The Richard Lange Jumping Seconds is by no means a new watch for A. Lange & Söhne — the Glashütte marque originally launched this chronometry-inspired addition to its lineup in 2016. Previous versions featured a white dial on platinum or rose gold cases; and at SIHH this year the brand enriched their offering with a rendition which makes use of a new black dial — already being dubbed the ‘Darth Vader’ by devotees of the House of Lange. Case and display aside, it’s functionally identical to the Jumping Seconds of previous years, though it has to be said — this is probably the first ever release in the Richard Lange family to split its time evenly between a cool contemporary aesthetic — certainly the brand’s most progressive to date — and the obsessive mechanical overclocking which is at the heart of all Lange pieces.
Embracing the Dark Side
As we said at the outset, this year’s version of the Jumping Seconds is more or less mechanically identical to its white dial-sporting predecessor. Regardless, the watch’s monochrome setup works to re-contextualise fundamental elements of the Richard Lange design, making the overall appearance sleeker and definitely much less austere than what you’ll find in the 1815 or Saxonia families.
That sense of modernity is helped a lot by the physical qualities associated with the Jumping Seconds: it’s not an empirically large or heavy watch; the red typeface (used for the minutes sub-dial) pops against the black dial; and the whole thing scoots in at a reasonable 39.9mm x 10.6mm. That’s not to say that this doesn’t feel like a serious piece of high watchmaking — if anything the Jumping Seconds exudes a split personality. At a distance, it appears clean, simple, borderline-flat. But on the wrist the relatively moderate proportions explode — a visual effect that’s aided by the three concentric sub-dials floating in blackness at the watch’s centre.
If you’re new to the Jumping Seconds, its idiosyncratic dial configuration is actually based on a pocket watch invented in 1807 by Johann Seyffert. The Dresden court mathematician insisted on a design that emphasised the 60-second timekeeping interval, because it was ostensibly crucial to making accurate scientific observations in the fields of navigation and astronomy.
Like the Seyffert pocket watch, the Jumping Seconds puts seconds at the centre of its universe. To that end, the seconds sub-dial occupies a significant amount of overarching real estate, attenuating the wearer’s focus to the seconds hand. Amongst watch enthusiasts, the ‘jumping’ action (from which this model derives its name) can prove polarising — detractors say it reminds them of the motion on a quartz watch’s seconds hand — but it’s consistent with the philosophy that underpinned the inception of this particular subset of Richard Lange watches. (Jumping seconds have a long history in clockmaking, and were traditionally used to make counting off intervals to the nearest second more convenient.)
Business in front, party out back
While the sleek new dial on the Jumping Seconds is bound to win plenty of converts over to Lange’s highly specific brand of visual austerity, the movement is unapologetically ornamental. From the argenté bridges to the hand-engraved balance cock, you get the feeling from the Calibre L094.1 that this watch suffers — much to our benefit — from a split personality: observation tool on the front, antique clock on the back. Aside from all the hallmarks of a quintessential Lange movement — beautiful finishing, superior power efficiency, a free-sprung balance wheel — the L094.1’s central claim to fame is an extremely sophisticated gear train arrangement that allows interaction between the jumping seconds and remontoire.
To refresh your memory, the latter is essentially a device which regulates the rate at which energy is delivered to the escapement, guaranteeing superior accuracy even as the mainspring winds down. It’s also something of a specialty at Lange — having found its way into this year’s extremely-hyped Zeitwerk Date. In this case, the remontoire takes the form of a spiral spring that is attached to the fourth wheel in the gear train, and re-armed by the mainspring once every second. What’s more, the energy used to re-arm the remontoire simultaneously drives the seconds hand; and when you consider that in relation to this watch’s zero-reset function — well, that’s when things start to get really interesting.
The zero-reset is another Lange specialty which traces its roots back to scientific observation. The thinking behind this function was that it would guarantee a certain level of accuracy when setting one’s watch to an external time standard — by pulling the crown out, the seconds hand immediately resets to zero and restarts only once the crown is fully pressed back in. That’s doubly tricky to execute here, as it requires the seconds hand to be decoupled from the remontoire every time the crown is pulled out. To work around this issue, engineers at Lange incorporated a system based on a vertical clutch chronograph: the clutch disengages the seconds hand from the remontoire, while at the same time, activating a hammer-on-cam mechanism that pivots the hand back to zero. All this for an arguably negligible improvement in accuracy — classic Lange.
The A. Lange & Söhne Richard Lange Jumping Seconds is now available for (approx) HK$625,000. To learn more, visit A. Lange & Söhne online.