KEEPING AN EYE ON THE TIME: POWERFUL PLAYERS IN THE WATCH WORLD
A. Lange & Söhne
What is the most powerful car you can buy? Any self-respecting enthusiast should manage a decent stab at an answer, offering up some crazily horsepowered Bugatti, Koenigsegg or Hennessey. The power question is fundamental at any level of car purchase, whether just for overtaking lorries safely, or else lighting up your rear tyres should the need arise.
With watches the question doesn’t come up so much. There are lots of factors that influence the way people choose a watch. They may go for looks, the reputation of a particular brand, the cleverness of a movement, or maybe the rarity of the metal. Or a watch may just trigger a visceral sense of longing that defies logic. But power is unlikely to be a major priority.
The watch pictured here scores top marks on any desirability test you throw at it. A. Lange & Söhne is one of the best watchmakers in the world, and not only that but it has a nice comeback story too. Established in the German town of Glashütte in 1845, Lange was destroyed by Second World War bombs and then spent decades dormant behind the Iron Curtain. In the 1990s Walter Lange, the great-grandson of the founder, brought his family business back to life and immediately began making watches that were as beautiful as they were innovative.
This watch is a limited edition brought out to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lange 31. It has a slate grey dial featuring Lange’s characteristic big date, and a white-gold case that contains an in-house movement, as all Lange watches do. And that movement is quite a thing, even by Lange’s standards. It is hand-wound and once fully charged will run for an incredible 31 days – something that demands a vast amount of power.
To put this in context, most mechanical watches have enough power in their springs to run for two or three days. Some for a week. But a full month is an amazing feat, requiring two 185cm springs kept in check by Lange’s patented constant-force escapement, a device that makes sure all that power is distributed evenly, whether the watch has just been wound or is approaching the end of the 31 days.
Is this the most powerful watch you can buy? There have been one or two with slightly longer power reserves, but they look like sci-fi machines rather than elegant wristwatches. The power question may not come up all the time, but if it does, the Lange 31 is right up there. In a game of horological Top Trumps, it would be hard to beat.
Baume & Mercier
Baume & Mercier prides itself on producing high-quality Swiss watches at affordable prices. The new Clifton Club has a shock-resistant and water-resistant steel case – it is carefully designed to withstand a bit of sporting knockabout during the day, yet be elegant enough to slip under a jacket sleeve in the evening. For someone looking to invest in one ‘proper’ watch that can be worn on pretty much any occasion, this is an excellent choice.
When the first Rolex Sea-Dweller was introduced in 1967 it contained a clever little innovation that took diving watches to new depths. At that time the Rolex Submariner was rated to 660ft (200 metres). The Sea-Dweller was able to go three times deeper than that thanks to its helium escape valve. This patented device allows the dangerous gas build-up that occurs during deep dives to escape as the watch returns to the surface – it basically decompresses itself. The new 50th anniversary Sea-Dweller is depth-rated to a staggering 4000ft and for the first time comes equipped with Rolex’s signature ‘cyclops’ lens over the date.