A. Lange & Söhne: The Pinnacle of Handcraftsmanship

by Jamie Tan

A. Lange & Söhne unveils yet another Handwerkskunst timepiece, this time as an ode to a technical milestone from 2008.

Since its inception 10 years ago, A. Lange & Söhne’s Handwerkskunst line has showcased the German’s manufactory’s absolute best in craftsmanship – exactly as its name, which literally translates to “hand craftsmanship”, implies. The seventh model to be unveiled is 2021’s Cabaret Tourbillon Handwerkskunst, a timepiece that’s a special version of (and spiritual successor to) the Cabaret Tourbillon from 2008.

Labour of Love

Timepieces produced under the Handwerkskunst line have always showcased various decorative crafts, with each model bearing a specific theme. The new Cabaret Tourbillon Handwerkskunst is no different. The lozenge serves as the leitmotif this time, and it is most obvious on the dial, which bears lozenge-shaped indices for six of its hour markers.

The dial’s centre portion has also been hand-engraved with the motif in a repeating pattern. Because of its regularity, the engraving process is especially difficult – the artisan must ensure that every single lozenge is perfectly rendered, as any deviation will be instantly visible. The same tessellation is repeated on the movement, where it is engraved onto the cocks for the balance and the intermediate wheel. This can be admired through the transparent case-back.

To complement the motif, A. Lange & Söhne has also decorated the timepiece with a few other crafts. Tremblage is, for instance, used to finish the date aperture’s frame and the inner perimeter of the dial’s engraved portion. This technique involves using a steel-tipped burin to make random, tiny incisions on a surface to create an evenly matte texture, and helps to visually demarcate the various sections of the dial on the watch. The entire dial has also been coated with a layer of semi-transparent enamel a la flinqué enamelling – except that the intermediate decorative art used is hand-engraving instead of guillochage.

Stopping Time

The Cabaret Tourbillon that was originally released in 2008 was a technical milestone. As the world’s first mechanical wristwatch with a stop seconds function for the tourbillon, it could be completely stopped – tourbillon cage and balance included – to allow the time to be set precisely to the second. A. Lange & Söhne accomplished this by developing a lever mechanism that’s triggered linked to and triggered by the crown. When the crown is pulled out, the device pivots a V-shaped spring onto the balance wheel’s rim to immediately stop it.

The beauty of this mechanism is three-fold. For a start, the balance is also arrested should the V-shaped spring contact one of the tourbillon cage’s posts instead. What’s more, the spring’s geometry allows it to exert an even level of pressure on the balance wheel whatever position the tourbillon cage is in. Finally, such a system stops the balance yet preserves its potential energy, thus allowing it to restart instantaneously once the spring is retracted. The overall result is a device that allows for fool-proof operation while also offering a consistency that guarantees chronometric performance.

The stop-seconds mechanism is far from the only technical highlight of the Cabaret Tourbillon Handwerkskunst. The most obvious complication here is the outsized date at 12 o’clock, which dominates the upper half of the dial. Meanwhile, the lower half bears a symmetrical layout as well, with the small seconds indicator and power reserve display housed in sub-dials that mirror each other at four and eight o’clock. This leaves the tourbillon at six o’clock to function purely as the movement’s regulator, instead of also doubling as the small-seconds display. Of course, the movement itself is rectangular shaped to match the case it’s fitted in. One wouldn’t expect any less of A. Lange & Söhne, naturally.

A Rarity

Like its siblings in the Handwerkskunst line, the Cabaret Tourbillon Handwerkskunst is offered in an extremely limited run. Just 30 pieces in platinum will be produced, and each will be individually numbered on the case back.

Images courtesy of A. Lange & Söhne, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related Links:

A. Lange & Söhne: Starry Starry Night

Simple Complexity: The Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar

House of Lange

The A. Lange & Söhne Promise of Quality Fine Watchmaking

A.Lange & Söhne: The Connoisseurs Connection

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