The Great Lange Debate

November 18-27, 1999


This is a series of threads that began with Peter Chong's review of the Lange Datograph. That review is not reproduced here. To read the review, please see TZ Classic # 938.


Posted by Peter Chong [announcing the Datograph review]:

Lange Datograph Review is out! This is the WORLD's first review of the Datograph. Released in May at the Basel Fair this year, the Datograph is one of the most talked about watch this year.

Review in 5 parts...with MANY, many HUGE pictures...each part typically loads in about a minute for those with a 28.8 kbps modem, and the Gallery in Part 5 loads in about 200s.


Posted by EAS:

Could someone please explain to me what the benefits of a Breguet overcoil is when compared to a flat one and why they are considered superior. By the way, what is the minimum price level for a watch that uses a Breguet overcoil in its movement? Thanks in advance for your thoughtful feedback.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Breguet overcoil question (EAS):

The Breguet overcoil improves the centering (concentricity) of the spring, particularly in vertical positions. This immensely improves the performance in different positions by reducing the differences between horizontal and vertical positions.

Breguet overcoils were once almost universal in wristwatches, including relatively inexpensive ones. Today, the least expensive watch I know with an overcoil in the Chopard 1.96 (about US$10,000). Manufacturers cite the unreliability of the overcoil because this places the regulator above (rather than outside) the inner coils and these coils can snag the regulator. This need not be a problem simply by designing the regulator boot so that it doesn't snag the spring. The real reason they are not used, I believe, is that they require skilled hand work and cannot simply be computer-set like a flat spring.

I think it is a shame that Lange is not using overcoils in all its watches--it would make Langes less of a pretense, because this is an element of tradition that would really add to the function of the watches. I would rather have them spend time on this than on the engraved cock (which incidentally is prone to snagging the regulator index).


Posted by Mark in response to: Re: Breguet overcoil question (Walt Odets):

I though Rolex had Breguet overcoils?--if they do wouldn't Zenith have them as well?


Posted by Walt Odets in response to Mark:

You're right--in the 3135. I don't think of it as a watch.


Posted by chris russell in response to: You're right--in the 3135. I don't think of it as a watch. (Walt Odets):

The Daytona has a Breguet overcoil in a modified El Primero, if you can find one. To me this makes the Daytona desirable, even if it is a Rolex.


Posted by Walt Odets [begins new thread re: Datograph review]:

Many thanks for the review....

There is no doubt that the watch is a magnificently made piece--and I'm glad to see that at this price Lange can see it's way to paying for an overcoil.

But with all the beauty of the piece, I can't help but be struck by the absolute lack of technical innovation. Every detail and technical function that Peter describes is completely ordinary in a column wheel chronograph caliber. Perhaps there is some purpose is simply making beautifully constructed replicas of old pieces, but the "tradition" in this watch is referencing an era when technical innovation was valued and pursued. In the sense that this (and many other Langes) are merely replicas--copies or reproductions--they are beginning to seem not quite honest to me.

In comparison, there is some technical innovation going on in mechanical movements that also draws heavily on watchmaking traditions: Patek's 240 cannon pinion and annual calendar (a more more complex achievement than the Lange large date display); several design details of the LUC 1.96 movement; the Daniel's escapement; Piguets truly innovation chronographs; and several of JLC's new designs come to mind. The Langes are wonderful watches, but I think they should be more than copies or reproductions of old movements. The Sax-O-Mat begins to do this, and I wish Lange would expand in that direction.


Posted by Peter Chong in response to: Many thanks for the review . . .(Walt Odets):

I agree with your assessment that this is a completely traditional column wheel chronograph. I was initially disappointed that Lange's highly touted chronograph was so utterly devoid of innovation...however, the watch is persuasive, and having worn it for a week, the watch exudes quality like no other, and the execution makes it easy to love.

Innovation is nice, but a traditional, supremely executed watch is also very nice. After all, a Seiko Thermal or Spring Kinetic has more innovation than any recent Swiss wristwatch...striking a balance is more important.

In some discussions I have had with Richard Habring, one of the master watchmakers at Lange Uhren, he told me exactly the same reason as you cited...actually both reasons: that the overcoil is easy to snag, and it is much more difficult to adjust, especially in the field.

Rienhard Meis, in a separate discussion on this, through Eugenio Demmenie as German translator, also expressed the same...and added that he feels in a small escapement, the benefits of the Breguet overcoil is small. What is your experience on size of balance wheel and its effectiveness, vis a vis the two problems we discussed?

Actually, the earlier batches of Lange 1s had the Breguet Overcoil, about 2000 pieces I was told, but some problems in the field caused Lange to revert to a flat coil.

I, too would prefer if Lange made some innovations in the escapement design, or other innovation. But I would keep the hand engraved balance cock...I love that handwork!


[The next post begins a new thread.]

Posted by Walt Odets:

I think forum members should read the Michael Friedberg/Jean Claude Biver interview in the Blancpain forum. It addresses the issue of making replicas that I raised about Lange and the Datograph. It is hard to imagine that Biver's reference was not to Lange.

[Note: The following is an excerpt from Michael Friedberg's interview with Jean Claude Biver, Managing Director of Blancpain]:

MF: How has Blancpain been able to reflect the illustrious history of Swiss watchmaking and to innovate at the same time?

JCB: The best way to respect an art, a culture, is to open it to the world of today and of tomorrow.

The master watchmakers always had to be willing to improve, to innovate, wherever it was possible.

They are still the same today.

In addition to that, Blancpain is not a copy of the past, and it would have been useless to have rescued an entire culture just to freeze it.

On the contrary, we want to give life to the fabulous heritage of the art of traditional watchmaking, to enlarge it thanks to the possibility of today and of tomorrow.

And if, sometimes, a machine tool is better than a man is, it would be a waste of human talent to create a competition between the watchmaker and the very modern equipment.

We must never forget not to repeat the past but to reintegrate it. Only that way can any Art survive. How could anyone copy Mozart or Matisse? What would then be the contribution: nothing, just a brave copy.

So we are working today with the culture of yesterday, the history of the watchmaking Art of tomorrow.

[End of interview excerpt]


Posted by DickG in response to: I think forum members should read . . . (Walt Odets):

Walt - having read both the interview and your comments on the lack of innovation in the Datograph, do you think Lange is 'stuck in time' (as it were) regarding innovation...and if so, is it a conscious choice or just a lack of innovative thinking? How do you think the folks at Lange would respond?


Posted by Walt Odets in response to DickG:

I would guess that this is a conscious choice on their part and that this is largely a marketing decision: to make old, German watches. What disturbs me is that in pursuit of this tradition, so much money is spent on the visible top plate. The dial side of the movement is merely very good, but not to the standards of a Patek. The lack of a Breguet overcoil, which would provide some real benefit, is in violation of the very tradition reflected in the watches. There are simply some inconsistencies in the watches and they usually divide the line between "show" and "go." They're great watches, but they're not completely honest.


