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 & Söhne. While many see Swiss watches as the pinnacle of watchmaking, A. Lange & Söhne serves as a reminder that this isn’t the case. One can say that in some areas, A. Lange & Söhne is considered much better than its Swiss counterparts.
Released in 1999, the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph is rightfully heralded as one of the most influential chronograph wristwatches to have ever been brought to market. Launched five years after A. Lange & Söhne was re-established by Walter Lange, the Datograph culminated in years of laborious research and development. Bearing in mind, this was a period when brands like Rolex, Patek, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and so many other famous watchmakers were still using third-party chronograph movements from brands like Zenith and Lemania. The A. Lange & Söhne Datograph is the watch that sparked the in-house revolution that is still ongoing to this very day.
For A. Lange & Söhne, the Datograph had always stood as one of their key horological offerings. After over a decade since its inception, it eventually received an update back in SIHH 2012 (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, known today as Watches and Wonders), in the form of one of the variants offered here today – the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down Ref. 405.035 in platinum 950.
Starting with its hefty platinum case, the Ref. 405.035 boasts dimensions of 41mm x 13.1mm, representing a subtle increase in size compared to its predecessor. Building on this is the new Datograph dial- while it retains the signature layout and aesthetics from the first generation, including oversized quick-set date window apertures, two chronograph subdials at the 8 and 4 o'clock positions, and a periphery tachymeter, the new jet-black dial introduces an additional power reserve indicator at the 6 o'clock position (where AB signifies empty, and AUF denotes full). The previously applied Roman numerals (II, VI and X) and the minutes above the hour markers have been completely omitted, effectively resulting in a more visually streamlined and spacious dial. Moreover, the oversized date window and discs within, inspired by the Five-Minute Clock in the Semper Opera House in Dresden, have also been slightly enlarged to better suit the subtly expanded dial surface.
Moving on to the magnificent movement powering the Ref. 405.035 from within—the manual-winding Cal. L951.6. I've mentioned it numerous times, and I'll reiterate it now: one of the most delightful aspects of owning an A. Lange & Söhne is the sheer pleasure of flipping the watch over and marvelling at its movement. What else can I say? The Cal. L951.6 is absolutely sensational from top to bottom. While sharing fundamental characteristics with its renowned predecessor (the Cal. L951.1 from the first generation Datograph), A. Lange & Söhne incorporated some subtle but significant technical updates, including the integration of an in-house free-sprung balance with an in-house balance wheel with overcoil, along with an extended power reserve of 60 hours.
While the Cal. L951.1 was hailed by many as the greatest chronograph movement of all time, including the likes of Philippe Dufour who personally owns a Datograph, the Cal. L951.6 builds upon that illustrious foundation and is technically superior in every aspect. Its aesthetics are also equally as captivating. With its bridges and plates made out of German silver, the overall tone achieved is much warmer and nicer to look at compared to the often sterile-looking silver-coloured Swiss movements. I highly encourage you to take a moment to appreciate the photographs here showcasing the intricacies of the hand-finished Cal. L951.6 as well as the classic engraved balance cock.
Overall, the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down Ref. 405.035 is, at its very core, an exceptional work of German horological art that eloquently illustrates A. Lange & Söhne’s no-compromise approach to watch design and construction. It simply doesn’t get any better than this.