A. Lange & Sohne has just dropped a limited edition white gold ZEITWERK MINUTE REPEATER with a mysterious deep blue dial. First introduced in 2015, this is the only watch in the world that combines a mechanical jumping numerals display with a decimal minute repeater.
The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater features a totally new interpretation of the classic complication. To complement the “digital” display of the time, its striking mechanism sounds ten-minute intervals instead of quarter-hours with double strikes. As soon as you activate the striking mechanism with the repeater pusher at 10 o’clock, it sounds the time that is displayed on the dial.
In the words of the German Manufacture with the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater “One hears what one sees. And one sees what one hears.” Let’s break it down. For instance, at 9.52 the gong hammer on the left strikes the low-pitched gong nine times, once for every elapsed hour. Then, five double tones are struck for the elapsed ten-minute intervals, followed by the right-hand hammer with two high strikes, one for each elapsed minute.
In the development of the striking mechanism, Lange’s engineers relied on the basic principle of the jumping numerals mechanism with which the time is displayed by an hour ring and two minute discs. This configuration makes it possible to sample the number of strikes to be executed – separately for the hours, ten-minute intervals and minutes – directly on the snails that are connected to the mechanical display elements. At the same time, enlarged sampling surfaces enhance the reliability of the striking mechanism. This assures that the acoustic time always corresponds to the displayed time.
Aesthetically too, the watch is quite well balanced as the polished gongs and the black-polished gong hammers are subtly integrated in the design of the dial. Another interesting aspect is the pusher mechanism. Unlike a slide, which is common in most minute repeaters, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater features a unique pusher mechanism to trigger the repeater. How does this help? Well, the absence of a large lateral opening in the case eliminates a source of acoustic disruption, which then results in better sound quality.
To achieve the best possible sound quality, the product developers carefully reconciled all relevant parameters such as the case, gong hammers, gongs and movement architecture with one another. The large white-gold case delivers a reverberant, warm sound. The gongs, patiently tuned by hand, generate pure, resonant tones in perfect harmony.
Another advantage here, and by no means do I plan on going diving with this piece, is that unlike a slide, a pusher can be sealed, which makes the water-resistance to as much as 3 bar. Coming to the jumping numeral mechanism – What would happen if the chiming is in action say for 30 seconds and the displays happen to change? Just for that, the numerals discs are prevented from incrementing until the repeater sequence has ended. This delay that can take up to 20 seconds also assures that the digitally displayed time and the acoustic time are always in sync. For the same reason, the crown cannot be pulled while the striking mechanism is active.
Along with having an exceptionally strong mainspring that handles the switching actions of the jumping numerals mechanism, just like all models of the Zeitwerk family, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater also features a patented constant-force escapement.
The 44.2 millimetre white-gold case with a matching deployant sits on a blue hand-stitched leather strap and houses the manufacture calibre L043.5.
Since its inception, the Zeitwerk has come a long way and is a grail watch for many watch enthusiasts and collectors (including myself) across the globe. Baring the fact that is a magnificent horological innovation, the eccentricity of this Zeitwerk Minute Repeater is what makes it so desirable.