Posted by DickG in response to Walt Odets:

Do you think the use of the Breguet overcoil on the Datograph indicates a change in Lange's thinking? I would really like to hear from Lange regarding the issue of honesty!


Posted by Jon Van Biene in response to: I would guess . . . (DickG):

Lange seems to put overcoil only in the best models it makes, Lange 1 does not have it and will not change in the near future.


Posted by MF in response to: Re: I think forum members should read . . . (DickG):

I think there is a fine line between preserving tradition, recreating tradition and adapting tradition to the present culture. The difference may between "art" and "craft", but I cannot tell which is "better". In fact, the distinction can be very subtle, if it is a distinction at all, let alone in all instances.

Put less abstractly, it may not always matter --one way or the other.


Posted by RMB in response to: I think forum members should read . . . (Walt Odets):

Perfection in Tradition Vs. Originality...

It seems to me this discussion is based on one fundamental concept. Do we, as members of a

community which contemplates mechanical watches, value originality or tradition/craftsmanship taken to the nth degree? Obviously, our feelings are not unilateral. Both are important. Let me start with some examples of my own thoughts in other areas.

In the world of art history, I for one, am completely enamored with the works of Picasso, Braque and Mondrian. Yes, I enjoy Michelangelo, Raphael and Caravaggio, but I find the thought process behind Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon or Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie fascinating. Complete departure from conventional and academic works. In addition, the innovations of these artists led directly to future developments in abstraction. The pleasure I derive from these works is primarily cerebral. These are not "pretty" paintings. Yet I connect with them unlike any appealing Monet.

Music. Although I understand the attraction of modernism to the trained mind and ear, I am continually drawn to the classic composition of Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. Yes, all were original, yet their accomplishments are by no means the ultimate in departure from traditional work. Mozart wrote 41 symphonies. For the most part, they follow similar conventions. Beethoven wrote 5 piano concerti, again with little "originality" from one to the next. Indeed, Mozart was without peer, his operatic works among the most brilliant and declarative efforts ever created. And original. Yet, he remained within the framework of sonata form, composed within the existing modalities of opera seria, opera buffa and singspiel. Utterly classic with occasional overwhelming originality. But not equivalent to the departures seen this century.

Not Stravinsky. Or Chopin. Or Berlioz. More Raphael than Braque.

Cars. I can love an air-cooled 911, a growl unlike any other car. Familiar lines. A comforting cockpit. The new water cooled 996, however, is different. It sounds different. It handles differently. It feels different. To drive it, however, is a joy. Pushed to the limits, it remains inviting and supportive. This does not make an older version any less appealing, just different. I would never want to rid myself of the pleasure of the older

Lange. Classic/conventional features pushed to the nth degree (in my humble opinion). Well-versed in the horologic traditions of Saxony. Original? Somewhat. Oversized date. Asymetric, non-overlapping dial. Stop-seconds automatic. But not as original as many other less traditional watches. Finished with remarkable attention. Perhaps more Mozart than Picasso. More early 911 than new 996. But still classic, and unparalleled to me.

I hope that there are many who would favor utter originality in their watch. I, however, am overjoyed with my conventional and no-holds-barred-attention-to-quality Lange. It makes me happy in my old 911 and staring in front of a radical cubist work with the Grand Partita Seranade in my head.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Perfection in Tradition Vs. Originality... (RMB):

Yes, but you are overlooking the inconsistencies with which Lange pursues tradition. They sometimes don't pursue when it is expensive (overcoils) or when it is not visible (dial side). Perhaps the tradition was to make the most visible parts of higher quality than the less visible parts, but then this is a tradition that, itself, is not quite honest. I am talking about inconsistencies in the watches, not the issue of tradition vs. innovation.


Posted by RMB in response to: Yes, but you are overlooking the inconsistencies . . . (Walt Odets):

I was expecting this response from you, Walt. And I do not have any doubt of your argument. You have a much deeper understanding of watches and in particular, appreciation of watch movements than I do. I understood your original point in reference to the Datograph. There are inconsistencies in your mind (the overcoil was beyond me) but I was afraid that for the less knowledgeable of us, the discussion might turn into "Lange is unoriginal, and thus mediocre." Your point is more hermetic, and well taken. It certainly has kindled some reflection on my part.

Another point that this exercise has reminded me of is that our feelings about a particular watch, or piece of music, or painting (or even engine) are dynamic. They fluctuate like the seasons. Months ago you were thinking of blue ice after digesting your Saxonia for all of us to enjoy. Obviously, some of your feelings have changed.


Posted by Danny in response to: Yes, but you are overlooking the inconsistencies . . . (Walt Odets):

After reading this, I went back to read your 1815 review and took a good look at the dial side photos of your 1815 movement. The finish, from the photo, looks as good as any top Swiss house. And, from your review, I also got an impression that you told us the movement is as excellent as Patek's movement in terms of quality.

Could you please update your impression of the 1815? How different is the finishing quality for both visible and not visible parts on both Patek Cal.215 and 1815's movements?


Posted by Michael Friedberg in response to: Perfection in Tradition Vs. Originality... (RMB):

They Are Not Mutually Exclusive...

I respectfully disagree with an underlying premise, that you can't have something "traditionally perfect" without being "unoriginal".

Interestingly, I think that in many ways Lange has tried to be both original and traditional. We take for granted by now the large date mechanism --a perfect example of a traditional chronograph with an original feature (in addition to zero reset). I could make the same argument about the Lange One and the Sax-0-Mat. And in all three examples it is not just the large date.

Even a traditional Lange wristwatch --like the 1815, which is a pure homage to the pocketwatch tradition-- is made in a way that no pocketwatch was ever made before.

I also would argue that many things that Patek does, and Blancpain does, equally are traditional and original. The fact is, recalling tradition is neither bad nor does it exclude creativity. I would even go so far as to argue that "innovation" makes no sense without a grounding in tradition (I probably could paint something no one ever did before, and it would be worthless). Conversely, tradition without innovation is a mere copy (like a faked Picasso painting). The point is that all good works of art, or even craft, do have both grounding in tradition and creativity. Even your old Porsche example fulfills both criteria. Without some balance, these two criteria are meaningless.


Posted by RMB in response to: They Are Not Mutually Exclusive... (Michael Friedberg):

Completely carefully...

I do agree with you Michael, and hope that in my attempt to raise the issue I was not ambiguous. Tradition is wonderful (Mozart's use of sonata form) and originality is undeniable (what Mozart DID within the boundaries of sonata form, or his break with operatic convention in Act II of Figaro).

As for Lange, I am delighted by the simultaneous use of an engraved balance cock AND the outsized date. That Lange does not only focus on tradition (but seems more focused on this) or originality is a plus, for me at least.

[The next post begins a new thread]

Posted by Walt Odets:

For Danny, RMB, and Dick G. (more)

I think that RMB's concern that my comments in connection with the Datograph would be misinterpreted is well founded--this has already happened on the main Forum. The idea that Lange is "unoriginal, and thus mediocre" is hardly the case and not at all my point. Langes are, in some ways, modestly original, and are far from mediocre. They are clearly among the best watches ever made.

