For watchmakers, adding complications – additional functions beyond hours, minutes and seconds, like alarms, chronographs and calendars – is only half the challenge. Then they have to work out how to display them in such a way that the watch is still nice to look at and intuitive to use. The Bauhaus school of less-is-more aesthetics gets all the hype. But making something elaborate that’s also pleasing to the eye is no small task. “Creativity is making the complicated simple,” as Charles Mingus said.
The prestige watch company A. Lange & Söhne has form in this department. In 1902 it made its Grande Complication No.42500, a pocket watch that weighed the same as a can of soup, consisted of 833 parts and performed a multitude of functions – chiming, timing and calendar. Despite all the whistles and bells it also looked elegant in the extreme. (A tribute Grand Complication wristwatch launched in 2013 and sold for $2.6m.)
Most industry experts would put A. Lange & Söhne in the top tier of luxury watchmakers, along with Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet. The German company is just as applauded for its incredibly exacting manufacturing techniques – it makes everything itself, right down to its springs – as it is for its rigorously classy designs. Its watches tend to do a lot, but they never look like a lot.
The A.Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual is a case in point. The pleasingly named watch was launched in 2001 and was the world’s first automatic watch with a perpetual calendar (a date function that can cope with leap years), a big date window (what it sounds like, and a Lange hallmark) and a patented “zero-reset” function that jumped the seconds hand to the zero position when the crown was pulled, simplifying adjusting the time.
It was also a masterclass in symmetrical and legible design. The sub dial on the left showed the days of the week. The sub dial on the right showed the month. The moon phase occupied the central sub dial at 6’o clock. You can imagine it being used to show design students how to make objects harmonious and attractive.
To mark the Langematik Perpetual’s 20th anniversary it has been reissued in two 50-run limited editions, one in 18-carat pink gold and one in 18-carat white gold. Both feature a blue dial for the first time. They measure 38.5mm, have a power reserve of 46 hours and are wound automatically by a bidirectionally winding rotor.
Owners will have to worry about adjusting the Langematik Perpetual only twice. Once on the 28 February 2100, when the date needs to be advanced by hand. And again after precisely 122.6 years of continuous runtime, when the moon phase display will be out by a day. By which time, presumably, someone else will get to marvel at how the Germans continue to make such highly complicated watches look so pleasingly tasteful.
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