With a fusée-and-chain transmission and a one-minute tourbillon, the L072.1 as found in the Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” incorporates two of the most effective complications that increase rate accuracy. Its third complication is the patented stop-seconds mechanism. Thanks to this device, the tourbillon – and with it the entire movement – can be stopped and restarted to one-second accuracy.
Apertures in the three-quarter plate expose the fusée-and-chain transmission, which is so complex that it is rarely implemented in wristwatches. The owner can observe how the intricate 636-part chain unwinds from the mainspring barrel onto the fusée while the watch is being wound. The fusée-and-chain transmission is one of the most effective complications when it comes to increasing the rate accuracy of a mechanical watch. It is one of the tenets of physics that the power generated by a spring is high when it is fully tensioned and significantly weaker as it nears the fully unwound state. This can cause rate-accuracy fluctuations. The fusée-and-chain transmission works like an infinitely variable gearbox. It equalises the waning force of the gradually relaxing mainspring and makes sure that the movement always receives a constant amount of energy.
A. Lange & Söhne
Hours, Minutes, Small Seconds
Chain & Fusée, Tourbillon Escapement
Price: $ 239
The Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Mérite in platinum was introduced in 2011. This reference 760.025 was made as a limited edition of 100 pieces.
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A. Lange & Söhne - A Saxon Milestone
WORLDTEMPUS - 30 January 2013
This grand complication represents the fifth 1815 model of A. Lange & Söhne's modern era following its relaunch in 1994. At that time it was already considered the timepiece that best reflected the unique tradition of the brand. The four digits making up the name of the line stand for the birth year of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, a man who would much later establish a world-famous dynasty of watchmakers. In 2009, the 1815 line experienced a comeback of sorts through the launch of an enlarged version of the original classic three-hand watch with a manually wound movement. Fast forward to the 2013 edition of the SIHH, where the venerable collection saw its best year ever, and probably also marked the absolute highlight of the fair. But one single, rare and remarkable creation literarally eclipsed all the other new pieces by Lange, which included a couple of Saxonias, a pair of Lange 1 models and two new 1815 pieces. Even the spectacular sight of the new 1815 Rattrapante with Perpetual Calendar and Moon Phase indication could not compete with the technical and historical importance of a timepiece that will unquestionably go down in history as the greatest creation of the Saxon manufacture in its 168-year history.
Grand Sonnerie and Petite Sonnerie Nothing would have prepared the visitors on Monday morning for the vision of an oversized wristwatch mock-up vertically connecting the floor and ceiling of the A.Lange & Söhne booth. Even at a distance, just looking at the unusual number of hands and indications of the watch, one could feel that something remarkable was to be unveiled. At the press presentation, the best was only revealed at the end via the unmistakable sound of a minute repeater mechanism adding 3 double strikes to 6 single strikes. The hour was 6:15 PM, or, as they say in Germany, 18:15. The right moment to reveal the Lange & Söhne 1815 Grand Complication, an extraordinary timepiece that got Tino Bobe, Lange's technical director, a little emotional. "This is the most complicated wristwatch we have ever done at Lange & Söhne, and for sure also the most complicated wristwatch in Germany," he remarked.
This absolute marvel of fine mechanical watchmaking contains no less than seven functions, three of them not visible at first sight because they are acoustic time indications. The 1815 Grand Complication is equipped with a grand sonnerie, a petite sonnerie and a minute repeater, and has the additional choice of grand or small sdtrike represented by a "K" and a "G" ("Klein" and "Groß" in German) on an external slide button located at 6 o'clock. On the other hand, if one does not want to disturb a live performance at the Dreden Semper Opera, the possibility to switch to silent mode is right at hand through a second external slide button, this time located at 12 o'clock. An "S" for strike and an "R" for silence ("Schlagen" and "Ruhe" in German) stands for the equivalent of a mechanical mute device.