The issues that I have been trying to address relate to the integrity of the watches: the extent to which they are fully and deeply what they present themselves as. As RMB pointed out, our feelings about a piece of music or a watch are dynamic and change for many reasons, including further insight. I have recently been working on two Langes and two Pateks and my experience of these watches has shifted my feelings and judgement about the two brands.

The first issue is that the Pateks have much better escapements. The Gyromax wheel, even without an overcoil provides superior performance and dispenses with all the adjustment issues inherent in an index regulator. These are immaculate escapements.

In contrast, the Lange wheels are too small for such large movements, have useless screws, a perfectly ordinary flat spring, and regulators that are sometimes not well adjusted from the factory (leading to dial up-dial down discrepancies). The "patented whiplash (?)" beat adjustment is hardly a new idea and works very poorly: tightening the set screw after adjustment significantly changes beat. And even the swan's neck micro regulator is badly made: the tip of the screw is not properly shaped and polished and leads to non-linear changes in rate; and the index hangs up on the engraved cock. So, integrity to me, would be to put some more money into the engineering of this escapement and dispense with some of the cosmetics and promotional hype.

On the top versus bottom plate issue, the differences are dramatic. The top plate is dressed to the teeth, the bottom plate merely good. The extreme cosmetic work on the top plate aggravates the problem. Lange could not possibly spend as much money on the bottom plate as on the top and they have put the money where it shows. Additionally, the functional parts of the keyless works in two samples I have worked on are not well designed or well made. Specifically, the clutch return lever and pull piece are rather crudely made and function marginally (though they usually do function). On one of the two watches, this led to unreliable movement of the mechanism into the hand setting position.

In comparison, the Pateks show a non-showy very deep craftsmanship that extends uniformly into every detail of the movement. The top plate may not be as dramatic, but it is of every bit the quality of that in the Lange. The keyless works are as beautifully made as anything else in the movement. The quality is simply consistent in every little piece in a way that it is not in the Lange.

I very much admire the Lange watches--particularly the Sax-O-Mat--and still own a few. But I am taking Patek, once again, more seriously. In terms of what is actually inside the case, Pateks are clearly a product of very, very refined work rooted in a clear craft tradition. The Langes, by comparison, feel like something invented for marketing purposes: excellently made, often beautiful, calling on some kind of tradition (though often, only when it is convenient) but not a product with the integrity of a Patek. I hope Lange addresses this.


Posted by Peter Chong in response to: For Danny, RMB, and Dick G. (Walt Odets):

Walt, some questions...

Dear Walt,

Thank you for expressing your views. I have some questions, perhaps you may be able to answer:

1. which Patek calibers have an overcoil?

2. top vs bottom plate issue: Understand your point that the top plate is exquisite, the bottom plate is something else...but in your opinion, are the bottom plates in the Langes you have opened adequately finished, or well finished but not to the same level as the top plate, or poorly finished?

Thanks for your responses. Cheers.


Posted by foie gras in response to: Walt, some questions... (Peter Chong):

A little additional information...

Hi Walt and Pete,

As you know, last month I visited the Lange Uhren factory in Germany.

While I was there, I was told that the finish applied to the bottom plate and to parts not visible was more utilitarian and not as ornate as the finish on the top plate and of visible parts. This was told to me in a matter of fact manner and I actually forgot it until I read Pete's question.

Almost certainly I would not have noticed this during the tour; after all, the bottom plate surfaces might be going to "another station" in the factory for further finishing beyond what I saw (I did not see absolutely everything going on in the factory, which would have taken more than the 1/2 day we had allotted).

Therefore, especially for Walt, I get the impression from both your postings and discussions we have had, that you feel there may be an element of "dishonesty" in Lange movements. I don't think this is true, since they volunteered to me this information without my even asking. My impression is that they are doing this for a combination of reasons including costs, actual functionality, field reliability, and finally Sachsen watchmaking tradition.

I suggested before that it would be interesting for Walt's issues to be written up in an email and sent off to the most appropriate person at Lange Uhren for an official response. Probably, this should be a technical person, and I'm sure Pete would know who to send it to. They will give us a response. Walt may not like or accept their response, but at least we will know their take on these important issues.

Thank You.



Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Walt, some questions... (Peter Chong), and in response to foie gras:

For Pete and Ken . . .

If we are going to continue to learn about things, this means really looking at them and thinking about them--not reflecively defending them. I have gone from finding Langes pretentious and merely expensively produced, to admiring them, to really going into the movements, and to finding something pretentious about them again.

I take Pete's question about Patek overcoils as rhetorical, for he knows that Patek is not using them. But the Patek escapement is clearly superior to that of Lange, largely because of the much better balance wheel and the elimination of the regulator. I am also judging Lange's escapement in the context of the extreme amount of time and money put into the pure cosmetics of the escapement (engraving, swan spring, polishing, balance screws, etc.) and top plate in general. Furthermore, Lange uses so many archaic and functionally useless elements of Saxon tradition, that the omission of a functional overcoil is particularly striking.

On the subject of the bottom plate, the Lange is very well done, but not in the same class as the Patek (or JLC or LUC 1.96, etc.). This is both a cosmetic and functional issue. The keyless works (with the exception of a peculiar push piece retaining spring) could come from a mediocre watch. While this finish certainly saves money, none of it serves function or reliability. Perhaps it reflects Saxon tradition, but this is an awfully convenient use of tradition. As for the factory "admitting" to this, the issue of honesty is not about this being a secret, it is about the integrity of the concept. The concept here is to put most of the movement money in the visible top plate behind an exhibition back. Obviously it has worked: many people look at it next to a Patek and find the Patek wanting. This perception represents a poor understanding of watch craft.


Posted by Peter Chong in response to: For Pete and Ken . . . (Walt Odets):

Dear Walt,

You read too much into my innocent question. As in our emails of past, I am not interested in defending Lange (I know, and have been told, that in my zest to find out, I may seem like a Lange zealot...I do love the brand and the watches, not enough to be blinded. In a recent correspondence with Lange's Frank Muller, he described me as his toughest critic!)...they can defend themselves as they chose to. I am interested in finding out and learning more.

1. I asked about Patek's overcoil, not because I wanted to entrap you...banish that thought, but to my knowledge, Patek did not use overcoils...perhaps you confused me when you clearly stated that not using an overcoil is a cheap way out, and yet feel that Pateks are not. If a $50k (or whatever current price is) 3940 does not have a Breguet overcoil, how can one say that a $7k (or so) 1815 is cheaping out because it doesn't have one.

Secondly, I did mention that at the beginning, Lange did make the 1 with a Breguet overcoil. But problems besiege those first movements, and they changed the design. Obviously, the same problems were either anticipated by Patek, or experienced by them at one time.

