A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial
The A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial delivers a heightened level of precision by featuring two patented devices, a Zero-Reset mechanism and a stop-seconds mechanism. However, this limited-edition timepiece pairs this mechanical complexity with a seemingly simple flawless enamel dial.
This detailed review of the A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial includes live images, specification details and pricing.
In the world of horology, precision is of absolute importance. This fact was not lost on Abraham Louis Breguet. The Swiss watchmaker, realising that gravity had an undue influence on the regulating organ of a pocket watch, invented the tourbillon. The tourbillon placed the complete escapement within a rotating cage, negating positional errors.
Over the years, various high-end watch companies have released timepieces equipped with a tourbillon escapement. While this ingenious device was conceived for a pocket watch, it is now fitted to many über-luxurious wristwatches. The complexity of a tourbillon necessitates the skills of the most capable watchmakers. Indeed, it is this latter fact which entices many self-respecting purists to succumb to the allure of a tourbillon.
However, there is a fly in the ointment with most tourbillons. While the raison d’être for creating a watch endowed with a ‘whirlwind’ (tourbillon) is to enhance precision, most tourbillons do not facilitate precisely setting the seconds.
Many ‘conventional’ watches have a ‘hacking seconds’ or ‘stop seconds’ facility, actuated simply by pulling out the crown. This allows the wearer to synchronise the time with a reference clock. Indeed, it was for this reason that 1930s pilot’s watches, used for military purposes, were equipped this function. Regrettably, most tourbillons do not have a stop seconds facility, resulting in the watch potentially displaying the wrong time.
A. Lange & Sohne has always been known for its horological exactitude. In 2008, it patented a stop-seconds mechanism for a tourbillon, allowing the wearer to stop and set the timepiece to a tolerance of one second. This system was paired with another Lange patented device (1997), the Zero-Reset mechanism. This latter mechanism causes the tourbillon to halt and the seconds hand to jump to zero.
The ‘standard’ A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon was unveiled in 2014 with a stepped, argenté dial and 18-carat pink gold case. This model (ref. 730.032) remains in the Lange catalogue, however, a few months ago, the watch company from Glashütte unveiled an additional version, limited to 100 pieces. The A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial (ref. 730.079) shares the mechanical intellect of its older sibling but features a new look, courtesy of a pure white dial and platinum case.
While some prospective purchasers are drawn to the delights of the tourbillon based on an appreciation of the peerless hand craftsmanship needed to bring it fruition, other would-be wearers are drawn to its appearance. This in itself is not an issue. It is quite normal for consumers to select goods based purely on aesthetics. However, in recent times a watch sporting a dial-opening has become a proclamation of wealth for the nouveau-riche. This has not escaped the marketing types who have become instrumental in the production of cheaper, mass produced tourbillons devoid of technical merit.
Thankfully, there are some Maisons who do not pander to fashion, upholding fine watchmaking traditions. A. Lange & Sohne is a paragon of haute horlogerie. While the company can trace its family tree to 1845, it came back into the light after the fall of the DDR. The German firm unveiled its inaugural collection in 1994. Over the last 25 years it has become revered by the cognoscenti, creating watches of the highest order.
The A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial, as its name implies, is equipped with a grand-feu dial. A copper disc is painted and then fired in an oven. This process is repeated in order to create numerous layers. Great care is needed to ensure the dial surface does not bubble or crack. Indeed, it is normal for a dial producer to create extra dials based on the assumption that some will inevitably fail to pass muster. Lange state that 30 manual processes are required to craft each dial.
In the case of this watch, the dial is endowed with black Arabic numerals, the brand’s logo and a chemin-de-fer. The hour marker at noon is depicted in red, necessitating separate printing and firing. There are no concessions to expedience.
Blued lancine-style hour and minute hands step forward from the dial surface, articulating the time with clear tone. A blued small seconds hand sits atop the tourbillon, circumscribing the dial aperture every 60 seconds. A chapter ring frames the periphery of said aperture, allowing the wearer to easily read-off the seconds.
The tourbillon bridge is subject to expert mirror-polishing. This technique, sometimes referred to as ‘black polishing’ is the most difficult to perform. The resultant finish appears silvery-white from some angles and then morphs into a deep black when viewed from different angles. Mirror-polishing is one of several clues that the A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial is crafted to an exalted standard.
A. Lange & Sohne has chosen to house this watch in a platinum case. This precious metal is more scarce than gold, denser than gold and evinces an alluring silvery-white appearance. It assumes a restrained character, allowing the dial to stand-out.
The German firm has chosen to polish all surfaces to a brilliant gleam, save for the middle part of the caseband and the section of caseback which encircles the sapphire crystal. While most surfaces are highly polished, the case remains discreet and tasteful.
When it comes to selecting watches for personal wear, I have always had a tendency to dismiss watches with a diameter of less than 40mm. However, I have recently stopped doing this, mindful that there is no substitute for placing a watch upon the wrist prior to forming an opinion. The A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial measures 39.5mm in diameter yet looks wonderful on my larger than normal left wrist. Its unobtrusive width is consistent with the understated character of the watch.
The hand-wound Calibre L102.1 is yet another shining example of Lange’s watchmaking prowess. Consistent with other movements from this high-end brand, the watch is fitted with a three-quarter plate. The benefit of using an oversized bridge is that it confers greater stability than fitting numerous small bridges. The three-quarter plate is adorned with Glashütte ribbing and golden engraved text. Gold chatons vie with thermally blued screws, poised to ensnare a purists heart.
The fourth-wheel bridge is exquisitely engraved with an elaborate pattern, imparted with the deft skill of an artisan’s hand. A further screwed chaton sits within this bridge, fitted with a diamond endstone. Adjacent said engraving is a sea of pristine perlage. The three-quarter plate and nearby bridges are beautifully bevelled. Everything is painstakingly crafted to the highest order.
The white dial of the A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon appears chaste and pure, brimming with virtue. However, not everything is quite as it appears. There is a dichotomous aspect to this dial. While it evinces an unsullied, simple aesthetic it is the outcome of complex creation where artisanal skill and patience are essential pre-requisites. This tireless endeavour is rewarded with a beauteous appearance and the capacity to retain a showroom-fresh appearance for many years to come.
At the heart of the watch is the Calibre L102.1, a movement which harnesses all of the horological probity for which Lange is renowned. The finishing is peerless and free of compromise. The Zero-Reset mechanism and a stop-seconds mechanism perfectly illustrate the company’s incredible capacity to innovate.
With the A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon, the German brand has returned to the most important reason for equipping a watch with a ‘whirlwind’, namely ‘precision’. The two patented mechanisms previously discussed, augment precision and successfully build upon Breguet’s original work. Moreover, this watch tastefully converses with the wearer using simple to understand dialogue. There are no fussy details or pointless gimmicks. This is a watch you chose to wear for your own enjoyment rather than as a means to boast. It is costlier than some mass produced tourbillons, but hand-crafted excellence never comes cheap.
- Model: A. Lange & Sohne 1815 tourbillon with enamel dial
- Reference: 730.079
- Case: Platinum; diameter 39.5mm; height 11.3mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds.
- Movement: Calibre L102.1; hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 20 jewels; power reserve = 72 hours
- Strap: Black hand-stitched alligator leather strap paired with a solid-platinum deployant
- Price: £175,200 (RRP as at 7.1.2019)