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A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk watch was certainly controversial when it first came out but has become one of the most iconic watches of the well-regarded German luxury watch brand. Since its release, A. Lange & Söhne has perhaps come out with more truly interesting versions of the Zeitwerk than any other model save for perhaps the brand’s flagship Lange 1 collection. Today, we take a hands-on look at the most prestigious and complicated Zeitwerk to date – the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Those familiar with the history of A. Lange & Söhne in Saxony in Glashutte being located near Dresden will understand that the basic inspiration behind the digital mechanical watch is a clock at the Dresden Opera house which also had a digital display for the hours and minutes. Few people know that, and for many people, the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk actually represents a wonderful melding of themes. One theme being that of the world of traditional timepieces, and the other theme being that of the digital era and our increasingly “non-analog” way of reading information.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Whatever your take on the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk is, or what it represents to you, it is an undeniably and very much deserved success for A. Lange & Söhne. In fact, the brand itself has been changing quite a bit over the last few years. From quiet, humble, hardcore watch makers and engineers up in the mountains, A. Lange & Söhne is increasingly trying to market itself with participation in luxury events and opening brand boutiques in key cities around the world. This is often something that begins with positive intentions and a desire for growth. A. Lange & Söhne, after all, is part of the larger Richemont Group of brands. However, when a company shifts their goals to pure marketability and revenue – especially when that company is in the business of producing expensive items for enthusiasts – the results over time are often those that do not sit well with the brand’s original fans.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

I am not saying that A. Lange & Söhne is headed in a bad direction from an image perspective. I am, however, saying that if the brand isn’t careful, that could happen. At least for now, the same high level of care and detailing goes into the production of their timepieces that continue, in my opinion, to have some of the best looking – if not the absolute best looking – movements around. I encourage A. Lange & Söhne fans to be honest with the brand during their dealings and purchases and offer feedback on what they feel is and perhaps ins’t working. I am pretty sure that the brand will listen if offered these types of opinions from the right people.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Anyhow, let’s get back to the mega Zeitwerk that is the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. In a sense, the 2015 release of the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is odd because very recently, A. Lange & Söhne released the Zeitwerk Striking. aBlogtoWatch went hands on with the Zeitwerk Striking in 18k pink gold here. Honestly, to the uninitiated, the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Striking and Zeitwerk Minute Repeater could look like the exact same watch at a glance. Each of them has a gong with hammers on the dial, and each adds chiming features to the overall package of complications.

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A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

With that said, the two watches are very different not only in terms of complexity, but also price. Despite a similar looking dial, the Zeitwerk Striking has a movement with 528 parts while the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater has a movement with 771 parts. In terms of prices, the Striking is almost $120,000 and the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is literally a few hundred thousand dollars more.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Isn’t that a lot of money for a minute repeater? Yes, I think it is. Even though A. Lange & Söhne’s own minute repeater offers some interesting features, this is certainly near the top of the minute repeater scale. That said, let’s look at what makes the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater watch special.

A quick interlude, though, for those who don’t understand the difference between a Striking watch and a Minute Repeater. The Zeitwerk Striking was a “quarter striker,” I believe. What that means is that when activated, the striking mechanism would use the gong and hammers to automatically sound out the time each 15 minutes. That means that the striking system was able to chime once for the hours, and then up to three more times for the quarter hour.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Minute repeaters – while similar in theory – allow the user to activate the minute repeater system on demand, indicating the instant time. Minute repeaters indicate the time down to the minute, which makes them more sophisticated than quarter or even five minute strikers. What makes the minute repeater in the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater unique is that it is a decimal minute repeater. Ok, so what is that?

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Traditionally, minute repeaters used chimes to indicate the current time in three parts. The first part is chimes meant to indicate the current hour. The next part is slightly different sounding chimes which indicate the quarter hour (15 minute segments). Finally, the remaining minutes are indicated via additional single chimes.

In contrast to this traditional system, decimal minute repeaters altogether bypass the quarter hours and go from hours to 10-minute segments. This means the minute repeater chimes can take longer, but the result is something that most people consider being easier to read… I mean, listen to. Decimal minute repeaters are rather rare, and the only other one that I can think of is the Seiko Credor Minute Repeater watch from Japan (which is amazing).

