As a journalist, the new A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus represents a real challenge. It is, undoubtedly, worthwhile publishing an article straight away; yet this watch was one for which the public reception was everything. So, this leaves us several days down the line and with a watch which will inevitably cause a stir. Has Lange just done a Patek? With a blue dial, steel bracelet and 120 metre water resistance, undoubtedly. Has Lange just outdone Patek? Well, this is certainly a more interesting question.
With the Odysseus, the inimitable apex of watchmaking in Saxony has entered the vastly-overpopulated world of Gerald Genta designed steel luxury watches. However, it has done so with such care and obvious attention to detail that this is perhaps the only example of such a more not being a concession of individuality for popularity. This is echoed in the choice of namesake for this new release: Odysseus, or as he is often better known, Ulysses. Famed for his role in Homer’s Iliad and, more extensively, his Odyssey, the king of Ithaca was known for his wit and intelligence. In Odyssey, he was beset by a 10-year journey of encounters with innumerable hostile obstacles. As is obvious, this is the perfect name for a Lange designed for when the going gets tough.
The All-Weather Case
This new Lange offers a case with all the trademark aspects of the brand. It has exquisitely modest brushed surfaces complemented with sharp polished bevels and the detached lugs typical of a Teutonic approach. This is not the whole story, though, as the sporty 40.5mm case is stainless steel, water resistant to 120 metres and fitted to a bracelet. Even the more subtle aspects of the watch are new as the lugs appear stouter and more robust whilst the pushers to operate the now-luminous dial are hidden in the crownguards. To add to this, the case sides appear more substantial and the polished and domed bezel appears much more blatant than other models. In short, Lange has, very seriously, produced an offering to cater to the market for steel luxury sports watches. What should be remembered, though, is that Lange have evidently not sacrificed any of their DNA to achieve this design.
The (sort of) Integrated Bracelet
Most immediately striking is the bracelet which, thanks to wide links, appears to be integrated into the case. The design incorporated 5 links into a contemporary design adorned with this brand’s perpetually flawless brushing. The bevels are also finished with unmistakeable experience to create what appears to be one of the best finished bracelets on the market. In any case, the finishing does appear at least the equal of Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe. Lange have obviously considered methods to make this bracelet a comfortable daily companion so as to fit this new style of watch. To achieve this aim, the links are easily removable with a button on the underside of the bracelet and the deployant clasp features micro-adjustment via a button which can be operated whilst still on the wrist. However, in spite of this innovation, the bracelet is the part of this watch which interests me the least — hardly a surprise after looking at the rest. Unfortunately, the shape of the bracelet, in my opinion, does not complement the case design and renders the watch rather truncated. With that being said, its comfort and change to the usual formal demeanour of a Lange is, perhaps, a valid exchange.
A New Blue Dial
The dial of this watch is also a clear swing at the luxury sports watch market but again in an unmistakeable way for this house. The dial is, like so many others, a rich dark blue colour but takes its own turn from there with both coarsely-matted raised sections and concentric rings. These generate visual interest and allow the watch to retain a sense of restraint. The handset is also typical A. Lange & Söhne with polished lance hands and the quintessential square counterweight for the small seconds. To give novelty and functionality, the dial of the watch has luminous applied markers which match the hands. A highly-legible chapter ring in silver is added to the edge of the dial with a touch of red. Perhaps it is the fact that Lange’s colours are blue, silver and sometimes red which cause this effect, but I think that this dial is a triumph in incorporating tradition into a fundamentally modern concept.
A Unique Movement
Aside from the small seconds at 6 o’clock, the Odysseus also presents two other complications placed on either side of the dial: the date and the day of the week. These complications — not uncommon on sportier watches — give all the complication which one might need thus making this watch very well judged. Operated by the pushers around the crown, these complications are provided courtesy of the calibre L155.1 DATOMATIC. Like most of Lange’s work, this movement is rich in quiet innovation but appears to be based upon the L086.1 used in the Saxonia. The balance wheel, for instance, is weighted to allow for fine regulation, yet is given countersunk weighted screws to reduce air resistance and give a 4Hz beat rate. This push for perfection is typical for this brand and is also seen in the wonderful decoration across the plates. Whilst there is no drop in quality, this follows a less ornate approach to that of other Lange movements such as the replacement of a 22K gold rotor with a nickel alloy one (albeit still with a platinum rim). An interesting change, however, is the addition of more ‘sporty’ features such as a balance bridge rather than a balance cock, a first for this brand, and free-sprung balance. The power reserve is reduced to 50 hours by comparison to the 72 of the L086.1: presumably due to the increased beat rate. What seems clear is that this movement is aiming for the Patek Philippe Nautilus market with less jewels (31 vs 50) but with a longer power reserve (only 45 hours for the Patek) and an additional complication. The only part of this movement which is, to my eyes, a disappointment is that it is much less handsome than the movement in the more affordable (and better value) Saxonia Automatic.
Where Does This Leave Lange?
We now come to a more subjective part of the article as this watch does not directly target the usual Lange market: a market fascinated by finishing and well-versed in complications. Instead, it appeals to a market attuned to the steel luxury watches of Gerald Genta. This market is, no doubt, lucrative with the £23,440 Patek Philippe Nautilus regularly selling for over £50,000 and the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak continuing to sell well. By comparison to the many watches playing to this market at the moment, the Odysseus is unique in that it actually appeals to the same buying demographic. It has a list price of 28,000 euros. Whilst I have no issue with this price as the Odysseus is undoubtedly in the same league, I do still have some quibbles.
It is no secret that many have wondered when Lange would release a sports watch and this piece is a clear answer to such a request. However, well finished though the Odysseus is, I have yet to see how this clin d’œil to the Royal Oak and Nautilus will be received. In truth, the question is; will this watch create a triumvirate or will its similarity be detrimental? For me, the blue dial may have been more palatable if other colours were available, and the bracelet would not have felt forced if a strap were to also be offered. If the boldness of this watch does succeed though, it will be the first to truly join its iconic Swiss brethren in this market segment: quite an achievement for A. Lange & Söhne’s 25th anniversary.
- Dimensions: 40.5mm x 11.1mm
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Crystal: Sapphire
- Display: Dark blue brass dial / Luminous white gold applied markers and hands / Luminous white gold lance hands / Small seconds / Date & Day
- Water Resistance: 12 ATM / 120m
- Movement: L155.1: Time, date, day / Automatic winding with nickel alloy & platinum rotor / Free-sprung balance and balance bridge / Hacking & handwinding / 31 jewels / 4Hz, 28,800 vph, or 8 ticks-per-second / 50-hour power reserve