Leading up to A. Lange & Söhne’s new model introductions in Geneva last January, I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation. I think very highly of the brand and was ready to be wowed by something special. The brand did not disappoint as they introduced a stuninng piece with my favorite complication: the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater. The minute repeater is the ultimate complication in my opinion. All other complications are visual wonders: whether a tourbillon, chronograph or world timer. The minute repeater, however, is one of the few mechanical complications, aside from the alarm, that addresses your sense of hearing.
Normally, a minute repeater is being activated by a slide and will then strike the hours, quarters and minutes. A. Lange & Söhne decided to come up with a decimal minute repeater. A decimal repeater strikes each 10 minutes instead of on the quarters, as you have likely guessed. A. Lange & Söhne’s Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is not the first time piece that strikes 10 minutes; other brands like Breguet and Seiko’s Credor (SJX did a nice post on the Spring Drive decimal repeater) have used the same concept in the past.
A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater works a bit differently than most other minute repeaters, or decimal repeaters. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is activated by a pusher instead of a slide. It consumes the necessary energy from the mainspring so it doesn’t need to wind an alternative power source for the minute repeater function. Unless the remaining power reserve is less than twelve hours, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater will strike the hours, 10 minutes and minutes in low tones, double strikes for the 10 minutes and high tones for the single minutes. For maximum pleasure, you need to set the time to 12:59. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater will take approximately 20 seconds to perform all 31 strikes (12x low tone, 5x a double strike (=10), 9x high tone).
The power reserve of the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is 36 hours, so the wearer is limited in the number of minute repeater activations. The beautiful dial of the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater shows, besides the digital display of time, a power reserve indicator in the German ‘Auf’ and ‘Ab’ (not to be confused with ‘off’ and ‘up’). The power reserve scale of 36 hours also has a small red dot at 12 hours, to indicate whether you can still use the minute repeater complication without necessary additional winding of the movement.
According to A. Lange & Söhne’s Anthony de Haas, their head of development, it was very challenging for them to translate the digitally displayed time into corresponding chimes. The struck time will always correspond to the digitally displayed time. After the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater did its job, the discs will advance to the current time. Especially interesting to witness when you activate the decimal repeater at hh:59:59 for example.
Besides being a mechanical wonder, the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is also very pleasing to the eyes. The platinum case measures 44.2mm (diameter) and has a thickness of 14.1mm. Although it is a large watch, it is the weight of the watch that surprised me. It is a heavy piece of engineering on your wrist. The dial is made of solid silver and has digital indicators for hours and minutes. A sub dial for the seconds is located at 6 o’clock and the power reserve indicator is located at 12 o’clock. As you can see, the ‘time bridge’ as Lange calls it, is made of a different material than the rest of the dial. This is black rhodiumed German silver. Also visible through the sapphire crystal are the hammers and the gong.
As with all A. Lange & Söhne watches, the mechanism is as beautiful as the dial. The hand-wound caliber L043.5 has a lot of depth when being observed through the sapphire case back. This movement is decorated and assembled by hand and features the famous 3/4 plate made of German silver. There is hand-engraving on the balance cock of course. The L043.5 movement has the patented constant-force escapement, which delivers the same amount of energy during the entire 36 hours of power reserve.
As you can see on the photo above, the balance wheel has six eccentric poising weights. These weights can be rotated to adjust the ‘poise’ (balance) of the wheel. The balance spring is manufactured in-house at Lange. The L043.5 movement consists of a whopping 771 parts in total, including 93 jewels. Finally, the movement has a rate of 18,000 beats per hour.
The price tag on this stunning Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is €440.000 Euro. It will not be a limited edition; the only limitation is the watchmaking capacity of A. Lange & Söhne to create these pieces for their customers. The complexity of the movement requires highly skilled and specifically trained watchmakers: something which takes time.
This Zeitwerk Minute Repeater from the Glashütte village in Germany was one of the highlights of the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva for me. I have a weak spot for A. Lange & Söhne watches and basically all the time pieces they currently have in their catalogue are beautiful. This is a rarity, as I normally tend to select only a few pieces from watch manufacturers that I really like and enjoy. In that respect, there is no other brand that operates at the same level as A. Lange & Söhne that has so much magic for me personally. This Zeitwerk Minute Repeater proves only reinforces my feelings about the brand.
More information can be found on A. Lange & Söhne on-line. Photos below can be clicked for larger versions.