This is the new A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus. The first serially-produced steel watch from the coveted German brand, and a complete game-changer. Loosely fitting into the luxury sports watch category, it is the result of more than five years of research and development. While admittedly very on trend for the moment, the idea of making a more casual steel watch actually dates back a few decades. It was the late Günter Blümlein, the industry veteran who played an instrumental role in helping Walter Lange revive the brand in the 1990s, who first proposed the concept. Lacking a clear way to execute to Lange’s high standards, however, the idea was shelved at the time.
Over the years though, loyal clients have continued to request a more casual Lange timepiece. One that they could feel comfortable wearing while on vacation. Or playing with their children at the beach. Or hiking. Or swimming. And so on. The challenge was to find a way to create a watch that would satisfy these requirements, without compromising in any way on the quality or craftmanship the brand is renowned for. Finally, after years of work, A. Lange & Söhne presents what it has termed a “sporty-elegant watch for people who admire watchmaking but live active lives.” This is the Odysseus.
Measuring 40.5mm x 11.1mm high, the new Odysseus is ideally sized for relaxed wear. Don’t let its seemingly casual appearance fool you though. Every aspect of the case has been designed with purpose, right down to the very last detail. From the highly polished and slightly curved bezel, to the brushed case middle, to the polished chamfered edges. This is not a simple watch case in the traditional sense. Rather it is a miniature sculpture for your wrist. Effortlessly comfortable, eminently wearable, and unmistakably Lange.
Sitting on either side of the screw-down crown are pushers responsible for adjusting the calendar indications on the dial. Rather than sticking out like traditional pushers though, they integrate cleverly into the design so as not to affect comfort on the wrist. These too are sealed with special gaskets to ensure a water resistance rating of 12 ATM (120m), the highest ever for a Lange timepiece.
As befitting a Lange watch, the dial offers up myriad details, rewarding close inspection. The stepped design delivers a pleasant sense of depth, while the metallic blue colour immediately draws the eye. Hours and minutes are displayed centrally by luminous hands, with running seconds shown on a dedicated sub-dial at six o’clock. Large, faceted, polished applied markers filled with a fine line of luminous material denote the hours. Drawing inspiration from the iconic digital display of the Zeitwerk collection, the day of the week and Lange’s classic out-size date appear in large apertures at 9 and 3 o’clock respectively.
These are jumping indications, meaning they change instantaneously. Slightly unconventional for a so-called luxury sports watch, they add real functionality without compromising on aesthetic appeal.
Multiple finishing techniques lend the dial a sense of sophistication not often seen in watches belonging to this more casual category. A grained texture in the centre, a concentric pattern on the hours and seconds chapter rings, a metallic brushed surface on the minute flange, the time and effort invested in this model is palpable. Not that we would expect any less. This is a Lange timepiece after all.
For many enthusiasts, the true highlight of a Lange watch is the mechanical movement inside. And in this regard, the Odysseus does not disappoint. Turning the case over reveals the new Calibre L155.1 Datomatic, tailor-made from the ground up for this specific model. Measuring a case-filling 32.9mm in diameter and comprised of 312 parts, the movement beats at a frequency of 4Hz (28,800 vph). This is faster than most Lange movements, which tend to operate at 3Hz. The reason for is that the increased beat rate will provide greater stability to the balance if and when it experiences shocks. For example, if you wear the watch while playing tennis or golf.
To optimise the performance of the movement relative to the higher frequency, the decision was taken by Lange’s engineers to design a new escapement system. It’s regulated with four countersunk poising screws, which sit flush with the outside of the balance-wheel rim. This design reduces turbulence despite the higher frequency. Together with the freely oscillating balance spring made in-house, the minimised air resistance has a positive impact on the movement’s rate accuracy and energy efficiency.
Architecturally, the design and finishing of the movement is classic Lange. The central rotor is open-worked to allow uninterrupted viewing of the expertly decorated bridges beneath. It features a platinum centrifugal mass and is embossed with the word ‘DATOMATIC’. A large 3/4 plate made from German silver holds down most of the movement parts, a hallmark of traditional German watchmaking. If you look closely though, you will notice that the balance is held in place by a bridge instead of a balance cock, which is more commonly used by Lange. The reason for this is because a bridge offers two anchor points, whereas a balance cock offers one. Ordinarily, the latter would be more than sufficient, but the additional anchor point means greater shock-resistance and stability. Important for a watch designed for ‘active’ wear.
As with all Lange watches, the movement has been decorated and assembled by hand. The bridges and main-plate are made from German silver and decorated using various techniques, including polished bevels, striping, blued screws – including one screwed gold chaton for the escapement – circular graining and black-polished steel parts. The bridge holding the balance in place is hand-engraved with a distinctive ‘wave’ pattern. Assembled twice before final casing, the new self-winding Calibre L155.1 Datomatic offers 50-hours of power reserve when fully wound.
Created specifically for this model, the new steel bracelet accompanying the Odysseus is nothing short of a masterpiece. Visually it appears to integrate directly into the case. Closer inspection though reveals the presence of curved lugs, which ensure the watch fits snugly against the wrist. It’s closed via a beautifully crafted deployant buckle, complete with a pusher embossed with the Lange signature. Gently pressing on the pusher allows you to adjust the length of the strap up to 7mm without having to open the buckle or take the watch of your wrist. You may also notice there are no screw holes visible anywhere on the sides of the bracelet or lugs. This is due to the ingenious link system, allowing easy removal or adding of links. Finishing is in-line with the case, meaning expertly brushed surfaces and chamfered edges.
Due to the labour-intensive manufacturing process, the Odysseus will initially only be available from A. Lange & Söhne Boutiques, and in extremely limited quantities. Fortunately, Watches of Switzerland will be opening Australia’s first A. Lange & Söhne Boutique at 14 Martin Place, Sydney mid December 2019. To express your interest in learning more about this exclusive new timepiece, please contact the A. Lange & Söhne Boutique Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org.