If you are looking for a perpetual calendar watch from A. Lange & Söhne, you have some decisions to make. The German luxury watch maker happens to do perpetual calendar complications quite well, and rather than offer the perpetual calendar complication as part of one timepiece family, it offers perpetual calendar versions of various model families. One such watch happens to be a perpetual calendar version of the Datograph, with this reference 410.038 A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual (aBlogtoWatch debut here) being the newest model as a debut for 2015.
The brand originally released the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual back in 2006 as a more complicated version of the original Datograph – that itself included a chronograph as well as big date (“outsize date”) indicator. In 2010, A. Lange & Söhne updated the Datograph Perpetual with a revised dial in the 18k rose gold model. For 2015, Lange adds the ref. 410.038 to the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual collection that comes in an 18k white gold case with a new gray colored dial.
This year, 2015, also saw the release of a new version of the Datograph Up/Down (in 18k rose gold, hands-on here) which was debuted a couple of years ago as a mechanically updated (and larger in size) version of the original Datograph. In my aBlogtoWatch review of the Datograph Up/Down, I not only said that it was among the finest timepieces I’ve ever worn, but I also proclaimed it as a very important timepiece within the A. Lange & Söhne product family from a mechanical, design, and ergonomic perspective.
Does the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual offer as much to like as the Datograph Up/Down? That is a very good question because while they have so much in common, they are also very different. In addition to sharing the “Datograph” part of the name, there are at least two very important similarities in the Datograph Up/Down and A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual that I feel are worth pointing out. First is the fact that both the Datograph Up/Down and the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual both come in a 41mm-wide case. The cases are not identical, but actually very close. Interestingly, while the Datograph Up/Down is 13.1mm thick, the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual – with the additional movement components – is just 13.5mm thick. That means the entire module for the perpetual calendar and moon phase information only adds 0.4mm in thickness to the case (more on that in a bit).
The second important similarity between the watches is the view of the movement. The Datograph Up/Down has one of the sexiest movements around in terms of both design and decoration. While it technically uses a different movement than the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual using the caliber L951.6, the view through the sapphire crystal caseback is of a very similar, if not virtually identical scene. That is because back here you see the chronograph mechanism and regulation system which is a common element between the two watches. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is worth mentioning that the “rear view” of both watches is so similar. That actually makes sense, since both watches are technically Datographs.
The A. Lange & Sohne Datograph Perpetual uses the in-house made caliber L952.1. What is interesting is that while the case for the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual is a touch thicker than the Datograph Up/Down, the movement barely is – which means the added height is all in the dial. If you recall, one of the improvements in the Datograph Up/Down over the original Datograph was an upgraded power reserve of 60 hours versus the shorter 36 hours of the original. That means the L951.6 manually wound movement in the Datograph Up/Down received a larger mainspring barrel, but the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual still has a rather short power reserve of 36 hours. The Datograph, Datograph Up/Down, and Datograph Perpetual all have movements which operate at the same 18,000 bph.
So getting back to the numbers, the movement in the Datograph Up/Down is 30.6mm wide and 7.9mm thick, and the L952.1 in the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual is 32mm wide and 8.0mm thick. So the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual movement is a bit wider but only marginally thicker, which I find interesting. The 36 hours of power reserve is certainly on the shorter side, especially for a perpetual calendar that needs to be kept wound so that the complex calendar functions do not need to be adjusted. Lange has other power-hungry movements so this isn’t new. I originally mistook the day/night indicator on the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual’s dial as a power reserve indicator located at the sub-subsidiary dial at the top of the left subsidiary dial on the face. This little arrow disc hand is actually used as a day/night indicator on some Lange models, while it is a power reserve indicator on others.
If you were wondering why I was spending so much time talking about the size of the two movements above, perhaps the following will help explain my surprise. I find it really cool that while the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual movement is only marginally larger than the movement in the Datograph Up/Down, it contains a lot more parts. The Datograph Up/Down that has the time, flyback chronograph, and big date indicator movement has 451 parts; the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual movement has more than 100 additional parts with a total of 556. Where do all those additional tiny components go?! We can call that “Glashuttian magic.”
From a design perspective, the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual very much retains the layout of the Datograph but adds a perpetual calendar and moon-phase complication over it. This is the watch to get if you want both a chronograph and perpetual calendar from A. Lange & Sohne. If you want just a simpler perpetual calendar and like this layout, then the Langematik Perpetual is a very solid option from the brand.
Some A. Lange & Sohne watches (such as a few in the Saxonia family) are almost Bauhaus in their austere simplicity. Many focus heavily on balanced or totally symmetrical dials. That former focus on balance versus pure symmetry is an important distinction because one of Lange’s most famous models – the Lange 1 – is known for having an asymmetric yet balanced dial. The A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual has some asymmetric qualities given the eccentric “bulges” on the subdials that are used for the power reserve and leap year indicators.
This means that each of the two subdials have three hands, and flank a moon phase indicator window in the middle. Yes, that makes the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual a bit busy, but the dial is still very legible and dial detailing is, of course, fantastic. I also very much appreciate the “sporty” nature of the Datograph collection which lends lume-painted hour and minute hands to the dial of the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual. Brainstorming for a minute, I think it would have been very interesting from a design perspective to put the power reserve and leap year indicators somewhere other than the dial such as on the rear of the case. This would have left the dial to be much cleaner, without much of a sacrifice because those indicators are mostly used when setting the watch or as a “power check” reference when putting the watch on and taking it off, where looking at the back of the case is easy.
In person and on the wrist, the sober gray tone of this newer white gold A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual is quite nice if not intentionally humble. While the watch is inherently complicated (of course), the subdued tones and lack of ostentation make for another very “stealth wealth” A. Lange & Sohne watch – which is something the brand is not only known for producing, but something that I’ve found their employees take great pride in. That means those looking for a well-made traditional timepiece that comes from a solid brand but doesn’t scream “expensive watch” to the world tend to always have a lot to like at Lange. With that said, I do wonder if the full-gold bracelet will make a return to this or other A. Lange & Sohne watches. A Lange timepiece on a factory bracelet is certainly on my list of watches to get one day.
There really aren’t that many watches out there that combine a flyback chronograph with big date indicator and a full perpetual calendar with moon phase indication. This puts the A. Lange & Sohne Datograph Perpetual in a small category of timepieces. The simple sobriety of design in this gray and white gold ref. 410.038 is a reflection of the maturity of the collection as well as the collector who will probably end up wearing one. Attached to a black alligator strap, this A. Lange & Sohne Datograph Perpetual watch has a price of $141,500. alange-soehne.com