The term grand sonnerie means that at the passing of every quarter hour, one hears the hours and the quarters; the hours sounded by a low tone and the quarters by a double tone. Two hammers strike on two gongs. The small or "petite" sonnerie is the solution for the discerning collector who thinks that the alternative is too noisy but still wants to hear something. By pushing the slide to "K" (small sonnerie), the watch will only strike the hours on the hour and the quarters with a double strike on the passing of each quarter hour. Monopusher Rattrapante Chronograph Perpetual Calendar The next part of the grand complication to fall under the scrutiny of Tino Bobe was the chronograph, whose components are located on the movement side of the watch (perpetual calendar on the dial side and striking mechanism in between). It has a normal chronograph hand (in gold) and a minute counter (blue hand) on the 12 o'clock subdial. Additionally, there are two blued steel hands, one for the rattrapante (double chronograph) and another for the "flying" seconds located at 6 o'clock. This indication known as a foudroyante is quite unusual to include in a grand complication and Bobe confessed that Lange had to build an extra wheel train and barrel inside the movement for the watch to have this function. The unusual, and in the opinion of Anthonie de Haas (product development director at Lange), very underestimated indication, cuts each second into five parts, or five-fifths of a second. The two chronograph push buttons located at 1:30 and 10:30 reveal that this is a monopusher chronograph, which makes it the ninth chronograph system to be developed by Lange overall. The start, stop and reset functions are activated by the button at 1:30, while the rattrapante function is activated by the button located at 10:30. On the beautiful enamel dial made of no less than five parts (only one dial in twenty turns out to be just perfect), we find not only hour and minute indications, but also a traditionally represented perpetual calendar: the date at 3 o'clock, the day of the week at 9 o'clock and the combination of month and leap year at 12 o'clock. The moon phase at 6 o'clock is a work of art in itself, made of solid gold above an dark blue enameled sky. It boasts the Lange standard accuracy of 122 years. Private viewing The 1815 Grand Complication was safely displayed in a separate room on the first floor of the Lange & Söhne booth, where de Haas served as a gatekeeper against the curiosity of the more than 1,200 journalists that would certainly have demanded to the see the unusual creation in the metal. I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to be invited to penetrate the bhold where de Haas revealed some additional features of the piece in a "look but don't touch" session. I was told, "There are many grand complications, but not that many with a grand sonnerie in combination with a perpetual calendar and a rattrapante chronograph, and not even in combination with foudroyante seconds." De Haas confesses that in his opinion, "The grand sonnerie is the highest complication possible for a grand complication. It means a lot of tears, headaches and stress." One single watchmaker will work on a single piece for a whole year, "Not because he is lazy or slow, or there are too many pieces," de Haas continues, "but because he has to adapt all the functions to each other."
Firstly, the watchmaker wants to be sure that at 10 o'clock the watch will strike ten times, and not six times, or eleven times. The watchmaker has to test this during the night by installing a microphone and hearing the recording the next day. After counting the strikes, he has then to analyze what didn't work and why, and decide on the right modifications. "If he doesn't make the right decision, he will easily correct one mistake by building in sixteen others," confirms de Haas as he quickly moves on to a different aspect of the watch and demonstrates how to wind the masterpiece: "Turning the crown in a clockwise direction will wind the barrel of the movement (36 hours' power reserve) and a second little barrel especially dedicated to the foudroyante seconds due to the higher energy demand of the flying indication. When we turn the crown counterclockwise, we wind the big barrel of the striking mechanism and the grand and petite sonnerie." The watch enjoys 30 hours of power reserve in grand sonnerie mode, and 46 hours in petite sonnerie mode. It was at this point in time that I heard the strike live for the first time, a soft and audible sound followed by the commentary of de Haas that "You can almost hear the hands of the watchmaker with his diamond file shortening or adjusting the gongs." The "teacher" then focuses my attention on the slide button located on the left side of the rose gold case. But only the shape appears to resemble the traditional slide button one usually finds on the majority of minute repeaters on the market. The conventional slide button has a simultaneous winding function when it is pushed along the case, but in Lange's grand complication this is not necessary; "Here the slide acts only as a switch allowing the energy of the dedicated barrel to pass." No compromise in terms of quality All this horological beauty is packed in a 50 mm case, a size that most would not hesitate to consider huge under the present watchmaking status quo. The fact is that there are many timepieces out there housed within 48 or 49 mm cased with a lot less technology inside. Considering the importance of the piece and the fact that it was made to be used and worn, Lange decided not to hold back on its robustness, ending up with 20 mm in height for the case. De Haas sums this up with a short "no compromise in terms of quality" statement. Bobe argues that they could have made every little lever thinner, but nobody would be assured that it would work perfectly over time adding that "thinness is not the best argument one would expect from a Lange watch, but rather that it is solid, that it works and it is precise."
A. Lange & Söhne's Grand Complication is directly inspired by a complicated pocket watch of the past, though it is able to mesh the best of both worlds. This was a process that took no less than seven years of intense study and development, particularly regarding how to optimize the gongs. Lange actually knew what material to use, but the technique of how to use it was no longer available to the brand's technician's in the modern age. The gongs had to be very hard but couldn't break with every shock; the material for the hammers had to be fine-tuned as did its weight and counter spring. "It was a constant trial-and-error process mixed with a lot of study, sometimes fascinating, other times frustrating," confessed de Haas. The 876 components of the Lange Grand Complication Caliber L.1902 (833 are found within the 1902 Referenc 42500 pocket watch) are not a record-breaking number for a watch of this complexity, but they do attest that simplicity in complication is an art not mastered by many. Although I can guess the presence of a transparent sapphire crystal case back, the grand complication remains tightly secured in its position, leaving the image of its complex movement to the imagination.
The scarcity of images and information on this particular masterpiece is slightly sweetened by a promise by Arnd Einhorn, Lange's PR Director, that over the next 18 months we will be literally bombarded with information and additional specification details on the piece. The grand complication will also go on a world tour in order to reach the most discerning collectors and fans of the manufacture. In the meantime, six pieces will be produced in the next six years. Not that Lange isn't able to continue to produce more pieces after that period, but as de Haas puts it, "Most collectors will certainly not want to wait more than six years for their watches." A second watchmaker is presently being trained on this particular piece. The Lange 1815 Grand Complication is, after all, not so much about engineering (as other brands so often underscore). This remarkable piece requires a watchmaker's extreme and logical thinking as well as a very fine hand - making the Lange 1815 Grand Complication, unequivocally, the pinnacle of high watchmaking.