Earlier this year, German watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne debuted a classically elegant and technically impressive minute repeater that captivated the industry with its sophisticated dial and crystal-clear sound. The Richard Lange Minute Repeater shows A. Lange & Söhne’s mastery of complex movements and impeccable finishings, while being absolutely beautiful to look at.
The watch has a white enamel dial crafted from three parts: an outer chapter ring with Roman numerals and a railway-style minute track, a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock, and a circle in the center. Each is created by hand to achieve the perfect depth of color before being assembled. The blued hands contrast nicely with the black-and-white dial.
But, it’s what inside that makes this watch so covetable. Minute repeaters chime the time down to the minute using two differently tuned gongs. Think of them as a more complicated grandfather clock, which typically chimes only the hours. Of course, these mechanisms are far more complex and must be miniaturized to fit into a wearable watch case.
Image: A. Lange & Söhne
A minute repeater begins by chiming the hours at a low pitch, then quarter hours with a double tone, and finally the minutes are the highest pitch of all. So, 10:39 would be 10 chimes at a low tone, two chimes at a double tone, and nine at the high pitch. You can watch this mechanical symphony through the clear sapphire caseback, which also highlights A. Lange & Söhne’s beautiful movement decoration.
In many minute repeaters, if there’s no quarter hour (i.e. the first 14 minutes of the hour), there’s an uncomfortable pause where the double tone would be. You begin to wonder if the repeater has broken as you await the chime of the minutes. In an elegant solution, A. Lange & Söhne eliminated this pause, so the chimes are unbroken no matter the time. To activate the minute repeater, you push the slide on the left side of the case, and it will chime on demand.
Minute repeaters are among the most sought-after grand complications in watchmaking. These watches are both complex and time-consuming to produce, and only the finest manufactures have the skill to create them. Perfecting the sound can take many attempts. Watchmakers assemble, test the chimes, disassemble the movement, rework it, then reassemble it until they hear the finest possible sound. For these reasons, manufactures create few minute repeaters every year and the limited quantities they produce command high prices.
Image: A. Lange & Söhne
The Richard Lange Minute Repeater comes in a 39mm platinum case. Platinum isn’t as common of a case material as steel or gold because it’s heavier and more expensive. Many brands reserve platinum for special releases like grand complications. It does have wonderful acoustic properties, which makes it a wonderful choice for chiming watches. I heard the timepiece in Geneva earlier this year when it debuted and was struck by the powerful chimes, which were as clear as bells.
Due to the time-consuming production, the Richard Lange Minute Repeater is limited to 50 pieces worldwide. The price? It's available on request.