Thirdly, we have discussed the seemingly archaic Lange escapement in many emails. For general

consumption, and for the record, I do agree with you that a Gyromax type balance is superior, though hardly anything new. A lube-less escapement like the Daniels is even more intellectually appealing. In a discussion with Eric Loth, President of Les Monts (a group comprising of Finnazi, Journe, and Jacquet), he mentioned that the most exciting new developments would be in the field of lube-less escapement...some of them already done, but refined for the wristwatch: for e.g. a spring detent chronometer escapement, or a Grahams style cylinder escapement are some possibilities. BTW, watch Les Monts for some very innovative new ideas!

However, given the position Lange was in 10 years ago, I think it hard for them to decide either way...the Gyromax has no connection to their past. Neither has the Daniels. And in the absence of a new development by them, they had only to fall back on the screw compensation balance. Archaic, but I think effective...and definitely not perfect, nor innovative.

2. My question about the top/bottom plate is because, as Ken has expressed somewhere below, Arnd Einhorn pointed out to me that the top plates and bottom plates are finnished differently. My understanding was that the parts that are not seen are given good, but not exceptional finish, but those that can be admired are given exceptional finish. As I have not personally taken apart a Lange, nor examined the inner parts on a microscope (I have seen the assembly, and looked at those parts in the factory and at Willie's workshop), I would not be able to ascertain for myself the level of finish if the inner plates. It is to my satisfaction now, that they are finished to a high engineering standard, but not exceptionally decorative. I see this as an honest finish.

I thank you for sharing about the keyless works.

Finally, Lange will be 10 years old next year. And this is only the fifth year they are producing watches. Give them some time. The work of developing 5 (some say more) basic calibers in this period of time (with some innovation...big date, zero reset) is a great achievemet, and I think they have done more for high horology than Patek has done in the last 20 opinion, and not asking for agreement or disagreement or validation.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Dear Walt, (Peter Chong):

A few responses . . .

The direct way of addressing the issue would be to ask why Patek did not use overcoils, not to ask which Pateks did. Ditto for where I had put my hands on a Datograph "to disassemble it and declare it less than a Patek." Your approach is rhetorical and sounds aggressive.

Because there are so many watches that have and do use overcoils successfully, one must wonder at Lange's inability to do this reliably. Patek used them reliably in tens of thousands of movements and I am sure that they, too, are not using them now for cost reasons. To set the record straight, if a regulator is properly designed to not snag the spring, there are no reliability problems with the overcoil. But perhaps Lange could not do this and make the regulator appear traditional.

Forget the Daniels and lubeless escapements--Lange is not even using the best contemporaryescapement, which is the least one might have expected of them. As for the "screw compensation balance," this is not what Lange is using. A screw compensation balance is bimetallic and split and uses the screws for temperature compensation. Lange is using the same temperature compensating Nivarox I spring and Glucydur balance found in most watches over $1,000 or so, and adding screws that have no function. The idea that the screws are there to recenter the index is nonsense. They are a useless affection that actually deteriorates performance by creating aerodynamic drag and snagging debris.

On the bottom plate, you are not correctly summarizing my observations by stating that the bottom plate is "finished to a high engineering standard, but not exceptionally decorative." The keyless works parts are very important (though usually invisible) functional parts and they are functionally and aesthetically substandard in a watch of this cost.

Finally, I must agree with you and Chris Russell that this watch has the air of inexperience about it and that they may need some more time to sort these things out.


Posted by Peter Chong in response to: A few responses . . . (Walt Odets):

Walt, this is getting too emotional and personal...

First, Walt, I did never make the accusations you made in quote... Ditto for where I had put my hands on a Datograph "to disassemble it and declare it less than a Patek." I did ask where did you see, and examined the Datograph, because the poster (not you) implied that you have. I know full well that you have not...not you, not anybody else. You took that personally, and retorted.

Walt wrote:" you are not correctly summarizing my observations by stating that the bottom plate is "finished to a high engineering standard, but not exceptionally decorative."" I was not summarizing your observations. I said, I am satisfied that is the case. Those are my conclusions made from my own observations, discussions with other watchmakers, and your posts.

Enough stuff. Let's talk horology.


Posted by foie gras in response to: For Pete and Ken . . . (Walt Odets):

Hi Walt,

I might reflexively defend my mother, but we're talking about watches here not something really important!!

You said,

"As for the factory "admitting" to this, the issue of honesty is not about this being a secret, it is about the integrity of the concept."

However, I would point out that there is no integrity whatsoever in the entire "concept" of a mechanical timepiece in 1999 (or 1985, for that matter). These mechanical watch things are ridiculous affectations, JLC, Lange, PP, AP . . . . all of them. They are an amalgam of an obsolete mechanism contained inside a piece of jewelry.

Certainly, I have a great deal of difficulty with mass-produced mechanical watches that purport to have craftsmanship but really have none; we can all come up with a list of brands that are like that, and most of us on this forum do not aspire to own them.

You have done an excellent job of pointing out both the virtues and deficiencies of a number of mechanical watches. For this we owe you a great debt. But please do not be upset if I regard the shortcomings of Lange movements (as you have observed them) to be of somewhat less importance than say, a faulty "O" ring in the space shuttle.

I apologize for being flippant.

Kind regards,



Posted by chris russell in response to: For Walt (foie gras):

Nobody has suggested that the subject is as important as world hunger, but people are being asked to spend a lot of money on a piece of craftsmanship which they have to take on faith will be fully up to its claims, and will have lasting value. They have some right to know the truth.


Posted by Carlos in response to: For Pete and Ken . . . (Walt Odets):

Display-back disease?

I think that in the modern renaissance of the mechanical watch there is a growing trend towards what I think of as "display back" finishing. It is more and more common to see all of the highly visible flat surfaces being highly decorated while the various wheels and gears look like they've been scavenged from a junk yard.

Perhaps Lange is the pinnacle of this philosophy: While their decorative finishing in unparalleled, their functional finish is only adequate (for the price level).

I suppose the functional superiority of JLC and Patek lies in that the majority of their watches have solid backs, and the whole emphasis on glammed-up display hasn't taken hold - at least not yet anyway.Lange's archaic escapement is certainly "flashier" than a free-sprung Gyromax setup from Patek, and therein lies its raison d'etre.

A request for Walt O: I think that many of us would like to see what it is that you are talking about so that we can understand the issues better. You have an article "The ABC's of Watch Finishing" where you compared low, mid, and high quality finishing. What I, and I think some others, would like to see in a sequel is the comparative differences in functional and decorative finishes at the highest levels: Patek, JLC, Audemars, and Lange. I think it would be of great interest to the WIS community.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Display-back disease? (Carlos):

Yes, there is certainly such a disease, but it is way out of line to suggest that Lange's hidden and functional finishing is "only adequate." I have only addressed the dial side of the movement and characterized that as "very good." There are also some details that are a little worse than that. There are some that are excellent. On the whole of functional and hidden finishing there are only two or three manufacturers in the league of Lange (Patek and Blancpain/Piguet, and the expensive Lemanias). It is difficult to talk about these things fairly when people take bits and pieces out of context, though I know it is hard to follow entire threads.


