The Definitive Guide to A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual
There are gems in many brand’s catalogues that are overlooked for decades and there are numerous reasons for this happening. Sometimes it is because they are simply ahead of their time and sometimes because they bring out such a strong character and diversion from the consuetudinary, it takes time to sink in. Here such a watch from A. Lange & Söhne: Langematik Perpetual calendar. An extraordinary outlier, which also happens to be a beautiful one.
A. Lange & Söhne was re-founded in 1994 with the respect to its past but never was binded by it. This is well obvious when one takes a look at the first collection. A masterful blend of tradition (Saxonia) with a search for modernity and distinction (Lange 1)… Blümlein summarizes the philosophy as follows:
The 1994 A. Lange & Söhne wristwatches and all upcoming models are anything but epigones of watchmaking legends. Take our big date in the “Arcade,” Lange 1 “and” Saxonia “. It is not our intention to celebrate traditional craftsmanship or to compete for the most complicated clock. One of our goals is watchmaking beauty and perfect craftsmanship. On the other hand, innovations and differentiating design are important parameters for us.
The Glashütte power house led by Blümlein set out to sail with a 100% freedom principle in regards to movement development. Hence freedom to reflect exactly what is in the mind at the right time without constraints of outsourcing – with the exception of Lange 1’s L901.0 which is based on JLC’s 822, and Tourbillon Pour le Mérite’s l902.0 which was developed with the help of Renaud & Papi.
All of the initial movements were absolutely phenomenal. However, all were also handwound – perhaps simply because there is no meaningful self-winding movement heritage in A. Lange & Söhne. However, you are nothing if you do not improve on the past and create your own path. Hence, in order to fully adapt to modernity, A. Lange & Söhne needed an automatic caliber and this came from one man’s genius and his free-time work.
Caliber L921.2 or better known as Sax-0-Mat is a result of the 5 years work of the now retired movement designer Helmut Geyer. Even today; the caliber L921.2 is “the” automatic movement to have from A. Lange & Söhne. As I was told by several long-time employees of the brand, Geyer came up with the movement idea by working in his spare time and showed it to Blümlein. Amazed by its beauty, the manager decided to put this mechanism into a watch; which led the way to Langematik.
One can summarize the success of A. Lange & Söhne’s re-birth with the fruitful differentiation in three aspects: Characteristic design, focus on movement design and finish and marketing. Lange 1, L951.1 and focus on nothing but watches in early advertisements can be given as examples, respectively.
A. Lange & Söhne always tried to, and mostly succeeded, create different designs for established complications. For example the original chronograph – date layout with Datograph in 1999. Already having the momentum since its re-birth, the second original interpretation of a centuries old complcation – the perpetual calendar arrived in 2001 with the Langematik Perpetual.
A. Lange & Söhe introduced the Langematik Perpetual collection in platinum (310.025) and yellow gold (310.021) cases. The watch measures at 38.5 mms in diameter with a sleek 10.2 mms in thickness and the delicate touches start from right here, the case.
A. Lange & Söhne’s case structure is a concrete example of differentiation on design. Constructed on three levels with alternating finishes as polished and brushed, it appears and feels heavily engineered. Implemented By Blümlein himself as another point of distinction, the lugs are notched and mirror finished at the base and screwed into the case. They do not flow through the case, but rather forms its own structure and gracefully tapers towards the strap. The sum of these small details form a character; a character that is apparant even at a glance, one that lets you know it is something different.
Every Langematik Perpetual houses a corrector pusher. It simply advances all indications by one increment, thus you do not need to worry about setting the calendar after leaving the watch in the safe for a while – a superbly user friendly feature.
So, first Langematik Perpetual cases featured a rectangular corrector pusher at 10 o’clock and three recessed pushers for individual adjustments. However, after 2005-2006 Lange changed the corrector pushbutton from the protruding rectangular to a round recessed due to accidental activation by the owners. So, if you’re in the market for a Langematik Perpetual, it would be helpful to check the pusher to determine its period.
Below, the references and production dates for Langematik Perpetual:
- 310.025 – Platinum case, rhodium dial – From 2001 to 2017.
- 310.225 – Platium case, platinum bracelet – From 2001 to 2003
- 310.021 – Yellow gold case, champagné dial – From 2001 to 2007.
- 310.221 – Yellow gold case, yellow gold bracelet – From 2001 to 2006
- 310.026 – White gold case, black dial – From 2014 to 2017
- 310.032 – Pink gold case, silver dial – From 2007 to 2017
- 310.232 – Pink gold case, pink gold bracelet – From 2007 to 2012
- 310.050 – Honey gold case, argenté dial – 2019 – in production, limited to 100 pieces
The famed Wellendorff produced the bracelets for a short period of time (indicated above). In my opinion, Langematik Perpetual’s bracelets are some of the best in business.
