This year at the SIHH 2015 just like last year, some of the most expected novelties were those from A. Lange & Söhne. This year, the experts from Saxony surprised us with an amazing timepiece that unfortunately feel somewhat short when compared with the Terraluna launched last year and reviewed here. The new Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in platinum is an impressive minute repeater that taps into the best from A. Lange & Söhne in terms of research, development, technology and craftsmanship.
This is not your average minute repeater, this is a water resistant decimal minute repeater —hammers the minutes in fractions of 10 minutes instead of quarter hours as with traditional repeaters— with constant-force escapement and it is fitted with a push piece to activate the minute repeater mechanism opposed to having a lever. However, when it comes to acoustics and sound level, we think the timepiece falls short.
Either the thick platinum case —extremely dense precious metal— on the watch didn't help with the acoustics or perhaps Audemars Piguet just set the bar too high with their Royal Oak Concept Acoustic Research Episode 1 we presented here. Now, don't get us wrong, this is by far one of our favorite novelties from the SIHH 2015. Nevertheless, considering the level of perfectionism always attained by this superb manufacture, we expected perfection when it came to its sound.
The A.Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in platinum ref. 147.025F is the first A. Lange & Söhne model with a striking mechanism that sounds the hours, ten-minute intervals, and minutes. The acoustic sequence precisely reproduces the digitally displayed time whenever the striking mechanism is triggered with a pusher. The dial time is sounded with a low-pitched tone for each elapsed hour, a double tone for each elapsed ten-minute period, and a high-pitched tone for each elapsed minute. When they developed the strike work for the new A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, the engineers were able to harness the basic principle of the jumping numerals mechanism. The time is displayed with an hour ring and two minute discs instead of with hands. Three snails connected with these mechanical display elements separately sample the number of hours, ten-minute intervals, and minutes to be acoustically indicated. Its case robust like a tank measures 44.2 mm in diameter and 14.1 mm in thickness.
As mentioned earlier, in place of the conventional sliding lever, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater ref. 147.025F features an elaborate pusher system for activating the striking mechanism located on the case band at 10 o'clock.
Powered by the A. Lange & Söhne manual wound calibre L043.5 with 771 parts and 93 jewels —3 in gold chatons—, the engineers at the manufacture took all possible precautionary measures to incorporate safety guards to prevent unintended, potentially damaging manipulations by the watch wearers. Since mechanical conflicts would occur if the owner were to set the time during a chiming sequence, the crown cannot be pulled while the striking mechanism is active. When activated, the winding train is uncoupled from the ratchet wheel that powers it. This precaution prevents the winding wheel train including the crown from turning while the gongs are being struck, which would waste a considerable amount of energy. Additionally, the switching of the numeral discs is delayed until the chiming sequence has ended. This takes about 20 seconds for the maximum succession of tones at 12:59. The acoustic time indication therefore always corresponds to the time displayed on the dial. Pretty much as Anthony de Haas —Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne— said it: "You always hear what you read".
The solid-silver dial shimmers with a rhodié hue. Made of black-rhodiumed German silver, the time bridge prominently frames the hour and minute numeral apertures that are located on the same plane. The black-polished steel gong hammers are visibly arranged on both sides of the subsidiary seconds dial. The hours are struck on the left, the single minutes on the right. For the double-tone ten-minute counts, both hammers strike both gongs —one piece gongs not soldered— slightly offset in time.
To assure that the repeater sequence is not prematurely interrupted due to the depletion of the mainspring’s power —in which case the watch would stop running as well—, the striking mechanism can no longer be activated if the remaining power reserve is less than twelve hours. On the power-reserve indicator, this point is identified with a red mark. Because the mainspring powers the striking mechanism via the ratchet wheel, the number of minute repeater activations and their duration will influence the availability of the underlying power reserve of 36 hours.
The L043.5 calibre inside the new Zeitwerk Minute Repeater ref. 147.025F is lavishly and meticulously hand-finished. Beneath the hand-engraved balance cock, the balance wheel with eccentric poising weights and a free-sprung balance spring crafted in-house breathes with a frequency of 18,000 semi-oscillations per hour. As expected the calibre is fully visible via the display case back and the three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver is a real treat for the eyes and one of the key elements of the A. Lange & Söhne calibres.
On the wrist, we can't tell you how it feels as we were not allowed to try it on during the product presentation. However, we were able to weigh the watch for you and give you an idea of how heavy it is. In reality, not as heavy as we expected —only 173 grams— considering its platinum case. Therefore, we assume this watch wears like a glove and true to its size in a very comfortable way. The watch is fitted with a hand sewn black alligator strap with large Lange deployant buckle in platinum.
Sticker Price 440,000 Euros —$495,814 USD. For more info on A. Lange & Söhne click here.