Posted by Carlos in response to: Yes, there is certainly such a disease, but . . . (Walt Odets):

Sorry, I have a tendency to be somewhat acerbic in my writing (this alternately amuses then horrifies my professors), and I didn't mean to be insulting when I said "merely adequate." Perhaps "inconsistent" would have been better - taking into account those features that are less than adequate and those that are very good.

The difficulty with this thread is that it is spread into both the Public and Lange forums, and here it is layered in a web of statements and responses. Things are getting a bit muddled.

I do like some of Lange's watches, I just think that for all of the effort that goes into making them that they could be better.


Posted By: Mark In Response To: Yes, there is certainly such a disease, but . . . (Walt Odets):

What about JLC? you mentioned Patek, etc. but not JLC this time, I was just wondering...thanks.


Posted by Paul L Caswell in response to: what about JLC?...more (Mark):

Why I don't like display backs...

I hope I'm not treading on other people's feet here (I am a confirmed JLC enthusiast), but given the choice between a watch with or without a display back, I would always choose the solid backed version in any case.

The watch I wear most days (a JLC RDM) is the silver-dialed version with a solid back. Having seen the finish of the movement here in comparison with the equivalent from JLC's 'Master Black' series, with a display back, I actually prefer what lies hidden within my own example with straight Cotes de Geneve as opposed to those machined 'on the curve' as seen on the rotor of JLC's display backed versions.

When an 'invisible movement' is beautifully finished, one can pretty well guarantee that it's not for impressing the non-connoisseur. Jaeger may not be in Lange's price range, but they are beautiful examples of watchmaking. I admit that I do not own a Lange, so forgive what may be seen as a 'stirring' post, but this is just my own view.


Paul C


Posted by Mark in response to: Why I don't like display backs... (Paul L Caswell):

Actually some JLCs cost way more than Langes :^)

I'm just a student, trying to find out more, so thanks a lot for your opinion.


Posted by Leo Chiu in response to: Re: Why I don't like display backs... (Mark):

Why I love display backs...

The Reverso tourbillon and Reverso Art Deco are a joy to look at. From behind. With or without a loupe.

I like display casebacks because I am not a watchmaker and I need to see the movement to appreciate it.

More importantly, I think, is that a transparent caseback provides useful distraction during boring meetings/sessions in the office/between TV commercials during my weekly adjustment/re-winding sessions/when waiting for friends at the restaurants.

Plus, you can always wear the watch backwards if you really want to impress people. Like those who are fortunate enough to have Langes.

Imagine telling the guy next to you during a boring meeting "... see that bicycle chain there, in the small aperture here (Lange Tourbillon Pour Le Merite) ... now, where were we".

Finally, if only they have display backs for Mark XI. Viva crystal backs.


Posted by Michel in response to: For Pete and Ken . . . (Walt Odets):

Dear Walt, After switching from Lange to Patek, will you switch from Freud to Jung ? I love the debate going here, reminds me of my philosophy class in the 70's in Paris (a lot of discussion about moral and honesty at that time). I can't help thinking about the moment when walt will begin to hate Patek's… Hope I won't buy one just before, as I did for my 1815… :=)


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Dear Walt, After switching from Lange to Patek, will you switch… (Michel):

I neither hate, nor am I switching "from Langes to Pateks." I am simply making some observations about the two manufacturers, observations that have come out of spending time with samples of the two brands on the bench and on the wrist. I still own two Langes and like them very much. They are what they are.


Posted by Leo Chiu in response to: For Pete and Ken . . . (Walt Odets):

Agree and disagree...

Although I am in general agreement with Dr Odets, I must say that I would probably not go as far as saying that Lange was "dishonest".

I think the idea of issuing superbly finished top plate is marking. As such, it has been very useful. Glashutte Originals also uses the same technique and cite the same "traditions". Apart from the possible views that Glashutte Originals are less well made than Langes perhaps are, why is there lesser enthusiasm for the Glashutte Original watches?

In this day and age of competition, Lange has to come up with something different (Glashutte Originals are not too different from Lange, hence its relative marketing failure, which seems to support my hypothesis that the whole thing was marketing driven, not due to any love or passion for "tradition").

Lange chooses, in its bid to be different, to go down the route of "tradition" to produce something beautiful to look at but with very utilitarian benefits. They are entitled to do this.

(I suspect, however, that we might be treading on dangerous grounds on arguments of utility values: a PP or, for that matter, any mechanical watch, can probably never beat a quartz. Aren't all the mechanical watchmakers relying on "tradition" as a justification for putting out their six figure watches? Once we get into the utility value argument, we will soon find that all the watchmakers are pretentious, and that the only difference between them is the extent of their pretense which, in turn, is probably largely determined by reference to their assessment of how far they can get away with it (in terms of not going all the way) without being called over-priced).)

What I would take issue with Lange, however is this. In all its publicity materials, it hypes on the micro adjustment and the swan neck regulator. Thus giving the impression that these adjuncts actually make their watches more accurate (sorry, Pete; or, at any rate, superior that others which do no have these features).

If Dr Odets is right about the inherent inaccuracies/relative unreliability of watches without an overcoil, then to the extent that the publicity materials of Lange suggest that their watches are relatively more accurate or reliable is, I think, overly economical with the truth.

Of course, there are conflicting views on the benefit of an overcoil. I suppose until this conflict is finally resolved conclusively in Dr Odets favour, my view in the preceding paragraph may prove groundless.

Now this should set the stage on fire...


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Agree and disagree. More (Leo Chiu):

A correction . . .

I have never said that "Lange is dishonest." I have said that I think there is something dishonest (or an element of dishonesty) about the watches, or that they lack a certain kind of integrity. Lange is certainly entitled to exploit such a concept.

I agree with you on the Lange marketing approach--it is about a distinctively (and very well-finished) top plate, as well as a fairly consistent aesthetic in the watches themselves that could only be German.

On Lange's claims to greater precision, I never took their publicity to be about that, But then, I knew these were regulators. On the overcoil, I don't think there is any doubt about the performance benefits of it in anyone's mind. It requires skilled setup however, and this is expensive. Many watches (hundreds of thousands of watches produced before about 1975) run quite reliably with overcoils and properly designed regulators. Reliability is not the reason that Lange does not use them. It is cost.


Posted by Peter Chong in response to: A correction . . . (Walt Odets):

There is something more dishonest than saying your tradition is from 1735, when you did not even exist 20 years ago.

Sorry for the potshot, but I think this is even more dishonest.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to "Dishonesty" (Peter Chong):

That dishonesty is in the advertising, not the watch.


Posted by foie gras in response to: For Danny, RMB, and Dick G. (Walt Odets):

Hi Walt,

I'm sure you raise valid points and I hope that Lange Uhren addresses them. This does not mean that I necessarily accept in its entirety your interpretation of what you have observed. I would bet that the incremental cost of correcting some of the faults you see would be fairly small, in the context of the Lange operation.

Lange is a very small company when judged by output. Recently production has increased to 4000 units per year, a small fraction of what Patek, to use an example, produces. Although it seems obvious to attribute the shortcomings you perceive to cost-cutting measures, I'm not willing to accept this as a clear-cut explanation given what I observed with my own eyes in their factory. My impression was that this was a "spare no expense" facility.

