In the past I have written about watches that I have seen after a great deal of anticipation but whose reality just hasn’t grabbed me, or of my first meeting with a watch that I’d mentally wanted but found myself no longer desiring after I finally saw it ‘in the metal’. It’s very easy to fall in love with a photo of a watch, but not all of them end up having that intangible ‘something’ which makes us add it to our list of ‘wants’, and not all of them seem to look exactly as they do in photos.
One of the watches which I put on my ‘dream list’ when it came out was A.Lange & Söhne’s Zeitwerk. A few models have come out since the original one, but it was not until recently that I finally managed to see one (or rather, two), and my high level of anticipation was laced with a slight sense of horological trepidation about its reality.
I need not have worried.
When it first appeared, it was considered by many to be a pretty adventurous step for Lange to launch such a radically new ‘face’ – an unorthodox digital presentation of time via large jumping hour and minutes indicators in windows on the left and right side of the dial. This method of presentation is what Lange calls a ‘time bridge’ that covers the bottom two-thirds of the dial. Set on the bridge between and beneath these windows is a large subsidiary seconds dial. The time bridge in these two models are made of Rhodiumed German silver.
On the upper portion of the dial is a power-reserve indicator in the traditional German UP/ DOWN (AUF/ AB) style.
The Zeitwerk is powered by the in-house manual wind Lange Calibre L043.1, which is made of 388 parts. It features a jumping numeral mechanism consisting of two minute disks and an hour ring. However, the movement also has traditional Lange hallmarks like a three-quarter plate, hand-engraved balance cock, and screwed gold chatons. Fully wound, the Zeitwerk has 36 hours of power reserve.
The watch has a diameter of 41.9 millimeters. You’ll notice the unusual placement of the crown. This is so it doesn’t ‘jam’ into the wearer’s hand.
I am a huge fan of jump hour displays, this was one of the main reasons for my interest in this watch. The reality of it did not disappoint, but made me desire it all the more. In a way it seems to sit bigger than 41.9mm (it is 12.6mm thick), but ‘in the metal’ it is every bit as boldly elegant as it is in photos, and there was nothing about it I didn’t like. My personal preference is for the white gold model (Ref. 140.029) which has a solid silver, black dial, because of the bolder contrast between the white metal and the dark dial. It is just an incredibly beautiful watch, and I particularly like the ‘time bridge’ and the balance of the dial.
Since the launch of the original Zeitwerk, it has not only garnered a lot of awards, including L’Aiguille d’Or Grand Prize at the 2009 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, but as well as formal recognition, it has also been incredibly popular.
There have been a few other versions released, including a luminous one, and one that strikes on the quarter hour and the hour. The latest iteration is the limited edition (of 30, all spoken for) Handswerkskunst limited edition model, whose dial surface has a grainy looking ‘frosted’ finish made up of thousands of minute hand engraved indentations produced by a technique known as ‘tremblage’.