Langematik Perpetual Dial – Focus on Date
It was Patek Philippe who put the perpetual calendar in a wristwatch for the first time in 1925 with the reference 97975. Again Patek Philippe in 1937 with the ref. 96 created the world’s first perpetual calendar wristwatch with retrograde date – which was sold at Antiquorum for over 1 million CHF in 2002. Finally, it was Patek Philippe again who conceived the world’s first serially produced Perpetual Calendar in 1941 with the reference 1526; which established the brand’s signature perpetual calendar layout with two apertures and a central sub-dial. Possibly the most optimal design for calendar both for aesthetics and legibility point of view…
Indeed, the design was so dominant and successful, many brands started to copy the layout. Yet there were also outliers with characteristic designs such as Audemars Piguet’s famous 5516 – first perpetual calendar wristwatch with a leap year indication. Although some original designs emerged, most were incremental on the template, indicating date via hand.
Lange’s design philosophy overlaps with Bauhaus i.e. the information hierarchy. I decipher the Langematik Perpetual design as follows: The date is the most important piece of information of the perpetual calendar as well as the most needed one by the user; thus, it should be at the most prominent position. Although this philosophy causes illegibility in more complicated pieces such as Datograph Perpetual, it works tremendously for Langematik Perpetual.
A railway minute track surrounds the dial. Applied Roman numerals sits a bit above the main dial, separates itself from the calendar indications with success thus causes no confusion. The big date sits at the forefront, days and day/night indicators at 9 o’clock, month and leap year at 3 o’clock and small seconds as well as Moonphase sub-dials at 6 o ‘clock. The information is delivered in a clear manner and it is possible to read the dial at a glance. Moonphase disc is made of solid gold and on continuous move. Lume plots above each Roman Numeral helps with the legibility at night, albeit offers nothing extraordinary.
One pet-peeve I have is about the leap year indication, which breaks the whole symmetry. It might be appealing to some as it brings liveliness to the dial. However, I wish it was placed within the months sub-dial and not break the focal point. Moreover, the “perpetual calendar” inscription within the sub-dial also would be gone with such exercise.
All Langematik Perpetual editions apart from the limited edition honey gold version carries a plain hours ring. Whereas the limited honeygold version has a guilloché (stamped) pattern which in my taste superbly done and brings a whole new aura to the watch. It helps to separate the indications from the hours/minutes markers, hence creates a much organized and more legible dial design.
All said, Langematik Perpetual’s dial has a soul. It is neither a derivative nor an inspiration from the past. With Roman numerals, the brand’s custom typeface as well as signature outsized date, it successfully creates its own aura and diverges from the crowd.
This is the beating heart of all Langematik Perpetual watches since 2001. Based on the original ingenious Sax-0-Mat caliber L921.2 with a perpetual calendar module added on top, it is a marvelous thing to watch.
The caliber L921 series, which was utilized in all automatic watches of the brand until 2011 was developed by possibly the most famous, and rightfully so, movement designer of A. Lange & Söhne, Helmut Geyer. It is said that Geyer worked on the movement in his spare times and later showed the sketch to Blümlein whether he’d like to develop such a calibre. Amazed by its beauty, Blümlein gives the project a go and Sax-0-Mat borns in 1997.
Sax-0-Mat is a remarkable achievement. Because, I cannot think of any other modern A. Lange & Söhne caliber that is so distant to the brand’s heritage but as brilliantly infused as this one. Geyer managed to transform this unrelated part of history to something entirely A. Lange & Söhne – from visuality and finish to technical innovation. As a result, the L921 caliber stands as unique among all the legendary movements of A. Lange & Söhne.
Its design is exactly how one would imagine an automatic caliber from A. Lange & Söhne. A gorgeous result born out of a contrast; an automatic movement coupled with 150 years old traditional hallmarks. Geyer managed to brew historic aesthetics such as three-quarter plate with modern technicality, and the result of such synthesis is something inimitable and nothing but exceptional. The aesthetical harmony formed by a myriad of finishing techniques as well as color palette created by gold chatons, blued screws and German Silver is a joy to see.
Made of 478 individual parts, caliber l922.1 offers 46 hours of power reserve and beats at 3Hz.
Langematik Perpetual’s caliber l922.1 houses two important complications: The zero-reset and the perpetual calendar. I also would like to briefly go over these two complications.
