Odysseus appeared three times at auctions. Twice at Phillips and once at Antiquorum with an average sales price of (premium included) $82k – almost thrice of the retail price. Do I think it deserves such an amount? Absolutely not. But the market speaks the truth and here we are. What Lange Odysseus did is actually much bigger than its own. It lifted the whole pre-owned A. Lange & Söhne market simply by attracting attention to the brand as the brand’s first serially produced watch selling at premium. So, something is done right!
All in all, Lange Odysseus is a very-well made, historically important, good looking (even better on the wrist) stainless steel sporty-elegant wristwatch from A. Lange & Söhne. That’s more than enough number of adjectives to get a watch from Lange.
If you’d like to discuss this article, or sell / buy a Lange Odysseus, please kindly contact me from email@example.com.
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