How a Musician’s Ear Helped Create A. Lange & Söhne’s New Honeygold Minute-Repeater
The sophisticated timepiece will be produced in just 30 pieces like its white-gold predecessor in 2020.
Leave it to a musician to create the perfect tone for a minute repeater: A. Lange & Söhne’s director of product development, Anthony de Haas, is a seasoned drummer. The elite complication is a bit of a speciality for the watchmaker who honed his expertise working with Stephen Forsey, now of Greubel Forsey fame, at renowned watch supplier Renaud et Papi. (That was almost 20 years ago, but when the time came to give Lange’s Zeitwerk Minute Repeater a new Honeygold setting, de Haas was particularly instrumental.)
The proprietary material is praised by collectors for its subdued hue—a softer, more refined glow than traditional 18-karat yellow gold—as well as its improved durability over the traditional metal. “We only use it for limited editions, and we use it only for special timepieces, because it’s a very demanding material,” says CEO Wilhelm Schmid.
And the aesthetic advantage isn’t just visual. “You really hear a slight difference in the warmth of the sound based on the material,” says de Haas. “Platinum is not loud. It’s very clean. Pink gold is warmer. White gold, I personally think is quite clumsy—Boing! Boing!—but louder.” Thanks to its high density, de Haas says, Honeygold “sounds very pure, like platinum” but is also “slightly warmer.”
To get the sound just right, the prototype needed to be disassembled and reassembled multiple times—no small feat considering the movement’s 771 components. “It’s important to find the balance, to have the necessary pressure to have a secure activation of the repeater or grand sonnerie, but not to break the amplitude too much,” de Haas says. “That’s what a watchmaker does, and you do that by hand. You don’t have a machine to measure. And of course, it’s always all these layers down, so we have to disassemble everything just to adjust it.”
While the new case material is a proper selling point on its own, the latest iteration’s mechanics are the ultimate draw. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater first launched in 2015; it’s historically important for Lange as the brand’s first mechanical wristwatch to combine jumping numerals with a decimal minute repeater. At its debut, it caused a sensation for combining the granddaddy of classically elite movements with a digital display. Unlike conventional minute repeaters, which chime the hours, quarter hours, and minutes, this one sounds the hours, 10-minute intervals, and minutes. The change was to account for the digital display (de Haas says he and his fellow watchmakers call it the T-shirt for its shape) so that what the wearer hears corresponds to the time read. In other words, at 7:52 the watch would chime seven low-pitch notes, a series of five combined double tones, and two high-pitch sounds.
The sequence takes roughly 20 seconds. So, what if you activate the repeater five seconds before the time changes? De Haas and his team pondered just such a dilemma. The solution was to delay the passing minute; it remains on the indicated time until the notes are finished, then switches to the current hour and minutes.
A final, subtle detail sure to be appreciated by connoisseurs is the deployant strap that slides out of its fixed point at the case for an unobstructed view of the main attraction: the Calibre L043.5. It features a constant-force escapement between the balance and the barrel, and like all Lange movements is hand-finished to the hilt. While the platinum iteration from 2015 was not limited, the price-upon-request Honeygold model will be produced in just 30 pieces like its white-gold predecessor from 2020—and is arguably the most striking of the three.
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