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

A. Lange & Söhne claims that the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is the world’s first watch with a mechanical jumping numerals display and a decimal minute repeater. Who would argue with that? This is very cool, and at least good news for people who simply adore minute repeaters. I love the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk so much for how it blends what is so right with A. Lange & Sohne and pure, unadulterated legibility. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater takes the concept into a more “collector” direction with its increased complexity and functionality, but it isn’t something which is at all more useful on a daily basis.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

With that said, there are some other special features in the minute repeater complication that are worth noting. One of them is a pusher to activate the minute repeater versus a slider. The Seiko Credor Minute Repeater also did this, and it is becoming slightly more popular on other luxury European watches with minute repeaters. The benefit of a pusher versus a slider is that it reduces the potential to damage the movement which can exist if you don’t fully engage the slider. A. Lange & Söhne developed a few other security systems for the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater such a system that prevents the minute repeater from being activated if there is less than 12 hours of power remaining in the mainspring barrel. A small red dot is placed on the dial-mounted power reserve indicator to mark this “crucial” point.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

A. Lange & Söhne further claims that the Zeitwerk case has been thoroughly “tuned” in order to maximize the harmonics and reverberations of the chiming mechanism. That should mean louder and clearer sounds from the minute repeater when it is activated. With that said, what is odd is that A. Lange & Söhne decided to put the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in a platinum case (which is 44.2mm wide). Dense and very heavy, platinum (while very precious) acts to absorb sounds. Unless I am mistaken, my presumption is that platinum might be one of the worst materials to use for a minute repeater – even though it isn’t that uncommon.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Remember, when producing minute repeater watches, brands are nevertheless producing luxury products for the elite. There is a certain expectation of “wealth” from these products and not many would take F.P. Journe’s position with the Sonnerie Souveraine and simply make their high-end minute repeater watches in a steel case.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Inside the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater watch is the amazingly beautiful in-house made caliber L043.5 manually wound movement. The Zeitwerk’s double jumping digital displays as the constant force mechanism to ensure that the accuracy is relatively consistent draw a lot of power as it is. With the addition of the minute repeater complication, the movement does what it can to keep up. A. Lange & Söhne uses a rather steady frequency of 18,000 bph (2.5Hz) which uses less power than a 3 or 4Hz movement, but given all the power draw, the power reserve maximum is only 36 hours (even less than Zeitwerk Striking).

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Power has always been the weakness of the Zeitwerk, which must really be wound each day. Good thing it has a handy power reserve indicator on the dial. You can view the L043.5 movement through the rear of the watch, and it is amazing. You can’t help but love all that hand polishing as well as the decorative engravings. This is really one of A. Lange & Söhne’s more innovatively complicated movements and it is a testament to their dedication that the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater even works.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Germanic and quirky, the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater has all the stuff of a Lange collector’s dreams. It is beautiful and a lot of bragging rights come with it. I do, however, hope that in addition to spectacle pieces such as this, we see more of the “everyday useful” ultra luxury watches from A. Lange & Söhne that we all love. For my money, I’d like to see an updated standard Zeitwerk with more power reserve and possibly one or two extra complications on the dial. A. Lange & Söhne is not restricting the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater to being part of a limited edition, but it will naturally enjoy a very limited production annually. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater price is $467,700. lange-soehne.com

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  • tempocalypse

    Nice write up! I believe the first decimal repeater was made by Kari Voutilainen

  • IanE

    It’s most reassuring to know that new ways are constantly being found to part the super-rich from some of their (almost certainly) ill-gotten lucre. Servicing costs would doubtless keep most of us in hot meals!

  • MEddie90

    IanE I’m sure the servicing cost keeps plenty of technicians and watchmakers (and their families for that matter) in hot meals. Why should the poor children of Glashutte go hungry simply because you find their parents work distasteful?

  • IanE

    MEddie90 IanE “I’m sure the servicing cost keeps plenty of technicians and watchmakers (and their families for that matter) in hot meals. Why should the poor children of Glashutte go hungry simply because you find their parents work distasteful?”
    Indeed – I am all for such a transfer of funds between the super-rich and the rest of us. I am also all for keeping up the skills of the servicing craftsmen: if nothing else it should help keep down costs of servicing for more ‘normal’ watches!

  • iamcalledryan

    Absolutely stunning, and nice write up Ariel. I love the whole Zeitwerk range and this is no exception. It is interesting that more repeaters are being built with pushers instead of sliders. It’s a tough choice to improve the operating mechanism at the cost of draining the hell out of the movement. But then, you’ve got the indicator and the safety feature so this is mostly mitigated.

  • iamcalledryan

    Why waste your time speculating about how buyers of this watch have earned their money? Perhaps you could have spent your time helping orphans rather than surfing the net?

