A. Lange & Söhne “Pour le Mérite”: A Legacy of Excellence

When A. Lange & Söhne introduced the Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” in 1994, it was the very first wrist watch with a fusée-and-chain transmission. It’s for a good reason, because a fusée-and-chain transmission is not only extremely complicated to make, but also quite unnecessary. A watch with a lever escapement and balance spring gets the job done just the same, requires less space and is much less complicated to make. But that is not the point. See it as a Ferrari V12: These days, you can quite easily build eight and six cylinder engines with the same performance stats as a V12, yet Ferrari continues to make them.

Three examples of the  "Pour le Mérite" collection: Left to right: Cabaret Tourbillon; Tourbograph "Pour le Mérite"; Tourbillon "Pour le Mérite"
Three examples of the “Pour le Mérite” collection: Left to right: Cabaret Tourbillon; Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite”; Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite”

When logic seems to have left the building, heritage and passion come into play. For A. Lange & Söhne, the fusée-and-chain transmission was a display of horological force, combined with a generous dose of Saxon watchmaking tradition. Since even the most modest A. Lange & Söhne has to live up to extremely high standards, the “Pour le Mérite” is the nec plus ultra of the brand, the finest of the finest. To achieve this, A. Lange & Söhne first had to miniaturize the fusée-and-chain transmission. It’s a challenge, given the stress that will be placed on the fusée chain, as it transfers its power to the rest of the movement. However, the great benefit is that this power transfer is constant―a huge advantage when you want to create a reliable and precise timepiece. And it’s the main reason that they can traditionally be found in marine chronometers. In 1994, A. Lange & Söhne took the watch world by force when they introduced this complication in their very first “Pour le Mérite,” a tourbillon.

1994 "Pour le Mérite” tourbillon
1994 “Pour le Mérite” tourbillon

Over the years, the brand expanded the collection slowly but surely. In 2005, A. Lange & Söhne created the Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite,” which essentially would serve as the base on which the Tourbograph Perpetual would be developed. Another highlight came in 2009 with the birth of the Richard Lange “Pour le Mérite.” Fitted with a fired, white enamel dial, this time-only watch might be the ultimate understatement, as only the back reveals part of the amazing pedigree of this watch. It became more extrovert with the Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite,” which saw the light of day in 2011. In essence a regulator, hours and minutes have their own subdial. To guarantee a clear view on the tourbillon, the Roman numerals 8 to 10 are absent on the dial when not in use. However, when 8 o’clock is reached, a disc turns out, indicating the missing numbers, only to disappear again when 10 o’clock has passed. This way, you can enjoy nine uninterrupted hours of seeing the tourbillon in full view.

The Tourbograph Perpetual is the fifth installment of the “Pour le Mérite” and by far their greatest tour de force to date. While the fusée-and-chain transmission takes up valuable space, Lange & Söhne still found enough room to not only incorporate a split-second chronograph but a perpetual calendar as well, on top (literally) of the mandatory tourbillon, of course. To do such a thing without creating an unbearably large watch is an achievement by itself. In fact, the movement only has a height of 10.9 mm and a diameter of 32mm. These relatively modest dimensions translate into a diameter of 43mm and a height of 16.6mm when placed in its platinum case.

2011 Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite”
2011 Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite”

The chain alone consists out of 636 parts, and when finished this chain will join the 683 other parts that make up this highly complex movement. Among them are 50 jewels and two diamond end stones. What they did was take the basic movement function with fusée-and-chain transmission and tourbillon and added the perpetual calendar construction to the front of the watch, while placing the split-second chronograph gear trains on the back. This serves multiple purposes, but the most important one for the owner of the watch is that the most dynamic parts of the movement are now in plain sight: The tourbillon on the dial side, and the chronograph gears, with its two distinct column wheels, at the back of the watch. In return, the fusée-and-chain transmission remains hidden from the eye at the center of the movement, a small price to pay for one of the most complex A. Lange & Söhnes to date.

2017 Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite”
2017 Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite”

With the Tourbograph Perpetual, the “Pour le Mérite” collection has reached its temporary zenith, but don’t see this as the closing act as A. Lange & Söhne, without a doubt, will move forward. It might take a couple of years, but be prepared to be impressed all over again. Until then, the Tourbograph Perpetual will reign supreme as the best A. Lange & Söhne has to offer


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