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A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk

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A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk

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A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Men's Manually Wound White... A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Men's Manually Wound White... US 11 2010 $46,995

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk: A Mechanical Digital Watch

A. Lange & Söhne's Zeitwerk is the first wristwatch to feature a mechanical caliber with a digital time display format, making it one of the most innovative wristwatches of the past few years. It is also available with a minute repeater.

Highlights

  • The first mechanical wristwatch with a digital time display worldwide
  • Distinctive Lange power reserve with AUF/AB (UP/DOWN)
  • Also available with a minute repeater
  • Solid gold or platinum case
  • Case sizes ranging from 41.9 mm to 44.2 mm

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk: Time Without Hands

The in-house caliber that powers A. Lange & Söhne's Zeitwerk uses completely new technology to power the watch's jumping numerals. The Glashütte-based manufacturer uses a digital time display instead of the traditional analog display. Normally, digital displays are only found on inexpensive quartz watches with an LCD screen. Instead of a liquid-crystal display, however, A. Lange & Söhne use numeral discs, which are also used in their outsize date display. Since the first four models were introduced in 1994, this date display has become a distinctive Lange feature found on watches such as the Lange 1 or Datograph. Both models quickly became iconic A. Lange & Söhne watches.
A. Lange & Söhne drew inspiration from the world-famous five-minute clock at the Dresden Semper Opera House for their outsize date display and Zeitwerk watch. In 1838, Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes, who served as the Saxon court's master watchmaker, was commissioned to create a watch that could be read clearly from all seats in the Semper Opera House. Together with his former apprentice, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, he debuted the five-minute clock in 1841. This large clock displayed the hour via a Roman numeral in a left-side window and the minutes via Arabic numerals in a right-side window. The time changed every five minutes, displaying the time in increasing increments of five: 00, 05, 10, etc.
A. Lange & Söhne used the five-minute clock as the basis for their Zeitwerk timepiece. However, unlike the original clock, they use Arabic numerals for both the hours and minutes, and the minute window changes every minute. Hands are only used for the power reserve display and decentralized seconds. The hands are distinctive to Lange: very thin and delicate. One eye-catching detail is the large bridge made of German silver that extends across the dial. It frames the small seconds and the hour and minute windows. The bridge is a functional part of the movement; together with the colorless jewel bearings, it supports the axles of both minute discs. The power reserve display is located on the upper half of the dial, with the A. Lange & Söhne logo directly above it.

Buying Advice

Having a Zeitwerk on your wrist will cause quite a stir. This timepiece has a unique digital time display format that watch lovers will recognize immediately. Furthermore, it has a good price-performance ratio. A Lange 31 from the Saxonia collection is powered by similar caliber technology, but costs double the price new. A pre-owned Zeitwerk in very good condition costs around 40,000 euros. New models cost around 56,000 euros. A gold version of the Zeitwerk Striking Time, a watch with a chiming mechanism, costs around 70,000 euros new. The Lange 31 is in a similar price range and has an astounding power reserve of 31 days. The Zeitwerk model with a minute repeater costs over 350,000 euros.

Impressive Technology

The Zeitwerk is immediately recognizable as a Lange watch. The large numerals displaying the time are reminiscent of the characteristic outsize date display. Unlike most of A. Lange's date displays, designers decided to forego the divider between the first and second numerals on the Zeitwerk. The second markers on the small seconds subdial are similar to those from other Glashütte manufacturers. Similar to the minute track featured in the 1815 series, the markers resemble railway tracks. The round case is also distinctive for A. Lange. The smallest version of the watch has a diameter of 41.9 mm, making it well-suited to be worn as a dress watch. One advantage of the digital display is that the minute window peeks out from under your sleeve, making just one quick glance enough to quickly read the time.
If you turn the watch around, you get a view of the richly decorated in-house caliber L043.1. This manual movement has a power reserve of 36 hours and the AB/AUF (UP/DOWN) power reserve indicator. With the help of the stop-seconds mechanism, you can set the watch to the exact time. The hand-engraved balance cock and pallet cock are especially beautiful. Precision index adjustment occurs via six eccentric weights on the balance rim; A. Lange produces both the balance rim and balance spring in-house. Rubies set in screwed gold chatons are an elegant touch and perfectly complement different Glashütte finishes such as perlage, polished and blued screws, and gold engravings.
The Zeitwerk proves that A. Lange & Söhne's designers and watchmakers can make a technically impressive timepiece. Creating a digital display with jumping minutes is anything but easy. It took six years for the Opus 3 from Harry Winston to function properly after it was first introduced. Porsche Design's Indicator, a watch with a digital chronograph display, had a major overhaul after its premiere. The problem with a jumping display is that every switching operation requires enormous energy. Throughout the course of just one day, the three discs for hours and minutes require 1,608 switching operations. A usual date display requires just one. Thus, for this mechanism to function properly, a powerful mainspring is required. This causes a major difference in power between when the watch is fully wound and when it needs to be rewound. This causes deviations from the proper time. Therefore, A. Lange & Söhne developed a so-called constant-force escapement. It compensates for the difference in power and ensures that the mainspring always passes on the same amount of energy to the balance wheel. Like the balance spring, Lange produces the spring for the constant-force escapement in-house.
In the long run, excess power can damage delicate pieces of a movement. For this reason, a small burst of air blows through the movement once a minute at the exact moment when the minute disc jumps. The air slows the disc's movement. Every year, 525,600 small bursts of air slow the movement down and ensure it lasts longer.

Features

  • In-house caliber L043.1
  • Digital hour and minute display
  • Analog seconds display and power reserve
  • Crown at 2 o'clock to increase wearer comfort
  • Case diameter: 41.9 mm

Acoustic Time: Zeitwerk Striking Time

One highlight of the Zeitwerk collection is the Striking Time model. It's the first mechanical wristwatch to have a digital time display as well as a visible chiming mechanism. The mechanism chimes a low-pitched tone at every hour and a higher-pitched tone at every quarter-hour. The two alarm springs and two small hammers are visible on the dial. The two hammers resemble miner's tools, alluding back to the time when Glashütte was a mining town. You can turn the chiming mechanism on and off by using the push-piece at 5 o'clock. The 44.2-mm diameter watch is available in 18-karat white or pink gold or platinum. The platinum version is limited to a run of 100 watches. The manual-winding in-house caliber L043.2 powers these watches.
The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is even more complicated than the Striking Time model. The two small hammers on the watch chime a low-pitched tone at the end of every hour, a double chime every 10 minutes, and a high-pitched tone every minute. You can activate the chiming mechanism by pressing the push-piece at 10:30. The in-house caliber L043.5 powers this platinum 44.2-mm watch. The Striking Time and Minute Repeater are the largest watches in the Zeitwerk collection.