Gerd-Rüdiger Lang, most well-known for founding the watch brand Chronoswiss, died earlier in 2023. Lang was someone who I unfortunately didn’t get to know too well, though his reputation preceded him, and he was known to be among those visionaries who during the 1980s saw what a post-utility mechanical watch industry could be like. Lang sold Chronoswiss to Oliver Ebstein (who still owns the company today), but he continued to be a celebrated personality in the watch industry space, including because of his work on chronographs with Jack Heuer (of TAG Heuer fame). Lang’s last project was to co-found a new eponymous brand called Lang 1943. Unfortunately, he died before the brand could be officially launched, but his mentee and brand co-founder Georg Bartkowiak (who played a seminal role in the niche but amazing German brand Greib & Benzinger) continued on to launch the Lang 1943 watch brand. To Bartkowiak, Lang 1943 (1943 was the year in which Lang was born) is the ultimate way to honor his hero Lang, as well as his latest timepiece brand venture.
The company’s seminal product is a chic little retro sports watch with a decorated old stock movement and an approachable style called the Lang 1943 Edition One (appropriately so), and it clearly defines what the Lang 1943 brand is all about. The overall presentation isn’t perfect, but it is a great start to a brand that understands something fundamental about success in timepieces today, mainly that timepieces should be very wearable and that they should have personality.
While I’ve not photographed the packaging, I think it is important to describe it, even though it seems to oddly match the timepiece. The outer paper box has an interesting, almost steampunk-style artwork of an imaginary airship of sorts. Inside is a modern Pelican waterproof case that is a stark contemporary contrast to the retro-style timepiece inside of it. Lang 1943 supplies the Edition One watch with two straps (with quick-release spring bars), including a brown calfskin leather strap I quite like, and a beige-colored textile strap that I don’t personally find to be very attractive or comfortable. With that said, a timepiece like this begs to be put on the strap you personally like, and the Edition One can fit any 20mm wide strap option.
The product itself is modeled after a military-style field watch, with all the accompanying legibility and familiar style. That includes large Arabic numeral hour markers, well-proportioned syringe-style hands, and an instrument-inspired subsidiary seconds dial. The dial is actually one of the best parts of the watch given the attention to style and detail. That includes the fume (smoked) dial which has a gradient that goes from black to a brownish gray, as well as the superb legibility and luminant application. The dial is easy on the eyes and is ideal for those who want something dressier but with a retro-sporty twist.
While the steel case might appear simple at first glance, it has a lot of attention to detail in both the finishing and the shape. It is carefully architected and designed to look like a fine utility watch from the past with its brushed finishing. The curvature of the lugs, the shape of the bezel, and the style of the crown all meld together harmoniously. Clearly, Lang 1943 put a lot of effort into the case, and it shows. The steel case is 39mm wide, 8.4mm thick, and has a 46mm long lug-to-lug distance. Over the dial is a domed AR-coated sapphire crystal, and the case is water-resistant to 50 meters without a screw-down crown (which isn’t ideal for manually-wound timepieces anyway).
Inside the watch is a manually wound mechanical movement that the brand calls their caliber L43.1. It is a refurbished and refinished vintage reference 700 movement from the watchmaker Marvin. The movement operates at 3Hz with 46 hours of power reserve and has a pretty nice level of decoration including Geneva stripes and the use of gold chatons. While the movement is simple and not exactly modern in its performance, it has a lot of charm and looks impressive when you turn the watch over and admire it through the sapphire crystal caseback.
The 39mm wide size is popular these days and I applaud Lang 1943 for understanding much of what the market is looking for. Gone are the days when most new brands would launch with wild complications or proprietary movements as the main allure. Today, the name of the game is all about packaging emotion into practical, wearable packages. Of course, everyone has different tastes, but I immediately recognized that there will be people who instantly admire what Lang 1943 is doing, even without explaining its purpose or romancing people along with years of storytelling. That isn’t to say that Lang 1943 cannot evolve in the future (I certainly hope that it does), but you can see a mature level of practicality to the launch which allows the company to hopefully be “commercial” from the start.
One thing I cannot easily predict is how the watch community will respond to the price of the Lang 1943 Edition One, which isn’t exorbitant by any means, but I think it is a bit more than many people might assume after taking a good look at it. It will be up to Lang 1943 to convince already picky watch enthusiasts that this fine little timepiece merits the nearly $4,000 USD price. More so, I wonder how many Marvin 700 old stock movements Lang 1943 has to play with, and what movements they will select after they run out. So in that regard, I am curious about this brand’s future because there is so much to do related to Lang’s legacy as well as a lot of creativity in the mind of Georg Bartkowiak. The price for the Lang 1943 reference L4300102 Edition One watch is 3,500 Euros. Learn more at the Lang 1943 website.
>Brand: Lang 1943
>Model: Edition One (reference L4300102)
>Price: 3,500 Euros
>Size: 39mm-wide, 8.4mm-thick, ~46mm lug-to-lug distance
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When a handsome vintage field-style watch is due, this is a great option.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone who likes the overall style, but who wants something a bit more high-end and exclusive feeling than most of the other vintage field/military watches out here.
>Best characteristic of watch: Handsome looking, legible, finely made case, attractive looking movement finishing.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Overall presentation could be confusing for some. Textile strap isn’t great. On the pricier side.