Sunday Morning Showdown: A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Old Or New? The SMS column takes a different tack with Lange's latest showstopper by Rob Nudds April 26, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Old Or New?
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can.
Here’s something a little different for you, dear readers. Previously, in Sunday Morning Showdown, two writers have adopted polarized positions on a single watch. Today, we’re taking that idea and messing with it. Instead of one writer rating, while the other spends their time hating, we’ve picked one family from A. Lange & Söhne’s catalog from which each writer gets to pick a champion. But before we get to that, there’s the small matter of last week’s drubbing to attend to.
Well done, Balazs. I felt like a dead man walking before my fingers hit the keys last week, but the Fratelli confirmed it. The only saving grace from an 85/15 ass-whooping is that more than 100 of you agreed with me that the SRP777 was uninspiring. The rest of you probably thought I’d been sniffing the polishing compound for too long. You might be right…
But with the gloriously finished surfaces of the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk’s collection addling my mind, who can blame me? This week we zero-in on one of modern watchmaking’s most esteemed families. Finding a Fratello team member to hate on these beauties is like finding a log flume in a desert. And so we’ve decided to take a different route. This week, Ben and I will present our choice from the Zeitwerk collection. While Mr. Hodges is very much in the present, I’ve got my gaze fixed firmly over my shoulder…
A. Lange & Söhne. What is there to be said that hasn’t been said already? Here we have perhaps the finest brand in Germany. Maybe even the world. That’s a conversation for another day, but I’m confident I wouldn’t have to look too hard to find some people to agree with me. A. Lange & Söhne is simply the best, in my mind. And the best of the best? Well, it’s got to be the Zeitwerk, right?
…amid this unwavering commitment to classicism, there was this one, masterful, mesmerizing, monument to modernity
But which one? That question has long since plagued my troubled mind. Lange started me on my path to becoming a watchmaker with its lushly produced catalog, stuffed full of inviting images of glistening jewels, and expertly decorated bridges. Among the pages of that catalog — which was anachronistic enough in itself — there was one watch family stood out above all others. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk. Why? Because, amid this unwavering commitment to classicism, there was this one, masterful, mesmerizing, monument to modernity. A (mostly) digital display? You must be kidding…
And for many years to me, as a young watchmaker stuck behind the bench, the brand might as well have been kidding. I never got to see a Zeitwerk in the metal. I couldn’t even dream of it. But one day that dream came true. And my first thought upon realizing how brilliant it really was, was that the world deserved more variations on the Zeitwerk.
As Ben will show you, Lange is continuing to oblige. And last year’s Date model was an absolute joy. But as happy as I am that Lange is expanding the product offering built around this gorgeous tech, my personal favorite remains from the model’s earlier days.
The A. Lange & Söhne Decimal Strike in honey gold is possibly my favorite watch, period. Firstly, I don’t know what the hell honey gold is but it literally makes me angry that there isn’t more of it in the world. I’m unlikely to ever be able to afford one of these beauties myself, but a Saxonia Thin? That’s not out of the question if I move a few pieces from my collection on to pastures new. My hope is that one day, Lange decides to make the Saxonia Thin in honey gold (and if the brand wants to nickname it “the Nudds” that would be fine also) so I can get some of that achingly beautiful material on my wrist.
It is a real joy to look at and hold, let alone wear this watch…
The Decimal Strike uses a different gong form to the model chosen by Ben. I find both very cool, but the Decimal Strike a bit cleaner. I also really like the orientation of the Decimal Strike’s hammers, as well as its pusher/crown layout, which keeps all operative buttons on the righthand side of the case. It is a real joy to look at and hold, let alone wear this watch. And now, to continue our love-in, Mr. Ben Hodges takes the stage…
Great intro, Rob. Siding against A Lange & Söhne is akin to siding with Carole Baskin these days (yes lockdown TV has got the best of me). While I’ll miss the opportunity to pulverize you with an opinion, this brand is untouchable. And what a perfect model family to mull over. The Zeitwerk seems atypical for ALS, but it somehow perfectly encapsulates their spirit. A German, digital watch without a battery sounds a bit off but works so, so well.
While we may be in a temporary truce, I will draw our readers’ attention to a model hot off the press. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater now with a midnight blue dial in a sultry white gold case. The Minute Repeater Zeitwerk has only ever been available in platinum. With the less dense material of white gold, the sounds of the chiming minutes, sixths, and hours will resonate distinctly in the first-class lounge. Yes, you read sixths correctly — the Zeitwerk MR chimes in 10-minute intervals rather than the traditional quarter-hours.
This is a digital renaissance that blends sublime craftsmanship with a modern display. With that comes a hefty price tag of €449,000. Granted, that’s enough to make any banker’s eyes water. But if you’re going to go for an A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk, why not stretch the extra mile to the pinnacle of their creations?
The Zeitwerk dial layout already perfectly frames the black-polished hammers and gongs and watching them strike while on the wrist is a feast for the eyes. As you mentioned, the Minute Repeaters gong hammers are orientated differently to the Decimal Strike. Instead, the hammers strike inversely to the gongs that wrap tightly to the subsidiary seconds. Maintaining a pleasing tone with an irregular shape is a technical tour de force. A challenge that leaves ALS unperturbed.
Rob: I’ll give you this: While I’m not sure I would choose the black-polished hammers over the frosted hammers of the decimal strike, they are simply sublime. But where the Decimal Strike’s face really comes to life for me, is in the continuation of the frosting on the digital surround. The latest entrant in the Zeitwerk family seems to use a brushed frame in its place. Is it cool? Yeah, you won’t find any arguments from me or any other Fratello team member on that front. But is it as cool as the Decimal Strike in honey gold? I’m not so sure…
Ben: The honey gold case material in the Decimal Strike may be a sumptuous shade but with the creamy dial, loses a little luster. The lack of contrast means the overall blend of colors is a bit beige. Don’t get me wrong; the frosted elements would gleam in the sunlight. But where the midnight blue dial comes into its own, is the tonal shift against the rhodium-plated German silver time bridges. This is a striking watch after all, and the new Minute Repeater benefits in the distinction between the blue dial and silver indications. I’m all in on the novelty, but what does the Fratelli think? Cast your vote now!
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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