With a heritage in pocket watches, A. Lange & Söhne are no strangers to the minute repeater chiming complication. The complication returned to their collections in 2013, but always as part of a grand complication such as a perpetual calendar. Which means the new Richard Lange Minute Repeater is their first watch in close to a decade that puts the acoustic function in the spotlight exclusively.
Minute repeaters are regarded as the pinnacle of chiming complications, sonorously marking the hours, quarter hours and every passing minute. The mechanism consists of two gongs which are struck by hammers with mechanical programming for 720 different sequences matching every minute in a 12-hour cycle. The two gongs are tuned with a low pitch and a high pitch and the sequence works with a low tone for the hours, a double tone for quarters and high for minutes. 1:51 (AM or PM) would therefore be one low, three double and six high.
However, A. Lange & Söhne have gone a step further than just creating a minute repeater and have developed three new technical elements to improve the quality of the complication. Firstly, they’ve eliminated the pause between the hour and minute chimes in the first 15 minutes of the hour when there’s no quarter chime to fill the gap. Then, they’ve also integrated mechanisms to protect the notoriously delicate function that prevent you from activating the chiming function when the crown is pulled out and vice versa. Lastly, a patented hammer blocker prevents accidental double chimes caused by the hammers rebounding.
With all these innovations it’s perhaps unsurprising that the movement is a new one, called the L122.1. It’s a manually wound piece with a 72-hour power reserve and exceptional finishing. Through the sapphire exhibition caseback you can see the German silver three-quarters plate with Glashütte stripes, the free-hand engraved balance cock, polished gold chatons and thermally-blued screws. Additionally, parts of the chiming mechanism are visible including the gong hammers, various bridges and centrifugal governor which rotates 2,000 times per minute when the striking mechanism is running.
That’s a lot of attention to detail before we even get to the case and dial, which are unequivocally classical. The case has a 39mm diameter and is made from platinum, which is a little surprising as platinum is regarded as having poor acoustic qualities and generally avoided for minute repeaters, but evidently A. Lange & Söhne are equal to the challenge.
The Richard Lange Minute Repeater’s dial is built from three individual portions of white enamel consisting of the central dial, the hour scale and the small seconds subdial. The white provides a clear backdrop for the blued hands and Roman numerals which have been burned into the enamel. Completing the classical aesthetic, the hour and minute tracks are in the railway pattern.
Considering that each watch requires the attention of a master watchmaker to perfect their sound by repeatedly disassembling, adjusting and reassembling it, only 50 Richard Lange Minute Repeaters will be produced. Haute horological designs can sometimes be over the top and shout about how great they are, this watch on the other hand chimes about its greatness in a classic and pleasing manner.
Price & Specs:
Model: A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Minute Repeater
Case/Dial: 39mm diameter x 9.7mm height, platinum case, 18k white gold white-enamelled dial
Movement: Lange manufacture calibre L122.1, manual winding, 40 jewels, 415 parts
Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 72h
Functions: Hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds, chiming mechanism with minute repeater
Strap: Black hand-stitched leather
Price/availability: €409,000, limited to 50 pieces
More details at A. Lange & Söhne.