Tino Bobe, Director of Manufacturing, A. Lange & Söhne talks about the new Triple Split and more in a candid chat with Mitrajit Bhattacharya
Take us through the key launch of SIHH 2018- the Lange Triple Split. How and why, tell us all.
At Lange, we have many chronographs in our portfolio, developed through the years, but we never explored the possibility to measure durations longer than 30 minutes. It was always a 30 minute counter, in Datograph etc. We nurtured the idea that one day we will add a counter or sub dial for hours, because there are chronographs existing with seconds hand, minutes hand and hour hand. We said okay, if you do now this step that you can measure until 12 hours, so maybe we have just to do it with rattrapante, with split function, not a split second, because there is split second, split minute and split hour. So you can even measure duration of a rally lasting 3 hours 50 minutes or I could measure my long distance, 75 kilometers.
By the way, what do you do for 75 kilometers?
A few years ago I did a few 75 kilometers runs, but the last marathon I ran was in 2010 in Berlin. You can measure even this, or if you have gone on your intercontinental flight, and you are interested to know how long you are in the air, you can stop and can see it. Even as a rattrapante, we took the double split as the base and wanted to add nearly 50% more to the power reserve. It was increased from 38 hours to now 55 hours. You can imagine the work we had to do on the movement.
How many barrels are you using?
One, it’s a long single barrel but we had to modify completely the basic movement. It’s like having the chronograph movement, and then, the hour.
It’s not a layer on top. If you compare the double split to the triple split, the watch case is only 0.3mm more in thickness.
The diameter stays at 43.2 millimeters. So we arranged everything within the space available, even if we had to bring the power reserve indication from the 12 o’clock position to the 6 o’clock position. And we had to organise the hour indication coming directly from the main spring barrel. There is no isolated mechanism for the hour indication. It’s not necessary, as turning is slow but on the second hand, and on the minute hand, it’s still isolated to have no friction and no loss of amplitude even if the rattrapante is stuffed and the chronograph is running.
So for a rattrapante, particularly if you have a triple rattrapante, do you need servicing more often?
I don’t think so, because of this disconnecting etc, it’s no problem. And you have no loss of amplitude or no short of power even if the chronograph is activated. There’s always 55 hours power reserve, if the chronograph is showing or not.
Over the years we have seen useful functionality from Lange, like we have seen constant force mechanism, we have seen fusee and chain. You have pretty much worked on perpetual, annual calendars. You even have 31 days power reserve, so of all these which have been the most difficult to develop?
I think the most difficult was the Grand Complication. It was nearly 7 years in development. During this we had ideas like doing the Zeitwerk striking time because we had already written on acoustic time indications and we could take out our learning from the Grand Complication.
We saw the concept of Lange 31 more than ten years ago. What lessons were learnt?
Lange 31 is still in production but if you see the Richard Lange Terraluna, it’s not 31 days but 14 days of power reserve. It is one single, big barrel, and with astronomic indications, and then also, we did a similar thing, exactly with this remontoire or constant force mechanism. So, it’s nearly the same in Richard Lange Terraluna. And then if you remember the Lange 31 has this 10 seconds remontoire. The Zeitwerk has a 1 minute remontoire. After this 1 minute, the same time, you adjust your disc and you give energy to the escapement. So, you have 10 seconds, 1 minute and for the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds you have this 1 second remontoire.
The A. Lange & Söhne watches have lot of technical complications but dials still remain clean from clutter. One of the key components as a collector would be the big date. It came from the clock tower, I think of Dresden right?
The idea or the inspiration came from the Semper Opera clock.
How was the technology adapted for the big date? Is it still the same, double disc?
No.The first four pieces, Lange 1, it was Saxonia, Arcade, the family is no more existing. One day it was too broad, too wide our collections so we had to reduce and unfortunately the small ladies watches were discontinued. But at this time it was really nice to show how small the mechanism of the outsize date can be, compared by big reign of – but in our today’s collection it is really clear, Lange 1 always outsize date, 1815, and Richard Lange like traditional watches 1815 never, and Richard just like, if it really fits like Terraluna. And Saxonia, we can do it or not, it is depending little bit on what’s the purpose of the watch and so that’s why this year, within these three new Saxonia models, the manually wound Saxonia Thin doesn’t have the outsize date because it’s 6.2mm, but the two other models, Saxonia Grand Date, that’s why the name, and the Moon Phase with the grand date. Today with little Lange 1 we present, has the new generation of outsize date, which is exactly jumping or instantaneously jumping outsize date.