  • iamcalledryan

    You missed the “with digital display” part of his comment

  • tempocalypse

    Decimal minute repeaters are rather rare, and the only other one that I can think of is the Seiko Credor Minute Repeater watch from Japan (which is amazing).

  • iamcalledryan

    Whoops I thought you were talking about the “world’s first” comment. My apologies sir

  • If I were still in highschool, I would have a poster o this watch on the ceiling of my bedroom.
    I actually yelled out this watches name last week by accident in the throws of passion while I was having sex. She wasn’t happy about it, but I don’t take it back.

  • DanW94

    iamcalledryan
    OR – showing orphans how to search the net…..

  • IanE

    iamcalledryan It was a jokey comment – I thought that was obvious : should have added a LOL!

  • Vitesse

    Great write up, I absolutely love the movements in A. Lange & Sohne pieces. Gorgeous

  • SteveBowden

    To the immediate right of the numeral indicating the number 7, we see a slot screw. But to the immediate left of the numerals for minutes,….what is that exactly? Please forgive me if the answer is obvious…I’m a bit new to this sort of thing.

  • Yaax Arr

    True beauty

  • Fraser Petrick

    No doubt a fine piece. But, devil’s advocate and all that, as a time-telling device only, how is it better than my department store Casio or Timex digital? (Be gentle; I’m sensitive.)

  • accountforme

    I’m looking forward to next month’s giveaway 😉

  • Jimxxx

    I was wondering the same as well.

  • Jimxxx

    Superb feat of engineering. Yet I find myself missing hands…

  • SteveBowden

    Jimxxx maybe we could start some sort of a rumour about it. A microphone or  mini cam would be to obvious….
    Let’s start the rumour that the aperture is used for the attachment of an endoscopic device, and let people come to their own conclusions.

  • drThrillman

    Fraser Petrick  Ok. They both tell time. In that case what is the difference b.w. a Ferrari and Geo Metro? Both get you from A to B. Same conclusions apply here haha

  • Nearly a half million bucks and a power reserve of a day and a half. Seems odd in the greater scheme of things. On the other hand, it doesn’t have any date functions so, resetting a stopped Zeitwerk should be no big deal. This all assume that your man servant is AWOL and did not accomplish the daily winding routine (and yeah I know about the crown winding “Time Mover” from Buben & Zorweg).

  • Fraser Petrick

    drThrillman Fraser Petrick  Which goestoshowya that there’s more, much, much more to a watch than telling  time.

  • Bill Barfett

    The Holy Grail

  • DanW94

    I love Lange’s other collections like the Saxonia and 1815 lines, but these Zeitwerk dials just don’t do it for me. It’s a bit stark in my opinion and I just don’t like the huge digital display.  But the beautifully polished and engraved movement is a different story, I could stare at that all day.

  • JubJub

    Great — I just drooled all over my keyboard and broke it.  Thanks, ALS.

  • iamcalledryan

    MarkCarson  It tell you what, if Jeeves forgets to keep my Zeitwerk wound one more time…

    Just imagine NOT being with this watch for the 36 hours required for it to drain – awful.

  • iamcalledryan

    IanE You absolutely must add LOL! Far too many people using watch blog comment sections to rally for global economic revolution – “Wait a minute, that MSRP is not set at cost – this company appears to be attempting to make profit!”

  • OBoy

    SteveBowden Jimxxx It kind of looks like the watch is winking at us when you look at the “head on’ pictures…

  • thornwood36

    2 different  timepieces ?. I need a date window and am not too keen on the minutes on the face. Thanks, but can i have that condo by the sea instead please. And gawd dam straighten up them screws ( how many times ! )  ……………………..ps the back is beautiful and i bet the chime is exquisite  to listen to

  • iamcalledryan MarkCarson I thnk Fraser’s man servant/driver Vlad is available since he left Mr Petrick’s employ (to open a taco stand – something to do with Trump). But he may be again available for menial tasks shortly.

  • That would be a jewel. See the rear view of the movement, those pretty little purple-y things? Jewels. They help to reduce friction between 2 parts that do a lot of moving. They are synthetic, and can be coloured. It would look like ALS either use used smoked one for the front to better help it match the dial, or a diamond, and the colour is just the stone reflecting colour from the dial.
    A watch may be balanced and symmetrical in appearance on the dial, but the movement underneath is all over the place (as you can see).

  • Sevenmack

    MarkCarson The digital display, along with the minute repeater function, probably use up a lot of energy. In light of that, makes sense that the power reserve is less than that for a Seiko SARB. On the other hand, that Zeitwork is bold and gorgeous. I’ll take it.

