The Little Lange 1 ref. 181.037 was first introduced back in 2018 during the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). For those who are new to the brand, the Little Lange 1 was first conceived back in 1998 as a scaled-down version of the original Lange 1, when an Asian retailer requested the manufacture to produce a smaller case than the standard 38.5mm. It was originally a men’s watch that was catered to markets like Japan and Singapore that wanted a smaller case size.
I think as collectors and enthusiasts, we can all agree that the Lange 1 is an absolute cult classic in the world of collecting. Despite being the original's smaller sibling, do not be fooled by the “little” appellation in the name of this watch right here. Yes, on paper, its proportions and 36.8mm case size are slightly smaller than the original Lange 1, but in reality, there is nothing “little” about the Little Lange 1 as it essentially unites all of the characteristic features of the original Lange 1- you will see why as you read along.
On the dial, you will find characteristics that clearly stem from the predominant genetics of the Lange 1 family – the off-centered hours, minutes, and small seconds counters. Modeled after the five-minute clock in Dresden’s Opera House, it features magnified numerals in the instantaneous jumping date window and a power reserve indicator which is located on the periphery of the dial between 2 and 4 o ‘clock with indicators in German - AB (which means empty) and AUF (which means full tank). The tandem barrels (indicated by the word Doppelfederhaus on the lower part of the dial) provide a robust 3-day power reserve.
The Cal. L121.1 used in the Little Lange 1 was introduced in 2015 as the second-generation Lange 1 movement. It was redesigned with several notable technical upgrades to the original while retaining the original’s exact dial layout, for example - a free-sprung hairspring and an in-house, adjustable mass balance, as well as an instantaneous date and a seconds-hand that stops at zero when the power reserve hits zero. On a surface level, the Cal. L121.1 appears slightly wider, and thinner and features 368 individual movement parts with twin mainspring barrels. We are also treated to a hand-engraved balance cock and the untreated German silver on the three-quarter plate and bridges. While admiring its case back, I would go as far as to say that the Cal. L121.1 is presented much better here in the Little Lange 1 in comparison to its larger older brother. This is because the Cal. L121.1 seems to fill up the case back a lot more, which in turn makes the appearance of the movement through the exhibition case back a “little” more visually engaging.
Another thing I absolutely adore about this Little Lange 1 is the tone of the rose gold used here. I personally think Lange has managed to achieve the perfect tone of rose gold here on the Little Lange 1. It's not too yellow nor too coppery, it is just right. Combining this with a beautifully guilloche brown dial, the warmth achieved on this watch exudes luxury and elegance. It is interesting to note that the current generation of Little Langes all feature guilloche dials, while this technique was only reserved for certain limited editions in the 38.5mm version. I do think this really makes the watch pop and for those that think standard Lange 1’s with smooth dials are a bit ‘Teutonic’, this is the watch for you.
Overall, like many of its predecessor siblings, the Little Lange 1 is an extraordinarily classy yet technical watch. When I look at the Little Lange 1, I feel the great need to emphasize that Lange has done an outstanding job at unifying all these core elements in a way that pays appropriate tribute to its predecessor, as well as making it aesthetically desirable to enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.