For A. Lange & Söhne, 2018 is the year of the Triple Split, and as such the new movement was the highlight of this year’s SIHH novelties shown by the Saxon manufacture. Anyone who knows the brand will be aware of its solid Germanic character – so we were more than a little surprised to see Wilhelm arrive sporting a cap adorned with the phrase: EXPLICIT CONTENT – HOROLOGICAL ADVISORY.
Such is the size of the technological leap forward in the creation of the Triple Split, it has inspired mirth directed towards the extreme content within each case. Is the hype deserved? Wilhelm’s satisfied grin indicates it is.
Time for a 1-0-1 lesson in haute horlogerie. What’s so special about the Triple Split? “A traditional chronograph measures one time at a time”, Wilhelm explains, conceeding things can be a little more sophisticated, for example with a flyback function.
The next level is the rattrapante – with this you can measure two times simultaneously, but for only up to a minute in length.
“In 2004, we introduced the Double Split which can measure two simultaneous times, and for up to thirty minutes. The Triple Split was obviously the next evolution. We prefer not to use superlatives when describing our watches – but this is probably the most complicated chronograph on the planet – it will measure simultaneous times up to twelve hours”.
It’s truly a world first. Even their Double Split has never been copied, placing them effectively two steps ahead of other possibilities. Thoughts turn to collectors – they’ll now be looking at the Double Split and knowing that if Lange is going to stop making it, it becomes an even greater investment opportunity. “Well, we definitely shall stop production – but even those who are thinking they must go out and buy one – to be honest it’ll be difficult to find one. We produced them in small numbers. The simple reason for that is the complexity. Ask our watchmakers – and as you know we have the very best watchmakers –and give them the choice between building a tourbillon or a Double Split – when talking about complexity they’d go for the tourbillon – and the Triple Split hasn’t made it any easier for them! So, just from a capacity point of view, there is a natural limit to what we can produce. It’s the same watchmakers making all of our watches”.
“We prefer not to use superlatives when describing our watches – but this [the Triple Split] is probably the most complicated chronograph on the planet”.
Wilhelm Schmid – CEO A. Lange & Söhne
Indeed, it’s a common misconception that a tourbillon is the most complicated watch, but the real elite work goes in to chronographs and the like. “There are the big three: a minute repeater, a tourbillon and a perpetual calendar – those are deemed to be the big complications. However, some watches have specific details within them that are so complicated, almost beyond imagination. These details are really for the watch nerds to appreciate”.
Talk of chronographs takes us back to the rebirth of A. Lange & Söhne, driven by a man who unfortunately passed away last year, Walter Lange. For 2018, Lange has realised a complication that Walter always wanted but no one was able to achieve during his lifetime – the Jumping Second.
It will be produced in limited numbers, and “people need to understand that if you have only nine months to develop a complete new movement, a complete new watch, even for us – and we’re quick – that was a huge stretch. We decided we had to do something special for Walter’s memory though. But we can’t build it in big numbers – 260 is the limit. Three models in gold, one in steel. And a very special stainless steel version with a black dial”.
Delivery of the Jumping Second has not yet begun, but they are already sold out. You do have one final chance to acquire a piece of watchmaking history however. There is one remarkable piece – model number 1. It will be auctioned to support the Children Action charity – as was Walter Lange’s wish. Estimated price? Unknown. But without doubt it’ll be the most expensive Lange watch ever sold.
How does Wilhelm see the industry in 2018? “It’s a bit early to say, but a good SIHH usually indicates a good year”. And Wilhelm had a very good SIHH.