A. Lange & Sohne was reintroduced to the watch word in 1994 after lying dorment since1948. A little known manufacture producing a small number of watches, Lange was a well kept secret in enthusiast circles, with those in the know recognising the exceptional level of wristwatches coming from the town of Glashutte. Fast forward to 2019 and Lange is the noisy neighbour of the Switzerland’s holy trinity of watchmaking. To be comparable with the likes of Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin is quite a feat but to be acknowledged by some in the industry as superior, is a strong statement considering these are the most revered brands in horology. This week on the wrist serves to summise a very beatiful watch on its own merit while investigating the manufactures place amongst the elite.
For this week I have had the pleasure of wearing the A. Lange & Sohne 1815 Up/Down in Pink Gold. The case measures 39mm across with a thickness of 8.7mm. A solid silver (argente) dial is adorned with arabic numerals, a small seconds display and power reserve indicator, denoting up to 72 hours of uniterrupted use from the manual wind calibre L051.2.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Strapping on the 1815 is a delight. As the proportions suggest, the case complies with a wide majority of wrists and sure felt at home on my mine with the heft of pink gold case assisted by downturned lugs, benevolently securing the timepiece via an aligator strap. From the signature case silhouette, alpha hands and saxonian typeface, the 1815 has every bit of Lange DNA that is quintessential of the brand. The solid silver dial of the Up/Down elicits a discrete sheen and provides an excellent canvas for Lange’s expression of classic design. The numerals are large, bold and exquistely lacquered in a distinct font that harmonises all typfaces from dial to caseback, creating an appearance that favours heritage expression rather than bona fide dress watch. A railroad minutes track ties into the classic aesthetic and collaborates with the alpha hands to create viewing satisfaction from pinpoint accurate legibility. These features immediately confirm Lange’s ability to execute faithful and pleasant historical aesthetics to remarkable tolerances, but upon closer inspection of the dial is where the 1815 rewards the wearer.
The hour, minute, seconds and power reserve hands are treated to a heat blue finish. The vivid blue tone unique to the process sing against the argente dial, exuding deep and rich hues accompanied by flawless polishing. Even more impressively, the hands are all uniform in colour, confirming Lange’s attention to detail and skill in achieving consistent handsets via a process reliant on human technique. Beyond the pop of colour, the remainder of the dial has subtle traits that guarantee this is a watch of the highest order. The central inner sector bearing the manufacture’s name is slightly sunk into the dial, both ensuring a fantastic use of negative space and providing a platform for the sub dials to amaze. And how they do. The registers feature such fine circular snailing that initially deceive you, leading you believe it to be a sunburst finish as your eyes would suggest. The ever changing shimmers of light express such fidelity and elegance. Only upon macro inspection do you witness the fine patternation of the sub dials that catch, hold and defuse the light, displaying it to you as if it were another finishing technique all together. I have never encountered a dial that has fooled me to believe it was one type of finish, only to look at my camera (And A. Lange & Sohne’s website) to confirm it is indeed another. Remarkable. With the power reserve and small seconds displays recessed further into the dial it brings the registers into focus, grabbing your attention and letting you appreciate the beautiful symettrical execution of design. With the sub-dials at 4 and 8 O’clock, this may be the best integration of a power reserve indicator on a dial out there. Symmetry remains uniterrupted and its place amongst the dial
feels natural, in contrast to slapping a PR indicator in no man’s land as dictated by the movement (I won’t name names, but a few brands come to mind).
While there is much to appreciate on the dial of the 1815, the caseback is Lange’s calling card and the avenue to which they established themselves amongst the elite. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Lange movement. It was a Datograph Up/Down which was shown to me on the same day I purchased my first nice watch (a Tudor Pelagos LHD). I was in awe and honestly bereft of any idea how a watch so complicated could be attended to by hand in finish and assembly. A bit of time in the hobby and I can begin to understand how a Lange is crafted, but the sheer sensation of viewing their movements has never worn away. Datograph or 1815, any Lange is a visual experience. The 1815 Up/Down features a mainplate of German silver (as all Lange watches) finished with Glashutte stripes. The ribs of the stripes are strongly pronounced and executed flawlessly, with the warm hue of the Copper, Zinc and nickel alloy dancing in the light, highlighting one of many disctinct Lange traits found on the calibre. The brand, serial, movement and country of origin are relieved into the mainplate in the same typeface found elsewhere on the 1815. The gilt text is executed in the most precise manner I have seen on any wristwatch, second to none. Heat blued screws secure the mainplate and balance cock, again with a uniform rich blue no different to that found on the hands. Within the mainplate, you can find 7 jewels held in place by golden chatons and three miniscule blued screws to fix each chaton.