I think that Lange could address your concerns without significantly affecting the bottom line (e.g. they would only lose slightly more per watch they produce than they already do!) Based on my observations I would be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that other factors are at play -- such as attention to historical precedents in Glashutte watchmaking, to give but one example.

Lange, like PP, is a customer-oriented company which tries to supply first quality after sales service.

Finally, to quote Hans Z, you cannot reduce a watch only to its movement. In addition to the movement, Lange watches are beautifully made even though Lange does not manufacture many of the components (e.g. case, dial, crystal). You have to look at the whole picture. And although I admire Patek movements, their watches in toto are unappealing to me. I've had multiple models offered to me at very attractive prices over the last couple of years (to wit, 5015 and 5035s in gold at under $10K USD, NIB, etc.) I just can't come to grips with the styling, and I try to avoid buying watches I admire but won't wear.

Kind regards always Walt,



Posted by Walt Odets in response to foie gras:

Some responses...

I do agree with you on the cases--the Lange cases are clearly better constructed than those from Patek, and are the finest wristwatch cases I've ever seen.

As for "correcting the problems," this is not a matter of simply correcting a few things. It is a matter of style and approach. The top plate is so expensively finished and to some, pretentious, that it might be nearly impossible to build an entire watch that way. A lot of this is a matter of taste. But to me the idea of pretense is about making the most visible parts of something better than the rest. Pretense is also about spending money on appearances when certain basic functions (like the escapement) are under-engineered. If cost were no object, Lange would be using an overcoil in these watches. Incidentally, I'm not asking anyone to agree with me!


Posted by Phil Baker in response to: Some responses . . . (Walt Odets):

And yet a very high official in Patek says Lange makes some of the very best watches (next to PP, of course)


Posted by Marcel Philippe in response to foie gras:

Just a semi-short aside related to Ken's last paragraph. Although my name is Philippe and I am

predisposed to admire PPs' I cannot bring myself to buying one. On several occasions, I have talked myself into buying the Annual 5035, which is a wonderful watch, yet when I go to the store and put it on, it leaves me cold (that innovative movement looks well, cheap through the sapphire compared to even the unsophisticated caliber 942.1). Breguet too moves me far more than PP. Just an opinion.


Posted by JN in response to: Re: foie gras too (Marcel Philippe):

There's more than one angle in marketing Whether its the "overworked" top plate or "you never really own a Patek," just buy what you like and what you find to be a good value. Who's going to criticize your judgment about a fine watch if you can afford it?


Posted by Marcel Philippe in response to: For Danny, RMB, and Dick G. (Walt Odets):

It would be interesting to note which 2 Lange and Patek watches you recently considered. I assume the Datograph and the Patek Annual caliber 315 are two of them? Regards.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Re: For Danny, RMB, and Dick G. (Marcel Philippe):

These watches:

1815 Up/Down, Saxonia, Patek 5030 (cal. 315), Patek 5055 (cal. 240). The Datograph I have only seen in photographs--enough to know that it is a completely conventional chronograph construction.


Posted by chris russell in response to: Walt, some questions... (Peter Chong):

Patek's 27-70 movements have Breguet overcoils. These are now only used in their perpetual calendars and minute repeaters. They have stunningly good accuracy and consistency, far better than their 240's and 315's.


Posted by Matthew Chang in response to: Walt, some questions... (Peter Chong):

Breguet overcoils are found in 2 PP calibres...

Hi Peter,

There are only two current PP basic calibres.

CH 27-70 Chrono (Lemania based, slow beat 18000/hr), RTO 27 Tourbillon minute repeater (faster beat, 21600/hr)

All other current wristwatch calibres (including the automatic minute repeater, all non-chrono perpectual calenders) have flat balance springs.

The following older automatics also had Breguet springs:

12-60AT, 27-460 and the not so reliable 350 (and I-350).

An interesting historical calibre is the 9-90 (a famous rectangular movement). It was first introduced in the 40's (or late 30's) with screw balance and Breguet balance spring, but later fitted with a flat spring with Gyromax balance (in the late 50's). Is it an indication of the technical superiority of the Gyromax balance (so that PP could save the trouble of using an overcoil while maintaining similar performance) ?


Matthew Chang


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Breguet overcoils are found in 2 PP calibres..(more) (Matthew Chang):



Posted by John Gruber in response to: For Danny, RMB, and Dick G. (Walt Odets):

How would the Rolex escapement stand in the Patek/Lange debate? I think also the Rolex uses a freesprung flat spiral with an adjustable weight balance (hey I'm no watchmaker but thats what the pictures look like) with a sort of bridge in place of a cock. Looks like superior engineering to me?

Also this freesprung setup with the microstellar screw balance resembles the Gyromax setup pretty closely in function making the Rolex closer to the Patek at least to this untrained eye. What say the experts here?

Good luck

John Gruber.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: How would the Rolex escapement stand in the Patek/Lange debate? (John Gruber):

This is correct and one can easily see by looking at a Rolex how they are able to spend this money on the overcoil: They aren't spending it on ANYTHING else.


Posted by Leo Chiu in response to: This is correct and one can easily see . . . (Walt Odets):

Disagree. Strongly.

I would not be surprised, actually, to be told that the largest single expenditure on the profit and loss account of Rolex is advertising expenses.

Which brings me a related point. I think it will be accepted that PP spends a great deal more on

advertising that Lange does, probably more than 5 times, being the rough multiple of PP's output

compared with Lange's.

Still, we find that a Lange is more expensive than a comparable PP. (e.g, 1815 sans date versus PP 3919; Datograph versus PP 5070). Would anyone venture to guess or suggest where the advertising portion of the price of a Lange watch has gone to? I'd rather suspect it is not the top plate, the hand engraved balance cock or what-have-you.


[The next post begins a new thread]


Posted by chris russell:


I cannot disagree with Walt Odet's observations, but my personal feeling is that the differences in finish where it is visible versus not, may fall less to a kind of intellectual dishonesty than to a shorter term of experience. Patek has been making the finest watches it knows how for over a century and a half without interruption. Lange has been for five. Patek has had to find out 'the hard way' what works in the long, long run, and what does not.


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: I cannot disagree with Walt Odet's observations, but... (chris russell):

I think you may be right.


[The next post begins a new thread]


Posted by Hans Zbinden:

What's so great about overcoils anyway ?

Hello Soehne

The technical aspect of horology isn't my main interest but in regard to the ongoing debate of the missing overcoil in Langes, a question has come to mind. I once read somewhere that the modern alloys used in the springs nowadays rendered the overcoil obsolete. Also, Rolex mass produce the 3135 that has one so it can't be THAT expensive or tricky to do ... please enlighten me.




Posted by: Walt Odets in response to: What's so great about overcoils anyway ? (Hans Zbinden)

A brief answer . . .

The entire purpose of an adjustment of the watch is to insure centering of the balance spring--that it's center of gravity remains precisely in the center of the balance shaft.

