The rattrapante, from the French verb rattraper, to “catch up”, is one of the most expensive and difficult complications in watchmaking to pull off. It’s also one of the rarest.
Colloquially known as a split-second chronograph, rattrapante watches add an additional seconds hand over the regular seconds hand. Start the timing function as you would with a regular chronograph and both hands set off around the dial in synchronicity. The additional seconds hand can then be stopped independently of the first and resynchronised with it. This allows the wearer to record multiple time intervals that start at the same time… but don’t end together. The most obvious use being to record laps in a race.
The function was invented by Adolphe Nicole, the Swiss-born, UK-based watchmaker also responsible for coming up with the chronograph, unveiled at the London Exhibition in 1862. Patek Phillipe released the first rattrapante watch in 1922, which sold for $1.9m in 1999 – a then-record. In 2016, this was followed by a Rolex rattrapante that went for $2.3m – then the most expensive Rolex ever auctioned.
Rattrapantes get the love because so few brands are able to make them. In addition to Patek and Rolex, there’s Breitling and A Lange & Söhne plus a couple of independents who have the chops to build them in-house. A Lange & Söhne is arguably the most noteworthy because it’s such a prestigious brand, not to say an eye-wateringly pricey one. The German company produces only a few thousand watches each year, almost without exception in yellow, white or rose gold, or platinum. It has chosen that last precious metal for this, its new 1815 Rattrapante. Lange fans like to wax lyrical about the brand’s design nous – custom typography, galvanised dials and outsized dates inspired by the stage clock of Dresden’s Semperoper opera house being recurring themes.
This time a custom-developed movement has allowed Lange to redesign the traditional chronograph dial. Instead of the typical positions of 3 and 9 o’clock the sub-dials are at 12 and 6 – down the vertical centre axis. This new “symmetric arrangement gives the 1815 Rattrapante a balanced and expressive
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