Jewels are generally secured in place via a bore into the mainplate, though historically real jewels were used in movements, leaving the door open to them being scratched upon placement. Gold is softer in nature and acts as a sleeve to the jewel reducing the prospensity to scratches upon affixing it to the main plate. A practice mostly found in pocket watches of yesteryear, Lange brings this technique to decorate the movement unlike any other serially produced wristwatch today. A much more labour intensive process due to the need of 5 bores into the mainplate (one for the jewel, another to accomodate the chaton and three to accomodate the screws), but results in a apperance so unique that is again, signature to the brand and evidence to support views that the best wristwatches come from Glashutte, not Geneva. The star of the movement show is the hand engraved balance cock accompanied by a black polished swan neck regulator. There are many superlatives I could use to describe it. A beatiful expression of artisan technique, each balance cock is hand engraved and a factory tour of Lange premises can determine who engraved your particular timepiece only by looking at the flourishing found on the movement. The swan neck regulator is without blemish and with its sizeable surface area, really allows you to appreciate the difference between high polish and black polish. No stone left unturned, no compromise, only perfecion will suffice. As far as serially produced watches, nobody goes about their business like A. Lange & Sohne.
The 1815 Up/Down impressed me in so many ways. I am so grateful to enjoy this watch outside of the four walls of a boutique and really get to grips what it is like to own a Lange. The perceiveably perfect execution on both dial and movement never loses its magic and there is every bit of evidence to support some enthusiast views and industry professionals that yes, this is as good as it gets. However, this is a review of sorts and two things came to mind when I asked myself, would I change anything on this watch? Lange uses anti-reflective coating on the inside and outside of the dial facing sapphire crystal. While sapphire crystals tend to inherit a blue hue by nature, the anti-reflective used on the 1815 enhances this effect and potrayed a noticeable blue reflection when viewing the watch at certain angles. The strong colour of the high polish hands may also contribute to the outcome, but I would love to know how the 1815 would look without any AR coating to reduce some of this effect. One other tiny gripe as any Lange owner would experience, is how long it takes to wind the mainspring. Like other enthusiasts I love to wind up a watch and bring it to life, especially if it allows you to enjoy a wonderfully smooth action such as this for an extended period of time. With its generous 72 hour power reserve however, the 1815 takes an age to wind. But it’s not just the 1815. Ask any Lange owner with a manual wind movement and they will concur. Again, two very small and extremely pedantic comments on a throughly magnificent timepiece.The 1815 Up/Down has been so enjoyable to experience for the week. While there is a lot more happening on the Up/Down than a time only wristwatch would s
uggest, the change of strap can set you for a dressy mood or rather casual appearance. The layout of the dial is as classic as it comes and proves to be more capable of daily wear than one would think of a pink gold timepiece. The case receives a high polish on all surfaces which saw the metallic nature of gold really pronounce itself in direct sunlight, particularly in this pink gold colouration. In soft light the precious metal took on a deeper glimmer closer to that of a traditional yellow gold. Superbly dynamic. The most underrated complication on a manually wound timepiece in my eyes is a power reserve indicator. You know exactly how much energy is remaining in the mainspring, while removing any concern of accidentally overwinding and damaging your high end time-piece. Such a handy complication and one I thoroughly enjoyed having on the 1815 during my week of ownership.
Now, the big question. Is A. Lange & Sohne the best watchmaker in the world right now? It would be short sighted of me to provide a definite answer having only handled a small selection of watches from each watchmaker. But what I can say is that Lange do things differently. Their movements, with gold chatons, german silver and hand engraved balance cocks are distinct to the brand and offer a visual feast completely different to its Swiss competition. At the end of the day, it comes down what you prefer in a timepiece. Each brand goes about their horology differently, with the level of finishing amongst the top 4 (I absoloutely will say Lange belongs amongst PP, AP & VC) is as good as it gets, so take the time to see which speaks to you more on a personal level. It is also very likely that if you’ve made it this far into the article you love your watches and already have a favourite brand or watch from of these maisons. At this standard of watchmaking or any other for that matter, the thought process if you are considering ownership should curtail toward what brings you most joy. Finishing, movements, aesthetics and price considered.
What a blast it has been to have the Up/Down on the wrist. I truly enjoyed wearing such a timepiece and it has been quite difficult to hand it back. Having worn watches from the industry’s elite…. I think this is the end goal. To some day own a timepiece from one the best, wish me luck, time to start saving!
Thank you again to @jp_melbs for letting me wear your A. Lange & Sohne 1815 Up/Down for this review, I am so grateful. Please check out JP’s instagram for more awesome watch content and the best #pocketshots on the internet!