For years, A. Lange & Söhne has sought to define a uniquely German style of building fine watches—one that reflects the suitably Teutonic qualities of masculinity, utility, and, of course, precision. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk (800.408.8147, www.alange-soehne.com), priced at $54,500, seems to embody all three attributes. While the watch indicates the time by means of mechanical numerals rather than traditional hands, the simplicity of its display camouflages the technical ingenuity involved in making such a mechanism work. Jumping hours, minutes, and seconds like those in Zeitwerk’s dial stretch the capabilities of a conventional spring-powered mechanical movement to its limit. Moving the tiny digits eats up enormous amounts of power. And because the energy is required all at once, the drain can affect the amplitude of the balance and thus the accuracy of the watch.
Lange overcomes these difficulties with the use of a remontoir, a mechanism that gradually stores the movement’s energy on a small spring and releases it when a change of display is required. Unlike previous attempts at mechanical digital watches, this approach achieves the level of accuracy collectors expect from one of the world’s best makers. Lange emphasizes this precision by incorporating a small seconds indicator into the watch. This is the timepiece’s only departure from its all-digital design, which was inspired by the clock inside Dresden’s Semper Opera House and is, therefore, very German indeed.