Hands on review of the Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold
I close the presentation of the 3 pieces celebrating the 175th anniversary of the opening of the first F.A.Lange workshop in Glashütte with the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold. The best for last? Not quite. The most complicated one, for sure. But is it really my favorite watch from this trilogy? No, and I'll tell you why.
Actually, the reasons are very simple. I don't deny all the mechanical interest of the Tourbograph Perpetual. It's a superlative and intelligently designed watch. It brilliantly combines 6 complications (or technical solutions): a tourbillon, a chronograph, a split-seconds mechanism, a perpetual calendar, a moon phase display and a fusée-chaîne transmission that allows it to be called "Pour le Mérite" (only Lange & Söhne watches with this mechanism can have it, whether they have a tourbillon or not). The fusée-chaîne transmission takes on its full meaning here because it allows to cumulate precision (at least theoretically with the tourbillon) with regularity of the movement behaviour. And this problem of managing energy consumption is even more important given the presence of an additional complication compared to the initial Tourbograph: the perpetual calendar.
The Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold, unlike the other two watches in the trilogy, does not have a new configuration. The Tourbograph Perpetual was introduced in 2017, and this latest version in honeygold is no different from the model of 4 years ago. No complications have been added or removed. This already explains why it does not have the same singularity as the 1815 Thin Honeygold or the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold. This is one of the reasons why I was not so seduced. The other reason is perhaps more subjective. I find that from a practical point of view the specific decoration of the dial, certainly perfectly made, certainly very attractive from an aesthetic point of view, is not as relevant as those of the other two pieces. In fact, the watch becomes much less legible especially (and this is embarrassing for a perpetual calendar watch) at the level of the date display. My position on this point has hardly changed and I had already expressed it in the article on the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold. I still think that Lange & Söhne has no interest in offering a perpetual calendar when the manufacture does not use the double-window big date system. The contrast between the honeygold dial with black rhodium background (whose rendering is a sumptuous gray) and the couple formed by the small hand and the date scale is insufficient to obtain an easy reading of the date.
Don't get me wrong: the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold is a very beautiful watch. From a mechanical point of view, it remains one of the most impressive watches on the market and the presentation of the movement is truly extraordinary. By turning the case over, the L133.1 caliber reveals its insides and offers a spectacular depth effect. The natural height of the movement is 10.9mm, which partly explains this phenomenon. This sensation is even accentuated by the fact that the regulating organ is on the dial side. But it is above all the incredible interlacing of the 684 components that is the main reason. On the other hand, the difference between the movement's own diameter (32mm) and that of the case (43mm) is quite important. I don't find the same pleasure as with the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold where the movement seemed better spread in the case. But for the rest, what a feast! All the complexity of the split-seconds mechanism is revealed with a distinct organization from the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold's one, as the position of the second column wheel proves it. The finishes are superb and highlighted by the typical decoration of the commemorative trilogy. I particularly appreciate the grained finish of the bridges as well as the black rhodium plating that highlights the engraving of the chronograph bridge.
Although this is not in itself a major problem, the parameter of low power reserve duration remains. It is only 36 hours. Certainly, I'm getting along very well with my first generation 1815 chronograph. But here we also have a perpetual calendar and I believe that such a complication deserves, when the movement is hand-wound, a long power reserve to avoid time setting if the watch is not wound for a few days. Note that the frequency is unsurprisingly 3hz which is the rule for all split-seconds chronographs from Lange & Söhne. To be honest, I still have another frustration related to the construction of the movement itself. The fusée-chaîne mechanism is not very noticeable and I think it's a pity. But considering the complexity of the caliber, I think it was difficult to do otherwise.
The dial is also very beautiful and it must be said that its color and reflections blend ideally with the honey gold case. Moreover the dial is itself in honey gold (with a black rhodium plating) and the whole is very harmonious. The ambiance is different from the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold. The result is softer, with less contrast. Of course, the highlight of the show lies in the behavior of the tourbillon highlighted by the large opening. The dial features many relief effects, amplified by the peripheral flange and the engraved numerals and graduations. The finish of the moon disk is magnificent and I regret that it is not more visible. In fact, the dates are around this display. The good news is that it is located at 12 o'clock. The bad news is that I had a hard time reading the date. On the other hand, the chronograph data is easy to distinguish because of the blued hands dedicated to this complication (the second second hand of the chronograph is made of golden steel). The whole is obviously very beautiful, exceptional in the quality of the execution but I was not totally convinced. In my opinion, the original sin comes from the addition of the perpetual calendar which makes the displays more complicated and in a way less conducive to this more subtle aesthetic approach. This is why I much prefer the Honeygold Tourbograph Pour la Mérite from 10 years ago, which was produced to celebrate the 165th anniversary of the installation of F.A.Lange.
Despite this reluctance, putting the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold on my wrist gave me great pleasure. The watch is majestic and imposing. Its dimensions make it unsuitable for a modest wrist, but more than the diameter (43mm), it is the thickness (16.6mm) that reinforces the feeling of volume. The weight is also important, but it is a constant at Lange & Söhne when it comes to complicated pieces. The rendering of the dial is magnificent and it is also a delight to observe the perfectly executed tourbillon. It is a classic tourbillon that makes one revolution per minute, but such behavior is consistent with the spirit of the watch. As always with the Saxon manufacture, the sensations on winding and on the operation of the pushers are perfect.
The Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold is available in a limited edition of 50 pieces at a price of €504,300 (in France). At this price level, I have no doubt that customers will not be bothered by a difficulty in reading the dates or any other calendar information... It is above all a demonstration of excellence that collectors are looking for and on this point, they will not be disappointed: the movement remains a reference and the decorative approach of the dial is at least convincing and attractive from an aesthetic point of view.
+ a superlative movement
+ the quality of the finishing of the movement and of the dial
+ the harmony between the case and the dial
- an imposing size
- a short power reserve
- the date display is not very legible