April 14, 2023
by David Bredan
Seeing all the Watches & Wonders 2023 watch novelties hands-on drives us to all sorts of conclusions specific to the various brands and collections we encounter. The new-for-2023 A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph watch has reinforced an idea that’s been slowly growing in me: Every new Odysseus makes me like the original Odysseus even more. We’ll catch up with that thought later — first, let’s focus on what’s new here.
The A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph is a luxury watch in steel with a steel bracelet and is, therefore, a fully paid-up member of the latest trend that’s been dictating almost every last move of the finer watchmakers in Switzerland — as well as those in Japan and, case in point, Germany. We debuted this Odysseus in 2019 here, which is when Lange made a splash with its first-ever steel-case, steel-bracelet watch. Before the Odysseus, steel-cased Lange watches were the prey of the most dedicated collectors, as the Richemont-owned Saxon watchmaker has produced its watches virtually exclusively in 18k gold or 950 platinum. The Odysseus was more than just the debut of a new-old material, it also shook the slow and calculated German company up by being its first proper sports watch with a 120m water resistance rating.
The titanium-clad Odysseus that came in 2022 was essentially the same watch, but in that lightweight material — and this was all it took for Lange to produce what we applauded as one of the best-ever treatments of this brownish, lightweight metal. 2023 sees the first new complication join the Odysseus collection, in case the “outsized” date and day displays weren’t enough for some. The Odysseus Chronograph adds a stopwatch function to the mix and does so in a rather novel way — without the use of traditional chronograph subdials. In their place are two center-mounted hands, both linked to the chronograph, one for the seconds, and one for the minutes totalizer.
This is as minimalistic an approach to a chronograph as one can have — as you will know, most watches of this breed use subdials for the chronograph minutes and hours, and often a third subdial is added for the running seconds. With those massive day-date windows, multiple textures and sectors, and a seconds subdial, matched to a complex case and five-link bracelet, the Odysseus has never been a minimalistic watch at all — and so it arguably could have responded well to a yet busier dial.
It is important to keep in mind that those massive apertures — again, the “outsized” date and day as Lange likes to call them — take up all the space on the dial where normally the chronograph subdials would go, and these large displays take up yet more valuable real estate on the movement with parts hidden by the dial. This has left no other option for the brand’s engineers but to use center-mounted hands for the chronograph, and the dial’s resulting simplicity came as a welcome bonus.
The A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph watch is powered by the newly developed L156.1 movement that marks another notable first for the company: Its first self-winding chronograph movement. That’s right, all the other incredible and impressive A. Lange & Söhne chronographs — like Double Split, the 1815 Chronograph, the Datograph, and all grand complications — had always been hand-wound. This gave us those metropolis-like movements that were Lange’s very own in their style and execution and which always had what it takes to make a watch enthusiast’s heart beat faster.
The L156.1, then, has a lot to live up to and, for the most part, it does. A self-winding movement will almost always have a massive rotor in the way, partially obstructing our view at the rest. Worse still, a self-winding system has other parts — wheels, gears, and bridges — that need to be installed on the caseback side, and these also tend to cover up a lot of those drool-worthy levers, wheels, arms, cams, and column wheels that we like to see from a proper chronograph mechanism. Still, the L156.1 Datomatic calibre impresses with 516 parts, 52 jewels, and four screwed chatons.
In true Lange tradition, the entire movement is assembled twice. First to test the fit and accuracy, and once those are confirmed, every part is meticulously finished and assembled again. Plates in German silver, a balance bridge engraved by hand, a rotor with a centrifugal mass in 950 platinum are all here to serve our entertainment. Oh, and there’s a novel party piece to the Odysseus Chronograph, too. When you reset the chronograph, its minute hand resets to zero in an instant, while the red seconds hand covers the entire distance traveled beforehand within a fraction of a second, making one full revolution for each measured minute. Given all the functionalities and large displays, the L156.1 measures a beefy 34.9mm-wide and 8.4mm-thick.
As a result, the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph watch is 42.5mm-wide and some 14.2mm-thick. That sounds large and the watch does little to disguise that — its grand effect is amplified by all the shiny, mind you, beautifully shiny, steel around its exterior. On the wrist, the Odysseus Chronograph is a bit of a brute, which is great if that’s how you like your watches. And if not, then you have plenty of other Lange chronographs that will slide under a sleeve a lot more easily.
Limited to just 100 units, the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph watch is priced at $145,000 — a fairly high amount even with the brand’s outstanding reputation and the potentially stratospheric development costs of its first-ever self-winding chronograph movement taken into account. This, in fact, has us come full circle: The $32,000 “base” Odysseus with the same case (save the pushers), bracelet, and dial, sounds like an absolute bargain in comparison. With all certainty, the Saxon brand knows its customers very well, and there will certainly be plenty of die-hard Lange collectors who’ll want to have the first-ever automatic chronograph in their collection — and they’ll be joined by a fair number of “flippers” too, who’ll try and sell these at an even higher price. Fun to use, beautifully made, and an absolute brute on the wrist, the Odysseus Chronograph is the surprise debut from the German watchmaker — but we have a hunch it’s not the last. You can learn more on the brand’s website.