During expansion and contraction, the center of gravity of the flat spring varies dramatically, at certain points displaced laterally by about one half the total diameter of the spring. When this displacement occurs at times of vertical positions, the displacement is further exaggerated by gravity effects. This leads to dramatic differences in performance in the vertical positions.

A properly formed overcoil entirely eliminates changes in the center of gravity of the spring. This is because the overcoil compensates for the distorting effects of having the spring anchored at its innermost and outermost points.

To quote from Walter Kleinlein, a well known American watchmaker (from the 1920s and 30s):

"True that a very carefully made watch can be regulated in the different positions in spite of having a flat balance-spring. With the invention and use of the Breguet balance-spring the possibility of much better regulation has been attained. We have already seen that the centre of gravity of such a flat balance-spring consistently alters its position, bringing about an irregular and inexact rate. With the introduction of the Breguet balance-spring these faults have practically disappeared."


Posted by Leo Chiu in response to: What's so great about overcoils anyway? (Hans Zbinden):

Apart from Rolex ...

I lost the longer version of this posting and had to start from scratch. It is, as a result, much more readable.

The debate is very interesting, but I must confess that despite open and private exchanges, I am not sure if I fully appreciate the necessity or otherwise of a Breguet overcoil.

Dr Odets thinks Langes lack overcoil because of cost reasons. Yet, the "only" difficulty seems to lie in fixing it properly. Perhaps the 3/4 plate movement will make repairs overly difficult. Lange has yet to respond.

I entirely agree with Leon P that TZers should be informed about the estimate of putting an overcoil on a watch, so that we can judge the likelihood of Langes' lack of overcoils for cost reasons.

Dr Odets accepts that PP do not. in general, have overcoils either, but contends that the Gyromax escapement makes it unnecessary.

I have extremely limited knowledge on watches and their movements. All my knowledge is from hearsay, as opposed to having taken watches apart and putting back together or observing their construction. For this reason, my views on this matter will appear quite amateurish.

In order to learn more on the subject, I decided to take a short cut. I consulted my Wristwatch Annual 1999. From my selective reading of that magazine, I gather that:

(a) all Rolex sport models (submariner, Daytona, Explorer II, yatchmaster (boy size)) have Breguet overcoils. As do the Day Date and Datejust models, although not the ladies models, which use flat hairsprings. Rolex makes close to or over 700,000 watches a year, this alone would suggest that it is not that difficult to put a Breguet overcoil on a watch (I do not want to get into a debate on the desirability of COSC certification, but can say from personal experience that the Rolexes I have are quite accurate and reliable);

(b) Glashutte Original, which make watches similar in finishing (I am not saying same standard, in case this upsets certain quarters) to Langes. None except the Alfred Helwig tourbillon have Breguet overcoils;

(c) a number of Lamenia movements have Breguet overcoils;

(d) Zenith's el Primero, which I understand is very popular among watchmakers, does not have a Breguet overcoil;

(e) JLC's 889, which I understand is also popular with watchmakers, does not have a Breguet overcoil

(f) GP's three gold bridge tourbillons have Breguet overcoils.

It would seem, therefore, that Breguet overcoils are usually only found in expensive watches, except Rolexes. Rolexes, of course, are perceived to be very reliable and very rugged. Is it because of the overcoil?

For a non-mechanically inclined watch idiot like me, the overcoil can be dispensed with, unless it has a practical function, but it does seem that they are not that common, and yet most watches are quite accurate (my Bulgari, which has a GP movement, is within 3 seconds in five days of heavy traveling).

Despite Dr Odets' assertion that a Breguet overcoil produces more accurate watch, I understand that Mr Chong's survey (admittedly of a small sample) of Lange owners is that inaccuracy is limited to a few isolated incidence, which seems to suggest that an overcoil is not important.

Still, it would be interesting to hear from Mr Chong why Lange decided to put an overcoil in its Datograph.


Posted by chris russell in response to: Apart from Rolex ... (Leo Chiu):

Rolex puts a Breguet overcoil into the El Primero. As a result, I suspect it is even more accurate in the Daytona than elsewhere, and the El Primero is already a very accurate movement.


Posted by chris russell in response to: What's so great about overcoils anyway? (Hans Zbinden):

An overcoil almost eliminates the differences in rate between flat and vertical positions in a mechanical watch. A typical excellent Swiss watch, (COSC or otherwise), with a flat hairspring will show about 4 or 5 seconds per day variation between horizontal and vertical positions. The same watch with a Breguet overcoil will typically show 0.2 or 0.3 seconds per day variability under the same conditions. That's the reason tourbillon watches almost always use them,

because otherwise they would show relatively large variations between flat and upright positioning, which the tourbillon alone can't help.

In general, the Breguet balance spring dramatically improves a watch's consistency of rate, it's as simple as that. It's one big reason why Rolexes, although not necessarily finished to the highest standards, are so accurate.

[The next post begins a new thread]

Posted by Leo Chiu:

Dear Dr Odets, questions on the Gyromax balance.

I think Mr Chong said in this thread that a Gyromax balance is nothing innovative.

1. Are you in agreement with Mr Chong?

2. Please explain the superior qualities of a gyromax balance compared with, say, a simple bimetallic one (or any other one you consider more common).

3. So far as you are aware, is Gyromax balance a PP exclusive/patented balance. If not, why do you think others do not use the same balance.

Thank you.


Posted by Carlos in response to: Dear Dr Odets, questions on the Gyromax balance (Leo Chiu):


Actually he already covered that in his Horologium article on Balance wheels. ...Some others DO use the Gyromax - some of the movements in Audemars Piguet (and I think) Vacheron Constantin watches come from JLC supplied with Gyromax balances. Patek however, uses them universally on all of their mechanical watches.


Posted by Leo Chiu in response to: Actually he already covered that... (Carlos):

Most informative. Now, in the red corner is Mr. Chong. (More)

Thank you Dr. Odets for the article on balance wheels. My gratitude also to Carlos for referring me to it.

While I was at the Horologium section, I had the chance to read Dr Odets' report on the ULC 1.96. The Chopard movement uses a Glucydur balance, and was found to be quite accurate.

Dr Odets, am I right in assuming that if Lange uses a Glucydur balance, its watches will, in your assessment, improve in terms of accuracy or reliability? And on the screw front, presumably the laser equipment of Lange can cut into Glucydur balances just as easily, never mind that such screws may have no functional value in a Glucydur balance.

So, if fixing a Breguet overcoil is indeed such a problem (as may have been the case with the first lot of Lange 1), then why can't Lange overcome this little problem by using a different balance. Comments from Mr. Chong please. Better still, can this be referred to Lange for an official response? We have been at it for two days and there is deafening silence from the manufacturer.


Posted by Matthew Chang in response to: Dear Dr Odets, questions on the Gyromax balance (Leo Chiu):

Zibach, DeCarle and George Daniels (more)...

