The new Zeitwerk draws inspiration from the Semperoper opera house in Desden, Germany.
The Semperoper opera house in Dresden, Germany, inspires a new Zeitwerk timepiece from A. Lange & Söhne.
“It all started around 1814,” explains Anthony de Haas, director of product development for A. Lange & Söhne, “when the Dresden court was building a stage clock for the famous Dresden Semperoper house. And guess who helped him with that? Ferdinand Adolph Lange.”
The moment proved pivotal to the existence of one of A. Lange & Söhne’s (alange-soehne.com) most iconic pieces, the Zeitwerk, which first arrived in 2009.
“They had challenges to overcome, above the stage, huge time indications. They wanted a digital time indication, a five-minute clock and, of course, without noise. This clock inspired us to make the Zeitwerk,” de Haas says.
At first glance, the spectacular Zeitwerk and its beloved, mechanically driven digital display might resemble a ’70s alarm clock display. Reimagined as a mechanical wristwatch, the linear time display of jumping hours and minutes is decidedly more complex. The Zeitwerk’s inner workings require additional power to turn the time display disks, so a powerful patented constant force mechanism is utilized, providing enough stable energy to keep the watch ticking. For the Zeitwerk, the movement creates bursts of power every 60 seconds to give the large numeral disks their uniquely satisfying “jumping” click. The watch’s sapphire exhibition caseback reveals the exquisitely finished movement that is famously assembled twice.
Setting the watch is equally ingenious. “This version is equipped with our adjustment system, which means you can separately adjust the hours by pushing a push button, and it has the inverse action,” explains de Haas. “What does that mean? We press the button, and nothing seems to be happening. But if you release the back, the numeral jumps to the next hour. And, of course, you see the crown where you can wind the watch but also set the time every minute forward or backward.”
But Lange’s famous mechanical ingenuity only tells half the story.
The surprisingly progressive beauty of the Zeitwerk is what sets the watch apart from the rest of Lange’s sublime collection. The piece’s main design element, called the time bridge, looks as theatrical as the Semperoper opera house that inspired the Zeitwerk’s design. The sublime execution of the Zeitwerk’s hour and minute indicators reflects the visionary modernism of the 19th century opera house clock, a prescient expression of Saxony’s modernist design.
A. Lange & Söhne is famous for their exquisite hand finishing inside and out, and the Zeitwerk is no exception. For 2022, the Zeitwerk arrives in pink gold and platinum, with upgrades to the movement for better performance.
For 2022, A. Lange & Söhne will add two new 41.9 mm versions of the Zeitwerk to its collection, one in attractive pink gold with a black dial and another spectacular version in platinum. Subtle changes have been made to update this 2022 Zeitwerk. The manually wound movement, caliber L043.6, has been reworked, offering 72 hours of power reserve, nearly double the previous models. The remarkable caliber holds seven patents. The piece’s overall design has also been updated, but the captivating charm of the Zeitwerk remains.
“The stage clock was created at a time when opera music and precision watchmaking of clocks and pocket watches were at their peak in Germany, which was also the beginning of A. Lange & Söhne,” Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, told The New York Times earlier this year. “The Semperoper clock shows the inventive spirit of Dresden watchmakers at the time. The stage clock of the Semperoper is a distinct part of our history.”