The motion is the hand-wound Caliber L043.1, that has 415 components and measures 33.6 mm in diameter. (To see our evaluation of this original Lange Zeitwerk, click here.) This watch is significantly more than a traditional perpetual calendar. Turn it over and you’ll see one of the most complicated and unconventional moon-phase screens ever produced. Surrounding the earth is a disc decorated with 2,116 celebrities. (Their positions don’t correspond to those of actual stars; Lange calls the arrangement a “dream skies.”) A third disk, for exhibiting the phase of the moon, lies under an aperture in the celebrity disk.The earth disk rotates counterclockwise after every 24 hours; you can observe the time anywhere in the world by referring to the 24 hour markers on the ring surrounding the display. The moon orbits the earth once every synodic month, i.e., once every 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 3 minutes. As the moon orbits, it waxes and wanes. The watch’s equilibrium, visible through the caseback, represents the sun: when the moon is between the ground and the balance, the moon disk is all gloomy, representing the new moon. When it is on the other side of the planet, it’s all gold, representing the entire moon. The moon screen is so true that it will be 1,058 years until it has to be corrected by one day.
The Zeitwerk is arguably the most distinctive wristwatch by A. Lange & Söhne, along with the Datograph; the Pour le Merite chain and fusee watches are good candidates but not all of them are easily recognisable. Already produced in a dozen different forms, the Zeitwerk line-up grew one stronger at SIHH 2017 with the new Zeitwerk Decimal Strike, a limited edition in honey gold.
The Zeitwerk Decimal Strike is essentially a variant of the Zeitwerk Striking Time. While the latter strikes every 15 minutes, the new Decimal Strike sounds more frequently: striking a low note on the top of the hour and a high note every 10 minutes. The pusher at four o’clock activates silent mode, stopping the striking mechanism.
This acoustic reminder that time is passing is charming at the same time the complication is neither novel nor functional. So the appeal of the watch lies with the novel time display, as well as the case material and decorative technique for the dial.
The case is honey gold, a alloy of gold that’s a cross between yellow and pink gold, giving it a noticeably different tone. First used for the 165th Anniversary “Homage to F.A. Lange” limited editions in 2011, the metal has since been used again, again and again.
While the repeated use of the metal has made it somewhat familiar, that doesn’t diminish from its appealing colour, or its superior surface hardness compared to ordinary 18k gold, which helps reduce susceptibility to scratches and scuffs.
The warm colours of honey gold give it a somewhat soft look, especially on smaller timepieces, but because the Zeitwerk Decimal Strike is an imposing 44.2mm across, it has significant wrist presence, both metaphorically and physically; the watch is very tangible when strapped on the wrist.
Also unique to the Decimal Strike is the finishing applied to the striking bridge and hammers. Hand-engraved with a burin to create a granular texture, a technique known as tremblage, the striking components on the front are, well, striking.
The tremblage technique was traditionally reserved for Lange’s Handwerkskunst timepiece, limited edition watches unveiled every two or three years featuring elaborate decorative finishes on the front and back. Recent examples include the 1815 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst and Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst. The small dose of hand-engraving has the sensation of being Handwerkskunst-lite, which is nonetheless respectable given the price compared to the actual Handwerkskunst watches.
To match the grained tremblage finish on the hammers and striking bridge, the German silver bridge for the digital display has a frosted surface, instead of the brushed finish found on other Zeitwerk watches. Unlike the coarser tremblage graining, the frosting on the bridge is mechanically applied via bead blasting, giving it a consistent, smooth surface.
The calibre L043.7 inside is visually identical to the movements inside other Zeitwerk models, since the additional complications in each model are added on the front, rather than the rear of the movement. That’s doesn’t detract from the mechanical intricacy of the calibre, which is hand-wound and features a constant force mechanism to manage the energy needed by the jumping discs of the digital display.
A peculiar looking, anchor-shaped bridge highlights the constant force mechanism, or remontoir, which sits in between the barrel and regulator. It’s a one-minute remontoir, with a tiny spring that accumulates and discharges a tiny amount of energy every 60 seconds, ensuring that the digital display jumps correctly, without affecting the timekeeping of the movement.
Because a significant amount of energy is expended to move the discs for the digital display, the power reserve for the Decimal Strike, as it is for all other Zeitwerk models, is a short 36 hours, just one and a half days.
Functions aside, the movement looks good, both from a distance and up close, a typical quality of a Lange movement. That’s thanks to both the high quality of the decoration, but also the materials and techniques used – like German silver and blued steel screws – which give the movement a lavish, warm and expensive appearance.
While most Lange movements have a single hand-engraved cock for the balance wheel, the Decimal Strike, along with all other Zeitwerks has two, with the second one for the escape wheel. And the escape wheel cock is further topped by a black polished steel cap, another example of the top of the line finishing visible inside the movement.
There are probably too many variants of the Zeitwerk, diminishing the desirability of individual models. But the Zeitwerk Decimal Strike is both unusual and handsome, and reasonably priced relative to the Zeitwerk Striking Time. The Decimal Strike costs about 10% more than the Striking Time, which makes the Decimal Strike a decidedly more attractive buy.
Price and availability
Limited to 100 pieces, the Zeitwerk Decimal Strike (ref. 143.050) is priced at €120,000, or about US$127,000. It’ll be available starting October 2017 at both Lange boutiques and retailers.