Luxury watches displayed at the Richemont Montblanc store in Beijing. Photo: Bloomberg

INTERNATIONAL - There’s a new luxury sports watch in town. 

A. Lange & Söhne is giving its fellow high-end European watch brands a run for their money with its new Odysseus, a heavy-duty steel timepiece that can take a beating. 

And at $28,800, it’s priced lower than some of the pieces the brand is best known for. Fellow luxury watch heavyweights including Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet have full collections of what they call “sports” watches, and the Saxony-based Lange—which specializes in high complications—is hoping to get in on the business. On the heels of the Piaget Polo S, Chopard Alpine Eagle, and Girard Perregaux Laureato lines being launched in recent years, the Odysseus is the latest evidence that sports watches are now firmly a trend in the luxury watch industry.

“In today’s market, collectors and clients want a watch that they can wear to work and after hours,” says Rebecca Ross, watch specialist at Christie’s New York. “Stainless steel is preferable because it’s much more durable than gold,” she says. “In the ’40s and ’50s, steel was rarely used [in watches], so finding a vintage steel watch is highly desirable for collectors. That interest in vintage steel has contributed to the popularity of the new pieces.”

The watch’s design is unmistakably Lange at first glance, with its signature outsize date and day windows and lancet-shaped, though slightly thicker, hour and minute hands. It also marks the brand’s first stainless-steel watch, as well as its first water-resistant piece. At once refined and rugged, it can be worn in the boardroom or at the beach. “The Odysseus is more than just a new timepiece [for the brand],” says Wilhelm Schmid, chief executive officer of A. Lange & Söhne. “It marks the beginning of a new watch family and indicates a new direction.”

The watch’s round case design serves to effortlessly integrate the tapered day and date pushers at 2 and 4 o’clock to the point where they almost disappear. A screw-down crown, another first for the brand, along with its sealed pushers, guarantees water resistance of 12 bar. The time can be adjusted forward and backward with the day and date adjusting in step, a user-friendly feature designed with traveling across time zones in mind.

Lange developed an all-new automatic-winding movement, with 50 hours of power reserve, that fits snugly into the Odysseus’ 40.5-millimeter (1.6-inch) case. “What truly differentiates this watch from [other luxury sports watches] is the fact that it has been developed from the inside to the outside,” Schmid says, “and that it is a genuine Lange down to the most minute detail.” Like almost all of Lange’s watches, the “movement was made exclusively for this new model line,” he says.

A. Lange & Söhne is giving its fellow high-end European watch brands a run for their money with its new Odysseus. Photo: Bloomberg

Wearing comfort is assured by the watch’s five-link bracelet. Each individually articulated link allows allows the Odysseus to thoroughly envelop the wearer’s wrist. Comfort was the key consideration in the bracelet’s construction, with a new system to adjust the length up to 7mm without taking off the watch. (It’s activated through a button that’s integrated into the fold-over clasp.) For further length adjustments, the Odysseus will come with tools that allow the owner to remove links without a trip to a watchmaker.

Along with exposure to high humidity levels, “one of the biggest strains that can be put on a mechanical movement is a quick and extreme change in temperature,” says Schmid. “The Odysseus is the first Lange watch with a water-resistant case and screw-down crown.” In addition to its water-resistance testing, the watch “has also been tested in our climactic chamber, which simulates the different climactic zones of the world, from humid heat to dry cold,” he says. That’s good news for people who live in places like Singapore, Miami, and San Francisco.

Inside the Odysseus impermeable case, the newly developed L155.1 Datomatic automatic-winding caliber has more shock resistance than any of Lange’s previous movements. It vibrates at a full 28,800 times per hour, enhancing the watch’s rate accuracy, as well as its efficient energy consumption. In true Lange style, the movement is exquisitely finished to the smallest detail, on full display through its sapphire crystal case back. New to this movement is a stabilizing balance wheel bridge that’s hand-engraved with a wave motif evocative of the seas of Odysseus’ 10-year voyage.

Bloomberg