A. Lange & Söhne’s classic interpretation of the acoustic complication

The Saxony-based manufactory has enriched the RICHARD LANGE watch family with a timepiece featuring one of the most elaborate sound functions – a minute repeater, classically executed but contemporarily evolved. With its white, three-part enamel dial, the 50-watch limited edition platinum timepiece is delightfully appealing, not only acoustically but also visually.

Among the wristwatches with chiming mechanisms, minute repeaters are the most challenging and interesting complications that precision watchmaking has to offer. They make the time audible with one-minute accuracy. At A. Lange & Söhne, they have a tradition that dates back to the era of pocket watches in the late 19th century. In 2013, the GRAND COMPLICATION ushered in an exciting comeback for the minute repeater in combination with a multitude of fascinating functions such as the rattrapante chronograph and the perpetual calendar. Two years later, the ZEITWERK MINUTE REPEATER with its digital display adapted to the decimal sound format challenged the innovative spirit of the manufactory yet again. The RICHARD LANGE MINUTE REPEATER puts the focus on the chiming mechanism as a singular complication.

A melody for every minute

The complex design of the RICHARD LANGE MINUTE REPEATER is based on the traditional sound format: when the slide integrated into the left-hand case flank is actuated, the chiming mechanism strikes the hours, the quarter hours, and the minutes. It follows a mechanical programme that with two differently tuned gongs can strike 720 different sequences – one for every minute in the twelve-hour cycle. The hours sound at a lower pitch, the quarter hours with a double tone, and the minutes that have elapsed since the last quarter hour with a higher-pitched tone. The time shown in the image – 1.51 a.m. or 1.51 p.m. – would thus be struck with a low tone, three double tones, and six high tones. When the repeater sequence is activated, the sapphire-crystal caseback reveals exactly how the mirror-polished gong hammers execute the respective sequence of strikes on the two gongs that are wrapped around the movement. A refined system of artistically choreographed racks, snails, levers, and wheels controls the 191-part mechanism. 

The RICHARD LANGE MINUTE REPEATER is designed to superb acoustic quality standards. The tuning effort involved corresponds to that of an exquisite musical instrument. A lucid, clear, and reverberant sound is assured by the hand-tuned gongs that harmonise perfectly with the acoustic characteristics of platinum, the case material. As far as the hammers are concerned, the key issues are material, shape, size, weight, and hardness – and above all, just like with a piano, strike. All components are carefully harmonised with one another by a Lange master watchmaker. This requires multiple disassemblies, reworking, reassembly and finally testing. Much of the manufacture time is thus dedicated to perfecting the sound.

Beyond the classic minute repeater

In line with the lofty ambitions of the A. Lange & Söhne brand, the acoustic complication was decisively improved. In the RICHARD LANGE MINUTE REPEATER, three technical facets stand for the quest of the Saxon manufactory to continuously take watchmaking artistry a step further. Thus, the chiming mechanism has a pause elimination feature. It skips the otherwise common pause between the hour and minute strike when no double tone must be struck for the quarter hours in the first 14 minutes after the top of the hour. To prevent damage to the chiming mechanism, it was equipped with a safety device so that the minute repeater cannot be activated while the crown is pulled out. Further, the crown cannot be pulled out when the chiming mechanism is active. Finally, the patented hammer blocker causes the hammers to dwell in their home position for fractions of a second after the gongs have been struck. Thus, the rebounding hammers cannot bounce and strike the gongs again.

An immaculate frame

The new RICHARD LANGE MINUTE REPEATER follows the long-standing principle of A. Lange & Söhne that construction and design must interact. The platinum case has a diameter of 39 millimetres and a height of only 9.7 millimetres. It features the typical satin-finished flanks and prominently domed strap lugs. The white enamel dial has a solid-gold core and is crafted in-house. It has three parts and emphasises the expectations imposed on artisanal immaculacy. The outer ring and the middle part of the main dial as well as the subsidiary seconds dial are hand-crafted individually in an elaborate process before all three parts are joined together. The white radiant background assures a crisp contrast for the thermally blued steel hands. The printed inscriptions are burned into the surface. They include the slender Roman numerals typical of the watch family. Accentuated by the peripheral railway track minute scale and the subsidiary seconds at six o’clock, they emphasise the classic character of the watch. A fine red line above the twelve adds a subtle colour accent. The watch is worn on a black, hand-stitched leather strap with a platinum deployant buckle. The edition is limited to 50 pieces.

A superbly crafted new movement

The new, manually wound movement L122.1 addresses all expectations that are associated with the A. Lange & Söhne brand. The sapphire-crystal caseback reveals the entire scope of artisanal finissage. It includes the freehand engraving of the balance cock with the eye-catching whiplash spring. With its lateral setscrew, it can be used to precisely adjust the interaction between the pallet lever and escapement, referred to as the “beat”. Six bearing jewels are set in polished gold chatons on a three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver and decorated with Glashütte ribbing. Four of the chatons are secured with thermally blued screws. The winding train, decorated with solarisation, is visibly integrated into the plate.

Additionally, the partially visible chiming mechanism features some finish details. The gong hammers are elaborately finished with black polish and the manually bent gongs are polished as well. All bridges of the chiming mechanism are visually paired with solarisation. Among them, the bridge above the centrifugal governor is skeletonised. Generous openings reveal the most dynamic component of the movement: balanced with two mirror-polished gold weights, the centrifugal governor rotates at a speed of more than 2,000 revolutions per minute when the striking mechanism is running. This guarantees the uniform cadence of the strikes.

The 69th Lange manufacture calibre features a screw balance and a freely oscillating Breguet balance spring made in-house with an overcoiled external Breguet terminal curve. The escapement operates at a frequency of 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour (3 hertz). The mainspring barrel delivers power for up to 72 hours.