The luxury steel sports watch is probably the most sought-after commodity in the watch world today. One notable absentee among the top tier watchmakers in this category has always been the German brand A. Lange & Söhne. The Glashütte-based company is best known for their classically-styled timepieces that are powered by lavishly-finished movements cased in precious metals. This incongruity is about to change now with the introduction of Odysseus, their first stainless steel sports watch that will be in regular production.
It’s been more than 40 years since Audemars Piguet broke the mold with Royal Oak, but there has been no slowdown in demand for a more casual timepiece from a haute horology brand. Such has been the influence of the Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus that brands that foray into this category often end up creating timepieces that took a page out of the Gerald Genta playbook. So it’s refreshing to see a brand come with something completely fresh to the market.
The first Odysseus lays the foundation for a further watch family, their first in ten years since the launch of the Zeitwerk in 2009. It’s worth mentioning here that Lange has produced steel watches in the past, but they have been one-offs or limited editions. Most recently, a unique Homage to Walter Lange timepiece was produced in aid of a children’s charity.
Understandably, this is a big move from the brand that celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. There are couple of firsts here not including the choice of case material. This is the first time that an integrated metal bracelet has been paired with a Lange watch. The Datomatic movement was built ground-up for Odysseus and features a 4 Hz escapement, a departure from the more classical 3 Hz movements of Lange timepieces. The case is fitted with a screw-down crown and an exhibition caseback and is depth-rated to 120 meters, another first for Lange.
The watch has a 40.5 mm case that is 11.1 mm thick. The three-part case has a mix of satin-finished flanks and chamfered edges. The combination of brushed and polished surfaces extends to the lugs and the integrated bracelet. The asymmetry of the case is down to the two pushers on either side of the crown and can be called up on to adjust the day of the week and date indications.
The dial carries the unmistakable DNA of the House of Lange. According to CEO Wilhelm Schmid, it was probably the hardest part of the whole creative process. Since this was going to be the face of the family, they had to be absolutely sure about the placement of the two characteristic windows. The one at 3 o’ clock indicates the date and the one at 9 indicates the day of the week. The big date window is again characteristic of Lange watches but don’t expect the display to jump instantaneously here.
The multi-tier brass dial is a deep blue and has difference surfaces. The notched baton hour makers are made of white gold and are placed on a ring of concentric lines. The inner surfaces and the subsidiary seconds dial have a grained finish and a slim silver flange ring houses a printed minutes scale. The 60 minute mark is printed in red on the silver flange, a welcome pop of color. Time is indicated by lancet-shaped hands in white gold. The hands and hour markers are coated with luminescent material for optimum visibility in the dark.
The exhibition caseback reveals the new Caliber L155.1 Datomatic movement. The self-winding movement is decorated and assembled by hand. It has a uni-directionally winding skeletonized central rotor that is rhodium plated (another first) and has a weighty platinum tip. Since this movement was designed for a more active lifestyle, Lange made two major changes to its construction. The traditional balance cock that holds the escapement is now replaced by a balance bridge. This was done to make the escapement more stable, the balance bridge is hand-engraved with a wave motif. The other big change is the presence of a faster oscillating balance wheel, now 4 Hz instead of the traditional 3. The balance is regulated with four countersunk screws flush with the outside of the balance wheel rim. This is done to reduce turbulence despite the higher frequency. Like all Lange movements, the finissage is exquisite with the traditional three-quarter plate construction, gold chatons, chamfered edges and wider Glashütte ribbing.
The integrated bracelet is supple and the five links have the same satin brushed surfaces with polished chamfers like the case. Its length can be adjusted in small steps (up to 7 mm) via a clever safety deployant buckle. You only need to press the pusher embossed with the Lange signature and the bracelet can be pulled or pushed in to adjust the length.
Though this is not a limited edition, production will be limited by the complexity of assembly. Schmid was quick to point out that any resultant waiting list isn’t a marketing gimmick but a factor of the Manufactory’s production capability at the moment. The watch is only going to be made available to the brand’s VIP clients via their boutiques initially. It is priced at €28,000, which is in the same ball park as the other two heavy hitters in the category.