When thinking of the real heavyweights in Haute Horlogerie, only a few big names come to mind- Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, and of course, the Germans next door, A. Lange & Sohne. While many see Swiss watches as the pinnacle of watchmaking, Lange serves as a reminder that this isn’t the case. In fact, one can say that in some areas, Lange is considered much better than its Swiss counterparts.
Everything said in the introduction predominantly revolves around one aspect of watchmaking- the chronograph. A. Lange & Sohne today is seen as the undisputed king of chronographs and there is a good reason why- the in-house Datograph.
First introduced in 1999, it sent shockwaves through the watch industry as creating an in-house chronograph was no easy feat, let alone for some young German brand. Remember, this was a time when houses like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin were still using Lemania movements for their chronographs, and Lange wasn’t even a decade old.
The Datograph was a very traditional, super high-end, manually wound chronograph made in Germany and not only was it a technical marvel, but it was finished to the highest standards and looked beautiful too. Imagine how the Swiss felt when this happened! Architecturally, the Datograph movement had an amazing three-dimensional look to it, with an intricately engraved balance cock and bridges and plates made out of German silver. The finishing was the best in the industry and there was just this warm glow to the movement from the German Silver that Swiss movements just didn’t have.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Patek caught up and released their own in-house manually wound chronograph and it took another 5 years after that for Vacheron to catch up.
Since then, there have been variations of Lange’s chronograph movement and this is one of them. The Datograph Perpetual was first released in 2006 and was a natural progression after the standard Datograph. The perpetual calendar chronograph has always been seen as a flagship complication for any brand and it was imperative that Lange did so too.
With a 41mm 18k white gold case, the comparisons to the Patek Philippe 5270 was always inevitable and largely seen as a big rivalry between two of the biggest watch manufactures. With it’s iconic jumping big date at 12 o’clock though, it is unmistakably a Lange.
It goes without saying that the L952.1 caliber is a sight to behold and even people who don’t know about watches can tell just how good it is. Just like every perpetual calendar chronograph watch, this Datograph Perpetual uses a calendar module fitted atop the chronograph watch to complete the complication. The movement is incredibly hand finished with thick bevelling and deep Glashütte ribbing on every surface.
The Datograph Perpetual has always been very conservative in its design, being made only with a white dial in either a white gold or rose gold case but in 2018 they released this example- fitted with a beautiful grey dial. The grey is quite enigmatic and ethereal in its nature as it varies in tone depending on the light source. While blue dials are all the rage these days I was very happy to see Lange buck the trend with this fantastic grey dial.
Despite the huge rivalry between the other Swiss brands, there is no doubt that A. Lange & Sohne is at the top of its game, with this Datograph Perpetual as one of its flagships. Even the legend Philippe Dufour himself owns a Datograph and routinely cites Lange as the best in terms of movement finishing in mainstream watchmaking.