Meet The Spectacular A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph
This year at Watches & Wonders 2023, German high-end watch maker A. Lange & Söhne did the unexpected. While fellow attendees used the fair as a platform to debut multiple new models – which is entirely what W&W is intended for by the way – Lange took the bold decision to launch just one, single, solitary timepiece. But my goodness, what a timepiece! An absolute work of art, six years in the making, it would have been impossible for any other novelty from the brand to get out of the shadow of the spectacular A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus Chronograph. As the latest addition to Lange’s genre-redefining luxury steel sports watch collection, and with production limited to just 100 pieces, the Odysseus Chronograph has instantly become one of the most coveted luxury timepieces on the planet. Want to know what all the fuss is about? Keep reading.
The Odysseus Collection
Lange debuted the Odysseus collection back in 2019, in response to demand from collectors for a more casual and sporty alternative, but one that did not compromise in any way on the brand’s high standards. Yes, it’s a luxury sports watch, but it’s crafted the Lange way. That means every individual aspect of this timepiece has been thought through in painstaking detail and then expertly and consistently executed to a level that is without compare in modern watchmaking. Not surprisingly, the Odysseus collection is now cherished by collectors, with Lange subsequently introducing models in white gold and titanium.
This novelty though marks the first time Lange is equipping its flagship sports model with arguably the most sporty of complications, the mechanical chronograph. A complication for which the brand is renowned for its mastery of. In fact, many collectors still credit the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph with being the best mechanical chronograph ever, and certainly the timepiece that played an outsized role in re-igniting interest in and passion for this subset of the market. All that is to say that when A. Lange & Söhne debuts a new chronograph, collectors and enthusiasts sit up and pay close attention. Even more so given that this is the first ever self-winding chronograph movement from the brand. (For context, Lange has produced 12 separate chronograph movements since its re-founding in 1994 and all of them have been manual winding.)
But enough teasing, let’s get to talking about the new Odysseus Chronograph proper.
The Odysseus Chronograph
Presented in a three part, stainless steel case, the new Odysseus Chronograph is a touch larger than its non-chronograph siblings at 42.5mm x 14.2mm. Yet still retains the perfect proportions and balance the collection is celebrated for. Both the case and matching steel bracelet feature a combination of brushed surfaces and expertly chamfered edges, while the thin and slightly curved bezel is highly polished. On the right-hand side of the case we find the crown, flanked on either side by integrated pushers, all of which are sealed with special gaskets to ensure a water resistance rating of 12 ATM (120m), the highest ever for a Lange timepiece.
Enthusiasts will of course point out that these pushers are part of the Odysseus blueprint, their role being to adjust the calendar indications on the dial. And while that still remains the case, Lange has made a very special upgrade for the Odysseus Chronograph. When the crown is pulled out, the pushers still adjust the calendar indications on the dial as usual. However, when the crown is pushed in (i.e. normal wearing conditions), the pushers change roles and instead can be used to start, stop and reset the chronograph. It’s an ingenious solution as it means the functionality of the Odysseus is further enhanced but without the need to change the case architecture or add additional pushers.
Speaking of the chronograph, you will notice that the layout of the dial is somewhat unconventional in that the ubiquitous counters are not present. There is of course a sub-dial at 6 o’clock, but this is for the running seconds. So, how does it work then? If you look closely, you will notice that in addition to the luminous Lange lancet-shaped hour and minute hands, there are two central hands. The one in red is the chronograph seconds hand, while the other is for tracking the elapsed chronograph minutes. Around the periphery of the dial is a palladium-coloured flange that displays two scales; fractions of a second on the outer circumference and minutes/seconds inside with a red number at 60, matching the red chronograph seconds hand and the ‘Chronograph’ inscription printed on the dial. Thus, when the chronograph is activated, these totaliser hands point to the elapsed minutes and seconds. This means that unlike most mechanical chronographs, the Odysseus Chronograph is able to track a full hour of elapsed time (instead of the more traditional 30 minutes).
Once you have completed the timing event, it’s time to activate the bottom pusher to “reset” the chronograph, and this is where Lange really shows off its technical prowess with its dynamic reset-to-zero function. Once the pusher at 4 o’clock is actuated, a short but impressive spectacle ensues: if the minute counter has not reached the 30-minute mark yet, the minute counter jumps back to its starting position in the conventional way, while, at high speed, the red chrono seconds hand covers the entire distance travelled beforehand within a fraction of a second ‒ one full revolution for each measured minute. If the minute counter has passed the 30-minute mark, both hands will advance to zero clockwise. As quick as lightning, the chrono seconds hand performs a full revolution for every minute required to reach the full hour.
Turning our attention away from the functioning of the chronograph for a moment, let’s take the opportunity to fully drink in the magnificence of the black dial. As dark as night, the Odysseus Chronograph – like other models in the collection – achieves a wonderful sense of depth thanks to the use of different layers and textures. The inner surface of the main dial shows a grained surface, set with notched baton appliques made of white gold, while the subsidiary seconds scale is underlaid with concentric circles. At six and nine o’clock respectively are the outsize date and day apertures, synonymous with the Odysseus collection, and indeed Lange as a brand. As previously mentioned, a palladium-coloured flange ring with a printed two-part minute scale frames the dial.
The L156.1 Datomatic Calibre
Turning the Odysseus Chronograph over elicits an uncontrollable and audible gasp of amazement as the sapphire display back reveals the L156.1 DATOMATIC calibre beneath. There are many adjectives that could be used to describe this movement; breath-taking, astonishing, awe-inspiring. Yet none of these are really sufficient. This is the manufactory’s first self-winding chronograph movement, and it is truly a thing of beauty in both the technical and aesthetic sense. Comprised of 516 individual components, all of which are assembled twice to ensure maximum precision, you can begin to understand why Lange can only produce 100 examples of this incredible timepiece.
When fully wound, the mainspring barrel delivers a maximum power reserve of 50 hours, with efficient winding assured by the skeletonised and partially black-rhodiumed central rotor with a centrifugal mass in 950 platinum. The oscillation system is designed to ensure optimum rate accuracy: the shock-resistant balance with four posing screws, beats at a frequency of 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour and is suspended beneath the balance bridge. In terms of the aesthetic features of the movement, many unique, traditional elements are incorporated, for example bridges and plates made of untreated German silver, the hand-engraved balance bridge and the gold chatons secured by blued screws. In addition, all components ‒ visible or concealed ‒ are, for the greater part, lavishly finished by hand. Needless to say this is not standard operating procedure for your typical luxury steel sports watch, but again, nothing is standard about A. Lange & Söhne.
Available exclusively in Australia from the A. Lange & Söhne Boutique in Sydney, please contact us to register your interest in the Odysseus Chronograph. To discover more about this model and the entire A. Lange & Söhne range, we invite you to visit us in-store at your convenience.