Review of Lange Datograph
By Peter Chong
The Lange Datograph. Here it lies on my wrist as I drove to work in the rain. The foul weather, and the resulting traffic jam, promised the drive to be bore. But the glint of the platinum catches my eye. It is
marvelous. It bekons, and persuades…ah…staring at the watch, I am almost thankful of the traffic…allowing me to share an intimate moment with this watch.
Immediately after Sincere’s Watch Show in Kuala Lumpur Oct 21 1999…the first public showing of the Datograph in the world, the kind folks at Lange Uhren extended me a loan of the Datograph, and the 1815 Moonphase in Rose gold for a week.
So here is the first review in the world, a Timezone exclusive, of this
magnificent watch, after a week of living with it.
I am jumping the gun, by saying that this is one of the nicest watches I have worn in a while. But it is indeed a marvel. The first new chronograph movement designed from ground up for nearly 20 years.
|This is not a small watch. Measuring some 40mm diameter and 11mm in thickness, it is a large watch. The platinum case is very heavy, and the finish is very high. Polished areas achieve a high lustre and shine. The case side is decorated with a band of brushed finish which runs across the “barrel” of the case.
For such a large and heavy watch, it sits very nicely on the wrist, and is very comfortable on my 7.5″ wrists. The heft of the watch gives one the impression that it is hewn out of a block of platinum…a characteristic of Lange watches, but more so with the Datograph. The chronograph buttons are bright finished, as is the massive platinum buckle. As is typical of Lange buckles, this is made of a solid block of case metal (in this case, platinum) and the shape is designed in such a way that there is minimal deformation of the strap when buckled up.
Datograph, resting on the First Edition (2500 examples limited edition) Catalog, signed by Gunter Blumlein and Walter Lange.
The Movement – Lange Caliber L951.1
The Dial and Hands
|The dial is machined from a piece of solid silver, and is black, with the constant seconds subdial and the minute recorder subdial in white. I don’t know if this will be changed when the first production examples hit the market sometime in December this year, but prototype examples, like the subject of this review came with either a plain sapphire glass crystal, or a coated, anti-reflective crystal. My review sample had the anti-reflective crystal, which at certain angles (see pictures taken by me at the end of the review) made the dial look blue. However, the promotion picture (original I have is 40MB tiff file made from a 4×5 camera) clearly shows the dial is black.
Lancet hands for the hours and minutes in rhodiumed white gold, with luminous sliver in the middle, and a very fine, needle like silver chrono seconds hands complete the picture. The constant seconds hand and the minute recorder is in blued steel.
Hour markers are
The crown is made from solid platinum, and embossed with the logo. The pushers are massive square blocks of platinum. The feel of pushers in operation gives the impression of a heavy piston moving smoothly through a pot of thick,
Also the feel of the crown, as one winds the watch is one which gives me extreme satisfaction.
|As is typical of Lange movements, the caliber number indicates the year in which development work began. The L951.1 thus represents a movement in which work began in 1995, and was the first movement to be developed in that year.
The movement is in the classical Glashutte style, complete with 3/4 plate partially hidden below the chronograph work complete with gold chatons held by blued screws, and engraved balance cock with swan-neck micro adjustment system (shown as 3). It features a screw compensation balance with a Breguet overcoil hairspring, beating at 18,000 bph.
The movement allows the folks at Lange Uhren to show off finishing in two metals…the traditional Glashutte German silver used in the base plate, the 3/4 plate and the chronograph bridges
The movement also features a jump minute recorder, which moves in 1 minute jumps, each time the chrono seconds hand completes one revolution.
The classical column wheel (shown as 1) is made in the traditional Lange style, sans polished steel cap, allowing full view of the turrets, and the star wheel activation mechanism below the column wheel proper.
Seen below is the detail of the column wheel, showing the high precision finishing work in the turrets. Note also the jagged teeth of the star wheel below the turrets, where a hook shaped pawl
|Depending on the state in which the chronograph mechanism is in at that moment, the column wheel will coordinate the
Each move of the column wheel causes the fingers of the chronograph to either fall within the space between two turrets or pushed out by the turret.
On the next move of the column wheel, 1 will be lifted by the next turret, and 2 move from the left edge of turret to the right edge, ready to drop for the next command. The action of 1 lifts the brake lever from the chrono wheel, freeing it, while the reset lever snaps over the heart cam, returning the chrono wheel to zero position. With the non-action of 1, the power from the train remains away from the chrono.
Hence, in a classical chronograph, the column wheel is essential to keep the coordination of all activities in order.
|The chronograph works thus:
|The flyback mechanism is shown right. For this function, the same column wheel is required to perform steps 2 and 3 combined, with just one push of the reset button, and restart the chronograph.
The diagram clearly illustrates that when you push the flyback button, the mechanism moves into the dotted line position. It also shows that as long as you keep holding the flyback button, the chrono will not restart, as the flat part of the reset finger rests firmly at the top edge of the cam’s heart.
Note also that the secondary chrono wheel (shown as the only wheel carried by in a chaton) moves out of the way during the reset, removing power from the chrono hand.
|As is typical of Lange watches, the finish is impeccable. Shown left is the detail of the balance cock, showing the balance wheel, and the balance spring.
Labeled 2 shows the anglage work. Note the even-ness of the anglage throughout the bridge’s edge.
Note also the position of the lever which is always centered on the balance cock. In order to achieve this, after full regulation and adjustment is made by moving the lever, miniscule washers are placed in pairs between the screws and the balance, so as to bring the lever back to the center. This makes the screw compensation balance essential for regulation. In a simpler laser poised smooth balance wheel, the screws are not essential, because regulation can always be corrected by moving the lever, which adjusts the length of the balance spring. In a typical watch, the position of the lever is of no consequence. In a Lange, tradition and
Movement finish is one of the hallmarks of Lange watches, and a lot of time and energy is spent to ensure that a perfect finish is approached as closely as is possible. For a look at how this is done, take a
|This is the most remarkable watch unveiled in the Basel 1999. It was the talk of the show. I think this watch makes another mark for Lange Uhren, as the most prominent watchmaker of the decade. The finish is absolutely without peer. The movement design shows complete mastery of the tradition and classical horology.
Definitely highly recommended! I leave you with some pictures of the Lange Datograph, together with its Basel 99 sister: the very beautiful 1815
|Datograph and 1815 Moonphase in rose gold. Photographed sitting on the trunk of my car.|
|The rear view of the same watches. Note the layering effect of the Datograph’s chronograph mechanism.|
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