As Old Ben Kenobi said while bequeathing to Luke his new lightsaber, “An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age”. Had he been handing over his old man’s wristwatch instead of a futures-past laser sword, a single word need only have been changed to properly describe it. That is, of course, if the timepiece he was handing down was the incredible A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Annual Calender with Moonphase in Platinum.
Alas, young Luke got a lightsaber and not a wristwatch – but I did. Thanks to our friends at Lange, I was fortunate to spend some time with this German timepiece over the past week. And while I didn’t lose it (along with my hand) in a brawl with Darth Vader, I did have to give it back. I think that was nearly as painful.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately - the Saxonia is, in short, a masterpiece of modern-classical German wristwatch design. Complementing the existing Saxonia collection is this all-new for 2013 Annual Calendar cased in platinum, released at SIHH this past January. The timepiece has been available in white and rose gold since 2010.
Personally, I am thrilled that precious metals are making a definitive return as casing materials in fine wristwatches. As much a fan as I am of steel sports watches, I’ve had my share over the past decade. It is refreshing to see exquisite timepieces with manufacture movements gussied up properly. I am a big fan of rose gold in particular, but I take issue with white gold, which proves to be incredibly soft and easily damaged. Keeping with the coloring of a polished steel watch, platinum offers an excellent alternative to white gold – and has the added benefit of increased durability.
The round case of the Saxonia measures in at 38.5mm wide by 9.8mm thick, making it a great size for an understated dress piece. The lug design is exquisite – thick and solid, a combination of rounded elements and squared off ends come together in a way only the Germans could pull off. This makes it a comfortable and wearable piece for just about any wrist size.
As with the bulk of Lange’s line, the case back of the Saxonia Annual Calendar is fitted with a sapphire display back highlighting the intricate movement. Comprised of nearly 500 individual parts and 43 jewels, the manufacture movement utilizes an 18k solid gold bidirectional rotor with lever escapement to power the Annual Calendar complications. The movement, Lange Reference L.0851, has a power reserve of nearly 46 hours. Furthermore, Lange includes their patented zero reset mechanism as a component of the movement. When the crown is pulled out, the movement stops, and a series of levers automatically resets the second hand to zero, allowing for precise setting.
My typical distaste for display backs doesn’t factor in here – partially because the movement is so beautifully decorated and adorned, but primarily because the movement fits the case precisely. So many movements – even high end manufactures – fit small movements in oversize cases, but not so with the Saxonia. This is clearly a timepiece built to fit around the movement, and I could watch that Nivarox balance spring do its dance all day.
From a dial standpoint, Lange uses a familiar layout with three subsidiary registers – a monthly calendar at 3, day at 9, and sub-second & moonphase display at 6. Date readout sits directly below 12, with twin windows for the outsize date in traditional Lange fashion. Each of these registers is adjustable from micropushers located at 4, 8, 9, and 10. The dial plate itself is silver tone, which comes alive under the antireflective coating, bathing the dial with a slightly bluish hue in direct light. The hands are polished steel except for the subsidiary seconds register, which is blued, complementing the dial palette brilliantly.
Wearing the Saxonia is a quite simply a joy. Its size and height are minimal, svelte, and comfortable. It fits under shirt cuffs and complements both formal and casual attire with its dial coloring and simple black leather strap. But it's not a watch that you’ll forget you’re wearing – the platinum adds serious heft for a watch this size, and the piece weighs in at 114g (compare that to a steel 42mm IWC Portuguese Automatic, which weighs about 95g).
If I had to direct any criticism towards the piece – and I’m nitpicking here – it would be only that the “Lange” engraving on the Platinum buckle is a bit gaudy on a timepiece that is otherwise so elegant in construction and design. Of course the same engraving is used across the Lange line, and doesn’t seem so out of place on their larger, sportier timepieces.
Again, the Saxonia in platinum is an incredible wristwatch with a beautiful movement, and I would likely go out of my way to find excuses to wear it as often as possible if it were part of my personal collection. Ultimately, it is a piece of art, and if you can swallow the $58,400 price tag, I’d highly recommend considering it as an alternative to the more common luxury brands.
My overall verdict? An elegant timepiece – for a more civilized age. alange-soehne.com
>Brand: A. Lange & Söhne
>Model: Saxonia Annual Calendar with Moonphase, Platinum
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Forever and ever.
>Friend we'd recommend it to first: Someone with excellent taste in exquisite timepieces willing to go outside the “normal” brand choices. Who has some coin.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Engraved buckle is a little harsh/gaudy. Engraving doesn’t fit with the tone of the timepiece.
>Best characteristic of watch: The case design – slim wearing but heavy. Polished and brushed elements work together brilliantly.