Designing a new watch isn’t easy. Manufacturing and selling it even less so. That’s just as true at the low end of the market as it is for practitioners of high horology. But makers of fine timepieces like the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus face a challenge that mass market manufacturers can – and do – ignore . . .
Top brands must stay true to their brand DNA without slavishly copying their own designs – or the work of other watchmakers. Two “Genta-inspired” sports watches that debuted this year – the Chopard Alpine Eagle and Bell & Ross BR05 – highlight the difficulty of boldly going where a watch brand has gone before.
When A. Lange & Söhne decided to enter the sports watch arena, they wisely decided to use their signature move: the over-sized date window. While the German watchmaker sells timepieces without a date window (e.g. the Richard Lang and 1815 families), the XXL aperture is an instantly identifiable A. Lange & Söhne horological flourish.
Although the asymmetrical Lange 1 initiated AL&S’s modern design language, the company’s kooky Zeitwork paved the way for the Odysseus. The Zeitwork set the precedent for placing two large windows at the 9 and 3 o’clock positions.
With their sports model, AL&S once again arranged all the elements in perfect proportion. The faceted indices aren’t dwarfed by the windows – nor do they detract. The white gold hands – the same size and shape as the 1815’s elegant sticks – use luminous infill for the steroidal look they need to dominate the face.
The Odysseus’s second hand is also stock AL&S, with a Zeitwerk-sized sub-dial. It butts-up to the watch’s center, carving a slice out of the five and seven indices, holding its own against the epic date windows. And eliminating the problem faced by many 40mm-plus watches: excessive negative/open space.
Taken as a whole, the Odysseus’s dial combines superb legibility with macho gestalt. There’s nothing delicately Swiss about it. It’s bold and bad ass.
The Odysseus’s brushed steel bracelet turns its back on Genta-ism (the case doesn’t flow into the bracelet, it sits on top of it). The not-crown guards standing proud on the winder’s side evoke the brand’s asymmetry without shouting it, while the indented pushers (for the day and date) are the soul of discretion. The caseback’s manhole cover-style raised lettering leaves no doubt that the Odysseus is one tough hombre.
Far more knowledgeable horophiles than I have sung the praises of the the Odysseus’s new Calibre L155.1 DATOMATIC’s engineering excellence. Suffice it to say, AL&S built a self-winding movement that’s robust enough for actual sports. The meticulously constructed temporal engine lacks the ornate finishing typical of Swiss high horology, but its absence allows A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus to charge “just” $31,400 (including tax) for their first ever sports watch.
Forget price comparisons. The A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus doesn’t win our admiration based on value. It earns our respect because A. Lange & Söhne has brass balls. The German watchmaker expanded into the sports watch genre with quality, conviction and courage, creating an inescapably bold steel sports watch that’s both brand faithful and distinctive. The Odysseus isn’t to everyone’s taste, but it is The Truth About Watch’s Watch of the Year.