The Lange & Söhne 1815 Tourbillon was unveiled 4 years ago. It seemed to be the most simple tourbillon watch from the Saxon manufacture and yet it was characterized by the joint presence of two important technical features: the stop-tourbillon mechanism that had been introduced with the Cabaret Tourbillon and the zero-reset mechanism which is used by the Lange & Söhne automatic movements but which had been featured for the first time in a handwind movement with the Richard Lange Referenzuhr.
As always with Lange & Söhne, the choice of these additional mechanisms was not random. The aim of the tourbillon is to improve accuracy, but it is difficult to set the time with precision because of it is continuously running. The presence of the stop-tourbillon and the zero-reset makes the task much simpler: just pull the crown and the tourbillon (and so the balance wheel) stops while the small second hand goes back instantly to zero. So just set the time and push the crown at the right moment to make the watch resume its operation with a precise setting.
The 1815 Tourbillon joined the catalog of the brand with two versions featuring a solid silver argenté dial: one in platinum, limited to 100 pieces and one in pink gold, without limitation, although obviously the production of such a piece remains low. Then at the end of 2015, a Handwerkskunst version completed the offer by applying high-quality decorative techniques to the watch, such as the dial with tremblage engravings. The result was spectacular and contrasted with the two original watches because the atmosphere was much more baroque.
Lange & Söhne presents this year (unexectedly at least for me) another limited edition of 100 pieces of the 1815 Tourbillon in platinum but with a much more sober approach, using this time an enamel dial. When we discover for the first time this new declination, we immediately think about the Langematik Anniversary from the early 2000s. The platinum case, the enamel dial, the red twelve (of course this time with Arabic numerals), the blued Alpha hands, undoubtedly the 1815 Tourbillon is located in a similar atmosphere. And maybe that's where the manufacture wanted to go: to create a visual break from the Handwerkskunst version and to find again its roots.
Beside the dial, this latest version is close to the original versions. Close but not identical because if the diameter remains the same (39.5mm), the case height is slightly higher given the thickness of the enamel dial. This very slight difference has no visual impact since the feeling of balance remains. The watch has an ideal size that allows us to enjoy the dial and the opening on the tourbillon while maintaining the required elegance. The other slight subtlety is that the enamel dial is flat while the silver dial has a very slight central sub-layer that breaks the uniformity. I know that an enamel dial is more complicated to make but I would have wished that Lange & Söhne made an effort on this point: after all, the enamel dial of Richard Lange PLM had three layers! I think it was not out of reach to make two unless the tourbillon bridge made this task too tricky.
The enamel dial is nevertheless perfectly designed and the quality of execution of the numerals (whatever are their colors) and peripheral scales is remarkable. Having said that, I always have a twinge when a beautiful dial features a wide opening to enjoy the tourbillon. Yet, I'm not one of those who like hidden tourbillons. It frustrates me and I believe that a tourbillon is made to be seen. But in that case, I do not think that the enamel dial is the best solution. Anyway, the tourbillon Lange & Söhne offers a cheering spectacle. The finish is superb, the show is mesmerizing and I almost wanted to frequently pull the crown just to see it stop and watch the instant reset of the second hand.
In fact, I would like Lange & Söhne to adopt a less conservative approach to the tourbillon and to enlarge the opening even further in the context of a technically inspired piece. There was a step in this direction with the Richard Lange Tourbillon PLM but the central bridge on which the second hand was located was hiding a little the view.
The movement that powers the 1815 Tourbillon enamel dial is the caliber L102.1 with a frequency of 3hz and a power reserve of 3 days. It has a similar architecture than the caliber L902.0 of the Tourbillon PLM with a lower zone dedicated to the tourbillon and its bridge and an upper zone covered by a protective three quarter plate. This plate is completely closed with the 1815 Tourbillon since the watch doesn't have a fusee-chain transmission. The quality of the finishes is again outstanding with as a highlight the diamond endstone.
I had the chance to wear the original version of the 1815 Tourbillon in platinum for four weeks four weeks ago. The great strength of this watch is the pleasure it brings when we wear and use it: it is easy to set the time, it is nice to wind it, it is comfortable on the wrist thanks to its reasonable size while being rather heavy which reinforces the perceived quality. This 1815 Tourbillon is clearly attractive from a practical point of view. I must admit that I am less excited about the big "crossing" tourbillon bridge that I found more in place on the Tourbillon PLM.
Despite this aesthetic remark, the 1815 Tourbillon enamel dial is a real success both from a technical point of view as from the execution point of view: the whole watch exudes seriousness, quality and it is difficult to find a real flaw if it is not a subjective feeling on this or that detail. Yet the watch did not fully convinced me for two reasons.
The first reason is related to the feeling of déjà-vu: let's be clear, dial aside, this watch does not bring much new compared to the initial platinum version. And the enamel dial is too stamped "Langematik Anniversary" to bring a real sensation of novelty. While the Lange One Tourbillon Handwerskunst was able to create its own universe thanks to black enamel, the 1815 Tourbillon enamel dial appears more like a demonstration of know-how, a kind of best-of from the manufacture. This is not what I expect from Lange & Söhne at least on a watch of this price level.
The second reason is more related to the strategic orientation of the brand. In the early 2000s, an enamel dial was accessible with the Langematik Anniversary which was a watch available in 500 pieces at a price roughly 10 times lower than this 1815 Tourbillon. Perhaps I am a bit caricatural by putting these two watches side by side. But this comparison shows the trends I have observed for several years. The truly attractive watches now have 6-digit prices, the entry level is not necessarily exciting and limited series no longer bring the differentiating elements they had before. Remember, the 1815 Emil Lange, the 1815 Kalendarwoche who introduced new complications for the brand...
I think that Lange & Söhne should seriously look at its entry level and more broadly on watches with a price below 30 or 40,000 euros. This is important in order to attract new customers and to interest again traditional customers who can not afford to put 200,000 euros in a watch to get an enamel dial. An enamel dial was available with 500 watches in the early 2000s. Why in 2018 the thing should become so complicated? Such is ultimately the image that the 1815 Tourbillon enamel dial sends to me. It is the perfect symbol of what the manufacture represents today: the watch is superbly executed but doesn't convey the same emotion or the same creative spark as a Lange & Söhne watch from the 90's or 2000's. Lange & Söhne must evolve otherwise the risk is to end up addressing only very rich collectors who can afford this type of watch with a 6-digit price. And I don't think it's the best thing for the future of the brand. I am surely too demanding and perhaps unfair to Lange & Söhne. But it's because it is my favorite brand and I know its capabilities and potential that I allow myself this kind of remark.
Thanks a lot to the team of the Lange & Söhne boutique in Paris.
+ a high quality level of execution
+ the presence of the stop-tourbillon and zero-reset mechanisms
+ the 3-day power reserve
+ a balanced case size
- I would have liked a two-layer enamel dial
- I find that the "crossing" tourbillon bridge ages the style of the watch