Let me quote from Donald de Carle's "Practical Watch Adjusting": " Mr. Zibach, the successful timer and adjuster, late of Patek Philippe, Geneva, has invented a balance-Glucydur-which has decided advantages, and known as the Gyromax balance. The advantages are two-fold; firstly, all the weight, in addition to the weight of the balance itself, is concentrated on the rim of the balance and not partly on the rim and partly on the screws normally screwed into the side of the balance. Secondly, and the most important, the effective weight of the balance can be altered without adding timing washers or altering the weight of the screws." Later de Carle wrote about the split collets (Walt referred them as rim weights, i.e. the little cut rings: "… the pose of the balance need not be materially affected when a mean time adjustment is made, therefore the balance need not be removed from the movement with the attendant necessity or re-poising."

To shed some more light on the real practical advantages of the Gyromax system, let me say that even George Danials incorporates similar devices in some of his handmade watches (not the Omega co-axial deVille though). The main difference (as far as I can tell) between the Gyromax and Daniel's rim weights or split collets is that Daniels' rim weights are eccentric.

To my understanding, Daniels, similar to Patek Philippe and Rolex, believe in not using curb regulators. He wrote in his book "Watchmaking": "It is common practice now to fit watches with a regulator, as show in Fig xxx. The spring passes between two pins and its length is effectively changed to alter the timekeeping by moving the regulator. The practical effect of moving the pins is to change the position of the inner and outer points of attachments, so that the adjustment for isochronism is disturbed. At one time the regulator was a cheap and ready means of achieving a rough isochronism by adjusting the play of the spring between the pins. If the spring is biased a little towards the inner pin it will rest upon it increasingly as the balance amplitude decreases and the short arcs will be quickened. The results are not sufficiently precise for a precision timekeeper and the regulator is moved the effect is changed.

Regulators are a convenience to makers of mass-produces watches but are not necessary in good quality, hand-finished watches. Such watches are brought to time by adjusting the balance, and subsequently regulation of the rate is not required."


Matthew Chang


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Dear Dr Odets, questions on the Gyromax balance (Leo Chiu):

Some responses to this thread . . .

The Gyrommax is, in a sense, nothing innovative because it has been used in marine chronometers for many years. In a wristwatch, Rolex uses a very crude version of the idea, Patek uses it in most of its watches, and VC and AP have used it in the JLC caliber 920 for many years, certainly the finest calibers (1120 and 2120 respectively from both companies). There is a Horologium article on the VC version of this caliber. So, it may not be an innovation, but it is a very good idea. As for why others don't use it, I would say that they don't want to appear to derive anything from Patek. Patek's mechanical patent on the Gyromax is long expired.

In addition to the DeCarle quote that Matthew quoted, I would add two other benefits of the Gyromax balance. It's effective diameter is much greater than that of a plain Glucydur balance and very much greater than that of a screwed balance like that of the Lange. Lange must reduce the diameter of the balance proper to make room for the protruding screws in a space that is already too small for such large movements. Thus the mass of the balance rim is moved considerably inwards. In the Gyromax, the mass of both the balance and screws is as far out as possible.

The second issue, and one that Patek finds significant is the issue of aerodynamic drag. The Gyromax weights are set into the rim and protrude little. Apparently this aerodynamic advantage is worth something like 25 degrees of amplitude, which is nothing to sneeze at.

The regulator issue that Daniels discusses is absolutely consistent with my experience. Normally in pinning a spring (attaching it to the stud and collet), the "index point" is determined (the point at which the regulator will touch the spring) and the pinning detemined with reference to this point. If the regulator is then moved to adjust the rate of the watch, the centering of the spring during expansion and contraction is disrupted because the attachment points have effectively been moved by moving the regulator.

It is common practice for manufacturers (including Lange) to leave too much space between the pins to achieve better rate between horizontal and vertical positions. Every Lange I have examined showed way to much space in the regulator. JLC and IWC also do this. This is a very crude method of trying to regulate a watch because it is too inexact and, as Daniels says, changes if the rate is adjusted anyway. I agree with Daniels: a pin regulator is a manufacturing and adjustment expedient, period.

On Leo's question about the Chopard and Lange, Lange does use a Glucydur balance. Unfortunately, they have to make it very small in diameter to make room for the non-functional screws. The Chopard uses a smooth balance, but it benefits tremendously from an overcoil. The best of both worlds is a Gyromax with overcoil as in Patek's 27-460 and apparently a few contemporary movements. There is an article on this caliber in the Horologium. I am sure that Patek has simply taken the expedient course is dispensing with the overcoil. The overcoil has been used in hundreds of thousands of watches and is quite reliable. It does, however, take a skilled timer to set it up and these people are hard to come by. Certainly Langes would benefit functionally from the use of a full-sized Glucydur balance without screws, and from an overcoil.


Posted by Leo Chiu in response to: Some responses to this thread . . . (Walt Odets):

Thank you Dr Odets. As always, most informative.

I have re-read your article on balance wheels. Would a Nivarox 1 perform just as well as a glucydur? Or does that also have to be quite large in order to be effective, or require a Breguet overcoil (not mentioned in your article, and I cannot find any watch in Wristwatch Annual 1999 which has a Nivarox fitted with a Breguet overcoil).

Most Rolexes (men size) have Breguet overcoils, and Rolex produces 700K watches a year. A point made elsewhere in this thread. From these figures, it would appear that skilled technicians who can fit Breguet coils properly cannot be too scarce. If so, why is it that most watchmakers are dispensing with Breguet overcoils?

If most watchmakers dispense with Breguet overcoils, and yet their watches are mostly accurate, can it then be said that a Breguet overcoil, though useful, is no longer essential because of improvements in balance materials.

If Breguet overcoils are not essential, but only useful, then is the following a correct summary of your views on Lange's balance system: instead of spending time on hand engraving the balance cock and fitting useless screws on a glucydur balance whose size, as a result of this fitting, is unnecessarily reduced at the expense of performance, Lange would be doing its customers more of a favour if they dispense with the ostentation that comes with their balance wheel system and properly fit a Breguet overcoil on a more functional balance wheel

Those who prefer ostentation (read: aesthetic appeals) might, of course, take the view that it is much more preferable to spending money on a suit that cries out that it has been handstitched, rather than on a largely machine made suit but made of better materials. Neither is "wrong". Just a matter of differences in priorities. to each man his poison.



Posted by Peter Chong in response to: Some responses to this thread . . . (Walt Odets):

Some thoughts...

1. I must agree with you, that the Lange balance wheel is too small.

2. Another innocent question, Walt: (blame my poor grasp of English if you find this rhetoric and aggressive, no such intent)...a Gyromax balance can gain as much as 25 deg of amplitude. But Lange's problems does not seem to be getting sufficient amplitude with their watches. My own observations, including some made in your home workshop, indicates to me that achieving 320 deg amplitude is not a problem. Would better aerodynamics be a desirable advantage here?


Posted by Walt Odets in response to: Some thoughts... (Peter Chong):

Yes, of course. The mainspring tension, and thus load on the wheel train could be reduced for the same amplitude. Or the power reserve could be extended, etc.