This article guaranteed 100% free of Fifty Shades Of Grey puns.
There is something about the annual calendar complication that has always seemed especially appropriate for Lange. The perpetual calendar is a wonderful thing and Lange does nice things with it (as they do with just about everything), but it’s always seemed a little fussy, a little high maintenance; in a word, a little French, for Lange. The annual calendar by contrast has a pragmatic – shall we say, Teutonic – character that seems to suit Lange down to the ground, as if it’s saying, „Oh, by all means, if turning the crown once a year is too fatiguing, do throw away money on a perpetual calendar. I’ll be right over here when you decide to be sensible.“
Of course, by the numbers, Lange does quite a few more perpetual calendars that it does annuals, and you can find them in just about every product family, from the Lange 1 to the 1815, all the way up to the Grand Complication. The annual calendar sits within Lange’s collection in a somewhat similar position to the one it holds in watchmaking history as a whole, which is to say that it’s still relatively rare. In contrast to its perpetual calendars, Lange currently makes just two annual calendars: the 1815 Annual Calendar, and the Saxonia Annual Calendar, of which the grey dial boutique limited edition you see here is a variant. And the annual calendar is a relative latecomer to Lange’s collection as well – the Saxonia Annual Calendar came out in 2010, and it wasn’t joined by the 1815 Annual Calendar until 2017.
When Patek Philippe introduced the first wristwatch annual calendar – the reference 5035 – it was a fairly controversial move; the annual calendar was, as Cara mentions in her 2017 coverage of the 1815 Annual Calendar; considered by some to be a mere dumbed down perpetual, and therefore inappropriate for the elevated image so assiduously cultivated by Patek. Likewise, there was some discontented murmuring, and for the same reason, when Lange launched its annual calendar, but by 2010 the complication had been around long enough, and had been widely produced enough, to banish from the minds of most enthusiasts the notion that buying an annual was necessarily settling for less. Nowadays, it’s generally viewed as simply another option – an interesting additional calendar variant, and generally less complex and accident prone than the perpetual calendar (although the latter have evolved as well, and many perpetuals are now as idiot-proof as annuals).
In other words, as has always been true in high-end watchmaking, how you do what you do, is at least as important as what you do, and an annual calendar, like any other complication, is as elevated (or not) as the maker chooses to make it. Lange makes a pretty elevated annual calendar. Aesthetically this is a departure from the more austere look and feel of the existing Saxonia annuals, which are available in rose gold, white gold, or platinum, but all with a silver dial (hands vary as well, with the white gold version featuring very fetching blued steel hands).
Lange describes this as a grey dial, but it’s actually a slightly warm grey, and it sets off the white gold case quite beautifully. It also seems to add a shot of extra luminescence to the hands, markers, and date windows, which in oblique light glow against the dial like red-edged clouds at sunset. It’s a bit more dramatic an execution than the silver dial regular production models and overall, has a more structured as well as more overtly seductive feel.
The view through the caseback of the Lange caliber L.085.1 was terrific when the Saxonia Annual first came out, and it’s just as terrific now. The three-quarter plate construction is one that Lange adopted from the very beginning of its renewed production in the 1990s, and if you’ve cut your horological teeth on Swiss full-bridge movements it can take a little getting used to, but it has its own charms and its own specific decorative idioms. The three-quarter plate can look a bit stolid put next to the sinuous lyricism of a full bridge caliber, but in its most pure form a Glashütte three-quarter plate movement has a placidly oceanic serenity that I think contrasts beautifully to the babbling-brook kineticism of a full bridge movement; a really good three-quarter plate movement gives the feeling of being what a full bridge caliber wants to be when it grows up. Both the 1994 and 2015 versions of the Lange 1 movement have this quality (the 2015 version even more so, thanks to a rearranging of movement components that did away with the two distinctive islands set into the three-quarter plate of the original).
In the Lange caliber L.085.1 the austerity of the three-quarter plate is somewhat mitigated by the presence of the inset micro-rotor, although this is, as micro-rotors go, pretty macro. There is always something of an air of massiveness about Lange’s watches (even the simplest and flattest), and the deeply engraved rotor has a looming, cast-iron presence reminiscent of the nameplate on a 19th century steam locomotive. Certainly it exudes an air of being more than capable of winding 46 hours of running energy into the mainspring – I bet there’s enough gold just in the rotor to make the cases for about twenty mid-20th century Pateks. The rest of the caliber is classic Lange, right down to the engraved balance cock, swan-neck regulator, and the lovely black polished cap on the escape wheel cock.
There will be, as we mentioned in our introductory coverage, a total of 25 made and they’ll be available, natch, solely through Lange boutiques. Originally this model was going to be offered on a glossy strap in a somewhat alarming peacock blue, but Lange has elected to put it on the more sedate, and I think better matched, dark croc strap on which we see it now.
Lange in general seems pretty smart to me about releasing limited edition, new dial treatments of staple collection models. They don’t do it too often and as a rule, they’re thoughtfully done – you get the sense that a higher level of care and consideration goes into such things, when Lange does them. This combination of dial and hands is on one level just a cosmetic change, of course, but it does something very particular, which is add a very attractive new variation to an existing aesthetic, in a way that is an organic part of the larger narrative continuity of the model as a whole. For pricing and specs, check out Stephen’s Introducing post and to look at the whole Saxonia Annual Calendar family, visit alange-soehne.com.