September 25, 2014
by David Bredan
A. Lange & Söhne announced the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite in late 2010 (hands-on here), and at the time, it was pretty much the be-all and end-all timepiece in Lange’s history. Sure, their hugely impressive Double Split and a few other highly complicated pieces were also available, but even just the name of this new release indicated that it was something even more special. Today, A. Lange & Söhne released a new version of this remarkable piece, this time in a white gold case, available exclusively at the brand’s boutiques around the world – with no word on it being a limited edition.
Getting back to the name of the piece for just one more moment, you see, A. Lange & Söhne named this watch after Richard Lange, subtly implying the watch’s highly scientific nature. Richard was the son of F.A. Lange, the founder of the company, who worked as a technical director of the manufacture, focusing on evolving precision watchmaking on the basis of scientific research. Then there is “Pour Le Mérite,” which is a fancy way of saying that this watch is even more beautifully refined and more complex than its counterparts that also have the A. Lange & Söhne designation on the dial.
Where all this high praise turns into reality is, unsurprisingly, the movement: the hand-wound, one-minute tourbillon movement contains 351 parts (without chain) and a whopping 636 with chain. Although this is something not unique to this high-end German watchmaker, the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite features a fusée and chain complication – I am confident that we can call a microscopic chain of 0.3 by 0.6 millimeter sized links a complication. The fusée and chain is a centuries-old invention that serves to counter the negative effects of decreasing torque as the mainspring unwinds. It looks and works a lot like the gears on a mountain bike: the chain climbs onto the fusée, this cone-shaped pulley with a helical groove around it, and as it does that, the ratios work against the lost torque, ensuring enhanced timekeeping accuracy.
“Yes, but how much more accurate is it?” – one could rightfully ask. The problem, as usually is the case with similarly complicated timepieces of nearly all high-end manufacturers, is that exact data is not made available. Nevertheless, if one wishes to set up the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite against a reference time, the hacking tourbillon will certainly help at synchronizing the reference time and that of the watch with to-the-second accuracy.
It is more interesting to consider, however, that despite all the misty-eyed praise the single-axis tourbillon has received over the course of the last two decades for its supposedly greater accuracy, to the best of our knowledge, no one has ventured to create a hacking tourbillon – where actual synchronization of the watch and an external time source could be possible – before A. Lange & Söhne debuted it.
Sure, the barely visible chain, the 0.25 gram tourbillon cage, and the hand applied decorations are rather difficult to admire, but worry not, as A. Lange & Söhne literally animated the dial and its chronometer layout subdials with a neat little addition: as you can see on the image above, minutes are displayed on the larger subdial toward the top of the dial, while – creating an isosceles triangle – hours and seconds are shown on the two lower subdials. However, the two subdials would overlap each other, distracting the view at the painstakingly adorned tourbillon in operation.
What A. Lange & Söhne did to minimize the time the dial spends in that highly unpleasant state, is that they incorporated a little flap into the dial, which hides underneath the pane of the dial when the time is in between 12 and 6 o’clock. Having handled this watch (albeit in a different metal), I will say, that this little detail is a force much too strong to resist, as it urges the wearer to stop the watch and set the time, waiting for that brief moment when the dial’s auxiliary segment pops out of seemingly nowhere at exactly 6 o’clock.
In essence, while the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite remained the same despite the subtle change to the 41.9 millimeter wide case’s material, it remains just as impressive technologically as it ever was. Given that we are talking A. Lange & Söhne here – at its finest and most complicated – prices follow stubbornly, as the A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite is priced at $212,900, and again, in this particular combination, it will be available in A. Lange & Söhne boutiques only. alange-soehne.com