And if you look today at those Saxonias, it really shows how we are in the details. So the Saxonia Moon Phase is 40mm, Saxonia Grand Date is 38.5mm, but even at that outsize date is not the same outsize date mechanism inside. The Grand Date is one hundred percent the same size like in normal standard Lange 1, but for the Moon Phase, it is just 1.5mm in diameter of the case, bigger, the outsize date is scaled at 104%.
Fantastic. I want to know from you about Zeitwerk. What are the complications, not complications, what are the challenges in creating the product? I know it’s not this year’s launch, but if you could just touch upon Zeitwerk.
Even Zeitwerk is inspired by this prominent clock, and we didn’t know that in the past, pocket watches were equipped with mechanical digital time indications. Big watch, small holes in the dial, it was always three discs underneath, more or less like this, one disc for hours, and two discs for minutes, always like this. And we said we have to do it better. If we do mechanical digital time indication we do not have to do it in round holes. Of course, why they did because it was difficult to have to correct positioning of the discs, and if you have like this, the opening, if they have 7 or 5, you see exactly, if there is just 0.1 millimeter difference, you see that those lines are not aligned. That’s why they made round openings, no problem, it has to be like this.
Next thing, not so small because of the outsize date, it’s correct, so it should be bigger. Something was, okay today we are all used to have hours, minutes, like it was at pocket watch time. And so we raised the bar and said okay, not round, not small, not up and down. And then you have no small hands, there is no energy, but you have heavy discs to move, and sometimes, all three discs have to move and to jump at the same time, simultaneously. Just as the hour is completed so you have turn to new hour, and you have to go from 59 to 00 so all discs have to jump. And this means a huge amount of energy is needed. From this perspective, you have to have a high level of energy in the movement, you have to control this level of energy, to bring it in to control it, and to assure that it has no friction, no things that this energy is destroying something, because once the discs have started to jump from this point you don’t need this energy anymore, if not it clacks on, but you have to then be able to stop, to have really to control it. And this thing was the problem or the challenges for us.
How did you manage the need for excess energy, how did you deliver that?
At the beginning we had the highest amount of energy ever in watches, 2.7. We in the beginning managed to decrease them with 2.7 kilograms energy into the mainstream, means on a 1 mm lever we have 2.7 kilograms. You can imagine it can destroy your movement, and so we brought it down, these technical things, but it was really a challenge.
How many barrels do you use for that?
Its one barrel, therefore the power reserve is just 36 hours. Sorry, 1-1/2 days. It has the remontoir system. So for the precision of the time piece, it’s perfect until the last minute, because it’s most constant force mechanism.
So if given a choice, what are the three things technically you would like to bring to Lange &Söhne which the company has not done yet?
It’s not so easy because you know that we are today, already working for projects in 2021, 2022, but I’m not allowed to speak about future projects.
How many base calibres does Lange have now?
It depends, the base calibres for example, the calibre 086 used in Saxonia Automatic is a base calibre and on this we have a dual time, a moon phase, and if you want even the outsize date. In a Saxonia Automatic, you will never find one single hole or thing where, normally this is true, but it’s only used, if you have the Moon Phase indication, down to such things. It’s not really modular. What it means, each watch is adapted for a functionality that the watch has. It has no open space, no space free.
So basically Saxonia Automatic, and Saxonia Moon Phase, they are two different calibres, almost?
For us its two different calibres, because even the engraving for the calibre number are inside, and even the main parts are completely different. So, for us, if we do this calculation like this, we have at this moment, 35 different movements in production. For example Saxonia Manual Winding, Saxonia Thin, two different movements, one with 46 hours of power, one with 72, and completely otherwise. We have this automatic, dual time, moon phase, outsize date. We have Lange 1, Lange 1 Moon Phase, Little Lange 1 Moon Phase for ladies has all day and night indications. We have Lange 1 Tourbillon, Perpetual calendar and 1815, 1815 Up/Down, 1815 Chronograph, 1815 rattrapante, 1815 Tourbillon, Datograph, Double-spilt we have 35 movements at the same time in the watches, and so you can do the calculation because we are doing around 5000 watches. You can imagine, what it means for exclusivity, and even nothing need to have the limitations of this, it’s really exclusive and many clients know that.
And how many sizes do you come in, dial sizes?
If you look at just this year’s collection, you see that there’s the triple split which is 43.2mm, 40.5mm is for the Walter Lange, 39mm it is for the Saxonia Thin, 40mm is Saxonia Moon Phase, 38.5mm is Saxonia Outsize Date, 36.8 Little Lange , 39.5mm for the 1815 chronograph. So you see, we always try to do a perfect design. If it means 0.5mm more then it means 0.5mm more, there are no compromises in this way. Maybe it’s a bit stupid but you will realise the dial sizes are many.