It’s the 24th of October, which is an auspicious day for Lange enthusiasts. It marks the anniversary of its rebirth (29 years today) and usually means an exciting release for the brand. As such, allow me to introduce the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater in Honeygold. Let’s start with the case material: Honeygold is A. Lange & Söhne proprietary alloy. I first heard about it when James Stacey told me about his grail watch (Lange 1 in Honeygold) on the back of a bus in Geneva after a very long dinner during Watches and Wonders. It was enthralling, but I was ready to pass out from too much pain et fromage, so I buried it in the back of my brain somewhere. Then I kept hearing people throw this Honeygold name around with an air of sanctity in their voices as if it were a holy deity. Watch people LOVE to talk about proprietary alloys, among countless other nebulous subjects, but Honeygold felt different. It felt truly (pardon the pun) precious.Honeygold is incredibly durable and far more scratch-resistant than any other gold. In fact, it is more durable than platinum, which, in turn, makes it extremely hard to work with. There is speculation of a large palladium content, but like KFC and Coca-Cola, the recipe is a secret blend, so we shall remain firmly in the dark here.
It is especially interesting when considering the sonic attributes of different metals for chiming watches specifically. “Platinum is not so loud but very clean, pink gold is warmer, white gold is louder,” according to Director of Product Development and avid drummer Anthony de Haas, “A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold sounds pure like platinum due to the density but slightly warmer than platinum.”
Aesthetically, A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold charm comes down to the fact it can turn warm or cold depending on the lighting. Less copper-toned than rose and less brassy than yellow, Honeygold is subtle, very much in keeping with the A. Lange & Söhne aesthetic.
This A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold is 44.2 mm in diameter and 14.1 mm thick, but complicated watches at Lange aren’t big by design, they are big for a reason. There’s a lot happening inside this thing. Let’s start with the decimal minute repeater, which doesn’t strike in quarters but in tenths of a minute – a complication invented not by Lange but way back when by Monsieur Breguet. The increments of 10 fit the digital display perfectly because you are able to hear exactly what you can read. In essence, this is a digital watch: So 7:52, for instance, would be seven low-pitched gong strikes, five high-pitched strikes, and then another two additional high-pitched strikes.While the watch chimes, the switching action of the numerals discs is delayed. If a new minute begins while the repeater is striking, the minute and/or hour jump happens only when the sequence has ended, and the next numeral disc switching cycle takes place with the regular timing when the seconds hand passes the 60-second mark. Which kind of feels like magic.The watch comes with a push button rather than a slide thanks to the twin mainspring barrel, which provides enough energy to go around without the need to tension a separate spring. To ensure that the repeater sequence is not prematurely interrupted and the watch inadvertently stops running, the striking mechanism can no longer be activated if the remaining power reserve is less than twelve hours. On the power-reserve indicator, the 12-hour mark is identified with a red dot.There is a total of 36 hours of power reserve when the watch is fully wound if the striking mechanism is not activated. According to Mr. Haas, if you let the watch chime at 12.59 (the longest sonorous cycle at a full 20 seconds) 13 times, it will still leave you with 12 hours of power reserve. I absolutely do not understand this math but I’ll take his word for it.As somebody who has been newly ingratiated into the Lange cult, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater wasn’t a watch I was going to feel an obvious thrill for. It is, by my standards, a giant, complicated beast. But it’s playful – in that very Lange way of striking the perfect dichotomy between whimsical and industrial. Firstly, the idea of a mechanical digital watch is still something I am coming to terms with. The large aperture windows give it that stark industrial feel, which I was initially hesitant about; they take some getting used to because, well, nothing else really looks like that. But it’s the ability to shock and then entice and ensnare that I appreciate above all.
It A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Minute Repeater Honeygold comes down to pushing a design that is hard to digest but then becomes a joy to appreciate once everybody understands. It’s a bit like Galliano’s FW 1999 Christian Dior couture show in the Orangery in Versailles. Which shocked every couture customer in the audience and then became a milestone show in fashion history. That is true creative genius.