As part of our ongoing watch pairs series, we thought we’d take a look at two watches that are once again polar opposites: one a sports watch and the other a dress watch. However, both complement each other well and share some similarities.
A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1
Very few brands are as illustrious with the outsized date as Lange. First introduced in 1994, the Lange 1 is the most recognisable watch ever created by A. Lange & Söhne and has become a symbol of the Saxon brand. The asymmetrical dial and patented outsized date have won acclaim from watch enthusiasts, experts, and collectors alike, instantly making the Lange 1 a cult classic. Now, after two decades of production, the Lange 1 remains aesthetically unchanged. Very few watches have gained such status in such a short time frame.
The outsized date, which is a distinctive feature of the Lange 1, was originally inspired by the five-minute clock found in the Semper Opera House in Dresden, a revolutionary clock with digital indication dating back to 1841. The date is positioned at the top of the Lange 1 dial between 1 and 2 o’clock. While it may seem like there isn’t any symmetry to this dial, there is. The dial is in fact arranged to reflect the harmonious proportions of the golden section; a model of artistic balance that dates back to ancient times. The centres of the subsidiary seconds dial, the main dial, and the outsized date display are positioned at the corners of an isosceles triangle.
Other details that stand out on the Lange 1 are the sword-shaped hands, applied hour indexes, sculpted lugs, and the choice of precious materials for cases and dials. Each of these attributes contribute to the strong identity of this timepiece. The case has a diameter of 38.5 mm and is 9.8 mm thick; again, this remains unchanged. Inside the case you’ll find the absolutely beautiful and newly deployed calibre L121.1 made from untreated German silver, which can be admired through the sapphire-crystal case back.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak “Jumbo”
The Royal Oak is not only the most iconic watch Audemars Piguet ever made, but it is also perhaps one of the most distinctive watches out there, period. With its masculine octagonal shape, exposed screws, and integrated bracelet, it is easy to recognise from afar. Moreover, the watch is legendary for pioneering the use of stainless steel in haute hologerie, thanks to a defiant Mr. Genta who drew inspiration from a ship’s porthole in the 70s. This very simple, time-only wristwatch made wearing steel not only cool, but cemented its place as a status icon.
This revolutionary steel watch was characterized by an octagonal shaped bezel secured by eight visible hexagonal gold screws and a dial adorned with an exclusive petit tapisserie motif. This beautiful pattern is made by hand guillochage using an engine lathe and a straight-line machine; the former moves in a circular motion, while the latter moves in straight lines. The original Royal Oak “Jumbo” was slim, measuring just 7 mm, but pretty large for its time with a case diameter of 39 mm. An integrated — and very complex to construct — stainless steel bracelet completes the watch.
The slimness of the original was due, in large part, to the beautifully finished self-winding Calibre 2121, which is still used today for the Royal Oak Extra-Thin Ref. 15202. The Calibre 2121 was based on the Audemars Piguet Calibre 2120 and integrated a date complication. Interestingly enough, the Calibre 2120 was introduced in 1967 as the result of a project led by Jaeger-LeCoultre, with technical contributions and funding from Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin. The project sought to create an ultra-thin automatic movement. The joint effort produced the Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 920, a highly innovative and reliable movement that each of the three funding watch brands renamed and customized (the Patek Philippe 28-255 C was used for the Nautilus while the Vacheron Constantin 1120 powered the 222 model).
Whilst these two timepieces are complete opposites in many ways — one better suited to casual attire, the other more formal — they share one main trait: their iconic designs. Both have looks that can not only be recognised from afar, but have also shaped their past, present, and foreseeable future. This pair of watches may possibly be the only two watches any person could ever need…