Review: A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia (with a very rare dial)

By LK
(Image above, and many of the images in this article, are courtesy of @kwokkinfei. Used with permission and much gratitude.)

I got bitten by the Lange bug in late 2015. Like the bite of a seemingly innocuous insect, I was only mildly interested in the manufacture initially. Then I started reading more – I read about how F. A. Lange pioneered the fine watchmaking industry in 1845 in poverty-stricken Glashutte, how Walter Lange revived it in 1990 at the age of 66 after the Soviet Union expropriated the brand for over 40 years, how it perfectly fused traditional hand finishing with cutting-edge innovation… and before I knew it, I was hit with Lange fever.

I went in search of a three-hand Lange, hoping to find one with an uncommon dial. When the opportunity arose for me to acquire a rare Saxonia limited to 25 numbered pieces sold only in Germany, Italy and Japan, I jumped at it.

THE BODY

With a diameter of 37mm and a thickness of 7.7mm, the white gold case is dressy and slips under a shirt cuff effortlessly. It wears comfortably thanks to the curved lugs and the tang buckle, which has a cross-bar and is slightly contoured for added comfort.

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Image courtesy of @kwokkinfei. Used with permission.
The case construction is clean but by no means simple. Its bezel is curved and polished, with a brushed side profile. The outer rim of the caseback is polished but the rest of it is brushed. The crown is signed “A. Lange & Söhne”.

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Image courtesy of @kwokkinfei. Used with permission.
The dial and hands are the highlight of this limited edition. They differ from the standard line-up in a number of ways, the most noticeable being the contrasting colours of the dial (black) and sub-dial (silver). The seconds hand is heat-blued – not a particularly special feature, but one that I always enjoy having. The other difference lies in the use of lume – the hour and minute hands, as well as the dots behind the hour markers are luminous.

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Image courtesy of @kwokkinfei. Used with permission.
One of the reasons I am smitten by Lange is their attention to detail. The hour markers are a case in point – each baton has 8 polished facets (picture a Toblerone with the ends angled inwards stacked atop a cubiod). The end result? A dial that easily catches and plays with light.

Markers

 The whole black-and-white theme on the dial and case continues on the black alligator strap with white stitching. I like how the different coloured sub-dial makes the timepiece less severe and rather versatile – it looks great with a suit, but also works with polo tee and berms.

THE MIND 

The calibre 941.1 is one of Lange’s basic movements, but the wonderful thing about Lange is that all their movements are well-made and finished to a high standard. It has a decent power reserve of 45 hours, a hacking seconds function, and ticks at a stately 3Hz. A swan-neck regulator is used for the escapement.

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Image courtesy of @kwokkinfei. Used with permission.
There are a myriad of finishes on this seemingly simple movement – hand-applied Glashutte ribbing on the three-quarter plate, gold-filled engravings, bevelled and polished edges, contour grinding on the walls, perlage on the baseplate, flat polishing on the end-piece of the escape wheel and swan-neck regulator, and a hand-engraved balance bridge.

The three-quarter plate was in fact developed by F. A. Lange in the 19th century, and is used to achieve a more sturdy movement. The plate is made of untreated German silver (an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc) instead of rhodium-plated brass found in most Swiss movements. German silver develops a beautiful light-gold patina over time.

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Image courtesy of @kwokkinfei. Used with permission.
Another notable feature of the movement are the four rubies set in solid gold chatons using heat-blued screws. The use of chatons is anachronistic – in the past, the chatons were used to protect the natural rubies from being damaged. With technology and the advent of synthetic rubies, this is no longer an issue. Lange incorporates this as a nod to its heritage and for aesthetics. Indeed, the red jewels, blue screws and gold settings produce a gorgeous riot of colour against the German silver plate.

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Finally, the hand-engraved balance bridge is a beautiful, almost romantic, way of ensuring that no two timepieces are alike. Lange has only about five engravers give or take (I was told not all the engravers work on a full-time basis). What is amazing is that apparently, the engravers can identify who worked on each bridge just by looking at it.

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I have only one gripe about this movement. With a diameter of 25.6mm, it looks slightly disproportionate in the 37mm case. The movement fits the 35mm case of the current Saxonia line better, but then again I find 35mm a bit small on my wrist. I suppose you cannot have your cake and eat it. 

THE SOUL

In a nutshell, the Saxonia is about discretion and distinction. Discretion, because it has no complications and houses its movement in a thin, moderately-sized white gold case. Distinction, because of the meticulousness that has gone into ensuring quality in every component – from the construction of the case and tang buckle, to the movement architecture and finishing.

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THE FINAL TICK

This simple Saxonia is a good primer into the world of Lange. Having gained an appreciation of the fundamental Lange movements, I have now gone down the slippery slope of appreciating other Lange marvels.

I sometimes fear where that slope would lead, but for now I feel like a kid zooming down the most amazing slide ever made.

© 2017 Ticking Notes. All rights reserved.

Factsheet

Acquired – June 2016
Case diameter – 37mm
Case thickness – 7.7mm
Case material – White gold
Dial – Black with silvered sub-dial
Hands – White gold with luminescent coating
Indices – White gold applied hour-markers

Calibre – L941.1
Movement parts – 164
Jewels – 21
Movement diameter – 25.6mm
Movement thickness – 3.2mm
Frequency – 3Hz (21,600 vph)
Power reserve – 45 hours

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