  • Sevenmack

    SuperStrapper No I wouldn’t Still would be Alyssa Milano circa 1990. No watch beats Alyssa Milano. Not one.

  • spiceballs

    iamcalledryan IanE  LOL

  • Andres Moreno

    absolutely PERFECT!!!

  • iamcalledryan

    Very good point, having a jumping minutes disk is going to totally milk your power.

  • iamcalledryan

    But they threw in the seconds and power indicator hands for you!

  • Sevenmack MarkCarson Ryan is no doubt right – the digital display is the power sapper here. The minute repeater does not suck torque unless it is activated.

  • SteveBowden

    SuperStrapper Thanks so much, that was bugging me. It didn’t occur to me that they might make a jewel visible from the dial.

  • iamcalledryan

    SteveBowden SuperStrapper Yeah it’s either clear synthetic sapphire or it is diamond – they have used diamond pivot stones on their tourbillon previously.

  • Dick Move

    Neez moar tourbillion.

  • egznyc

    I think a lot of us get a kick out of how expensive some of the super high-end stuff we see here can be. I know I do. Sure, I can feel a certain tinge of envy, but I also can laugh at how absurd it seems. Absurd, but I sure wouldn’t mind owning this!

  • egznyc

    To be fair, watches and women can both raise passions – just qualitatively different passions.

  • egznyc

    That’s really helpful! I was also unsure about it. Knowing this, though, doesn’t quite keep me from being just a little bothered by it. Throwing off the symmetry just a bit …

  • iamcalledryan SteveBowden SuperStrapper A traditional Saxon touch is a diamond capping the balance shaft. You see this on ALS and also some Lang und Heyne watches. Marco Lang is the one who told about this being a tradition in the region. But usually you see on on the back/bottom of the movement.

  • egznyc

    It is beautifully crafted but a little busy on the dial side. The movement is wonderful. And I love the idea of a digital display but I could live with it as a separate thing from the decimal chimer.
    Of course, I’m not about to drop nearly 500 Gs for any watch, but at least it’s in platinum – acoustics be damned. 😉

  • I_G

    DanW94 iamcalledryan OR surfing with orphans without net

  • iamcalledryan I was orphaned at age 58, does that count?

  • iamcalledryan

    You poor little guy, want some more porridge? Well you can’t! Now go steal me some pocket watches!

  • somethingnottaken

    If I recall correctly (from the release of F.P Journe’s Steel cased minute repeater) the optimal material for sound transmission would be hard and low density. Thus neither Gold (soft and dense) nor Platinum (harder, but also denser) would be ideal – the best precious metal for minute repeater would probably be Ruthenium, as it is both harder than Platinum and far less dense than Gold. The presumably 316L stainless used by F.P. Journe would be a good choice; however, through hardened 400 stainless steel (like Damasko use) would be even better.

  • somethingnottaken

    egznyc The regular Zeitwork is probably a more practical watch; however, it’s well beyond my budge even at 1/10 th the price of the minute repeater.

  • somethingnottaken

    SteveBowden SuperStrapper It’s present on all versions of the Zeitwork.

  • somethingnottaken

    Sevenmack SuperStrapper He didn’t say it would be ONLY poster on his ceiling.

  • egznyc

    We don’t always love watches for their practicality, now, do we?
    One tenth the price of the regular Zeitwork is out of reach for me – not as an absolute but I’d be paying for not just the watch but also the divorce lawyer ;-).

  • This is quite a masterpiece, but, as such, they could address the step between the 10s and the 1s minutes. Since it seems that the minutes disks are concentric, it probably wouldn’t be unfeasible to have 1s disk with a Z profile so that it would be level with the 10s disk, if I’m imagining the mechanism correctly. Perhaps I’m being too particular, but we’re talking about half a mil here, which should indeed buy a nearly perfect watch.

    PS: it’s quite unfortunate that threads were lost in the transfer of the comments.

  • This is quite a masterpiece, but, as such, they could address the step between the 10s and the 1s minutes. Since it seems that the minutes disks are concentric, it probably wouldn’t be unfeasible to have 1s disk with a Z profile so that it would be level with the 10s disk, if I’m imagining the mechanism correctly. Perhaps I’m being too particular, but we’re talking about half a mil here, which should indeed buy a nearly perfect watch.

    PS: it’s quite unfortunate that threads were lost in the transfer of the comments.

  • Seth Lim

    finally something affordable

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