If you ask us which high-end brand can single-handedly make the best Swiss brands sweat, we’d shout back A. Lange & Söhne. The German manufacture makes some of the most desirable watches on the planet, and has now unveiled a timepiece that combines a mechanical jumping numerals display with a decimal minute repeater. To the best of our knowledge this is the only watch of this type, and it’s called the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater.
If you’ve been following A. Lange & Söhne for a while, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater (ZMR) would appear as a natural progression for the brand. In 2013, Lange gave the world its incredible Grande Complication, which was itself the result of serious research and development.
When we spoke to Lange’s Director of Product Development, Anthony De Haas, shortly after that watch was introduced, he told us that the Grande Complication (limited to just six pieces) was never meant to be a commercial piece. The brand committed to building those timepieces, so it would painstakingly acquire the understanding and technology to build finely finished, highly complicated movements, and thus watches, without taking the easy way out and going to another brand for help. You see, that’s just not Lange.
After the Grande Complication was introduced, the brand obviously had the ability to build striking mechanisms. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater you see here measures 44mm in diameter, and 13.1mm in height. This is obviously not intended to be a dress watch but within that platinum case sits a movement like no other.
As mentioned earlier, the ZMR is a decimal minute repeater and what that means is, for the first time, what you see on the dial is what you hear from the chiming mechanism. So, if the dial shows the time as 7:52 and you engage the chiming system, the watch will sound seven low tones, five double tones, and two high tones.
As you may know, most minute repeaters are only able to chime hours, quarters and minutes, whereas the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater can chime hours, 10 minutes and minutes. This means the wearer can easily figure out the time by listening to the chiming. More impressive still are the other useful details and functions that the ZMR offers.
If, for example, you were to engage the chiming system at 7:52, around the 50-second mark, the watch would begin chiming but because the chiming can take as long as 20-seconds to complete, the precisely jumping hour and minute discs would not turn over to 7:53 until after the mechanism finished chiming. But, at the same time, the chiming mechanism would also chime for 7:53. You really hear what you see with this Lange but that’s not all.
Most traditional minute repeaters require the wearer to push or pull a slide-style activator on the side of the case, and the energy from this action is used by the movement to power the striking mechanism. Not so with this Lange – here the chiming is activated by depressing a pusher, which means that, you guessed it, the chiming mechanism draws power from the mainspring itself.
Since the chiming system draws power from the mainspring itself, A. Lange & Söhne has included convenient and functional safeguards to prevent the watch from stopping because of a lack of power. First off, the power reserve indicator on the dial has a visible red dot, closer to the empty (AB) position – if the needle is on or behind this red dot, the repeater will not engage. Furthermore, when the chiming has been engaged, the crown cannot be pulled out – this is a useful safety function that will prevent the manually wound calibre L043.5 from being damaged. Incidentally, the movement – when fully wound – offers a power reserve of 36-hours, if the striking mechanism is not activated.
The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is not a limited edition model but given the complexity of the movement, only a handful will be produced every year. As of now, the ZMR is only offered in a platinum case and is expected to retail for approximately USD $470,000 (AED 1.72-million).
We were able to spend a little bit of time with the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater and got a few live pictures with our iPhone.
Update November 19, 2015
If you want to watch and hear the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater chiming, please watch the video below and let us know what you think.
To learn more about A. Lange & Söhne, click here.