Under the seconds hand, there are two levers positioned over each other. When the crown is pulled, the lever (braking disc) on the top grips the brake disc and stops its movement. Since the disc is connected to the seconds hand, its movement stops. Moreover, there’s a heart-shaped cam attached to the seconds’ hand. When the first lever of the two touches the heart cam, thanks to the cam’s asymmetric rotation and the shape, it always travels back to its final position when touched. Hence, the seconds hand jumps back to zero. Moreover, another lever gently contacts the balance wheel and keeps it from moving. When the crown is pushed back, the levers return to their resting position and movement starts again.
How Does A Perpetual Calendar Work?
The perpetual calendar on the other hand is a bit more complex, though its logic is pretty straightforward.
A perpetual calendar is simply a mechanism that gives the day, date, month and often the moonphase while automatically calculating the length of each month and leap years until the year 2100. Because Gregorian Calendar ignores the leap-year in 2100; thus the owner has to adjust the mechanism him/herself.
Perpetual Calendar was invented by Thomas Mudge – the inventor, the horologist. The father of quite possibly the most important invention in watchmaking, the lever escapement as well as couple of others like the first remontoir in the gear train, possibly the first watch with equation of time and as a topic of the page: The Perpetual Calendar. Though the perpetual calendars were present in various clocks prior to his arrival, he is the one who adapted the principle to a watch in 1762.
The principle part of the movement is the programme wheel or the cam of 48 with each step representing a month. It features four different recesses: The lowest recesses represent February 28, second lowest for February 29, third lowest for the months with 30 days and the shallowest ones for 31 days. This wheel makes one full turn in four years.
As the brain, the rest of the perpetual calendar mechanism relies on the programme wheel. A finger, attached to a lever, glides through the cam and controls the rest of the movement parts. The lever is connected to the star wheel with 31 (days) teeth. Imagine the finger is in the deepest recess, at February 28. Every night the lever retracts from the deepest recess and drives the star wheel via a click by one step.
The 31 teeth cam carries a snail shaped cam and a click. Until the 28th of February, the click still resides on the snail. At midnight, the click falls behind the snail because the lever resides at the deepest point of the programme wheel, hence its tail, too. Through this recess, the click is going to push the snail by 4 days – to the first day of the next month and so forth.
Difference with Langematik Perpetual is the big-date mechanism as it has “tens” and “ones” wheels but the basic principle remains the same.
Langematik Perpetual’s calendar indications do not jump instantenously and the visible switching process takes about an hour. So, please do not mess with your watch from 10 PM to 2 AM while the gears are at their most fragile positions.
Langematik Perpetual Special Editions
For 20 years, as the only stand alone perpetual calendar watch in the catalogue, Lange launched many iterations of Langematik Perpetual. Some were for retailers, some unique pieces for collectors or certain markets. But they all have one thing in common: They are extremely beautiful. Below, please find some special editions of the revered line.
Langematik Perpetual Sincere Edition:
Reference 310.047, Langematik Perpetual Sincere Fine Watches edition was produced in 2008 with a limited run of 25 pieces in total. The rose gold and black dial combination is utterly striking and the watch is surely handsome as ever.
The Sincere Edition has appeared at auctions only two times (both at Antiquorum) since its introduction and commands a bit more than the standard pink versions – for about $46k.
This watch appeared at Sotheby’s in 2007. Please note that this is 9 years prior to the introduction of the reference 310.026. Moreover, this is again, 9 years prior to the launch of the special reference 310.826 for the Hourglass Japan’s 20th Anniversary set. I do not know the story behind this platinum goodness here but it was sold for close to $100k at the time, making it the most expensive Langematik Perpetual ever sold.
Other than these two pieces, there have been numerous versions with diamond bezel or day and month inscriptions in German rather than standard English.
Buying a Langematik Perpetual
The MSRP in 2001 for the platinum and yellow gold versions were $54k and $44k respectively. After 16 years of availability however, when discontinued in 2017, the platinum’s price was $97k. White gold (310.026) and pink gold (310.032) versions on the other had a MSRP of $83k. The special edition Langematik Perpetual Honeygold’s MSRP is $85k.
Although A. Lange & Söhne have been overly enthusiastic about the price increases over the years, the market did not respond as such.
As of November 2020, the platinum models are available at around $50k whereas the white gold/black dial asks a bit more premium and available at around $60k. Pink gold and yellow gold versions are available around the ballpark of $35k.
Langematik Perpetual comes with a beautiful winder from A. Lange & Söhne as part of the set. So, please ask the seller if he has the winder or not.
Overall, Langematik Perpetual was the one and only stand alone perpetual calendar watch from A. Lange & Söhne for close to 20 years. It is highly characteristic, recognizable, legible, comfortable and most importantly a beautiful watch on the wrist. I guarantee you that whichever edition you decide, it is going to bring nothing but joy – even more so in the secondary market.
In case you’re wondering, my personal preference lies with Honeygold (310.050) and platinum versions.
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