A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold Homage to F. A. Lange: Nectar Of The Gods (And Bees)
Honey is quite possibly one of the strangest and coolest foods that humans eat, and that’s considering that some people drink coffee brewed from beans that a civet has already eaten and passed.
Honey is unique among human food sources as, as far as I can tell, it differs from every other type of food we consume. No matter how strange a food might seem from a different culture, pretty much everything we eat is a plant, fungus, insect, animal, or made from parts of these.
Honey is the only food (based on my non-exhaustive research) made by a non-human creature harvesting a plant material, ingesting it, and regurgitating it so that it becomes a shelf-stable, high-caloric food edible by a huge variety of species. I can find no other examples of anything else like this that humans eat, and very few comparable examples of animals or insects farming, herding, or cultivating food.
Our species’ relationship with honey stretches back millennia, with the earliest depictions of honey gathering on a cave painting approximately 8,000 years old. Which means we have likely been eating that sweet golden goo for tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of years, long before we started growing crops and keeping livestock.
Honey is unique in its origin with the added bonus that it is incredibly colorful. The color scale (based on the Pfund gradient scale) ranges from “water white” (a very pale yellow, almost clear) to a “dark amber” (which approaches dark molasses) and grades honey into seven categories.
Yet if you were to ask anyone what the color of honey is, the most common answer would be “gold.”
Funnily enough, gold is nowhere to be found on the color grading scale. But no matter, we all know that honey is a slightly pale golden color, which is why when a unique gold alloy in a pale golden color was created by A. Lange & Söhne, it earned the moniker “Honeygold.”
Since it is a special alloy it is often reserved for special watches, so it only makes sense that a 175th anniversary timepiece commemorating the original founding of the brand should be made in the exclusive Honeygold. The watch I’m referring to is the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold Homage to F.A. Lange, and it could easily be described as a grail watch.
A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold
The 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold is the first timepiece from A. Lange & Söhne to only contain a split-seconds chronograph function, also known in watch parlance as a rattrapante. All previous split-second chronographs by A. Lange & Söhne have been combined with other complications and features.
But not so this time: the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold’s entire focus is the incredible split-seconds mechanism along with the 175th anniversary aesthetic. The model features the aforementioned split-second chronograph with a 30-minute counter at 12 o’clock alongside running seconds at 6 o’clock and the typical sweep displays of hours and minutes. That’s it, and it is gorgeous.
The split-second chronograph function is a rather unique mechanism that allows the user to time an event and press a button to capture one time while a second hand “splits” away to continue counting. The split-second button can then be pushed to allow the split hand to catch up. This is where the term rattrapante comes from: the French verb rattraper means “to catch up again.”
The aesthetic is built around the Honeygold case combined with a glossy black dial sporting gold printing for a high-contrast look. Tiny red details at each quarter hour along the minute/second scale provide a little accent color, while the chronograph counter and rattrapante hands are in white gold and rhodium-plated steel respectively for differentiation from the pink gold hands.
The black dial isn’t entirely unseen among A. Lange & Söhne watches, though silver dials are the most prevalent. But this is the first combination of the glossy black dial with a Honeygold case, and the combination is an absolute stunner.
Choosing to match the dial printing to the case instead of opting for white on black really helps it stand out among its siblings across the collections.
As beautiful as the dial and case are, though, the real star of the show is the incredible movement found on the reverse. The new L101.2 caliber not only lives up to expectations but provides a fun change of pace from the dizzying Double Split and Triple Split (two of the most insane and drool-worthy movements in the industry).
The L101.2 doesn’t feel like a city of skyscrapers but instead more like a beautiful renaissance town with a cathedral on a hill surrounded by the one- and two-story buildings.
Mechanical city on a hill
Don’t get me wrong: the movement is still incredibly complex and spectacularly finished, but with only one rattrapante mechanism it feels more accessible in its complexity. Thanks to the fact that most of the components aren’t hidden underneath three layers of parts, we can see the function of the mechanism more clearly.
Plus, unlike the Double Split and Triple Split, the 1815 Rattrapante has an extra bridge that has been hand engraved like the balance cock (which admittedly is partially obscured underneath a lever for the split-second column wheel).
This provides a second chance to view the distinctly personal touch that comes with every A. Lange & Söhne watch since the hand engravings are all unique to the engraver, so much so that people familiar with the watches can always distinguish who engraved each particular balance cock.
But as the focus is really on the rattrapante mechanism. It is featured prominently in the center of the L101.2 caliber with its column wheel sitting tall between the two rattrapante clamp levers that delicately catch the split-seconds wheel and its tiny teeth.
Interestingly this is a different configuration than we find in most rattrapante mechanisms like those by Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, F.P. Journe, Glashütte Original, Montblanc, and even the A. Lange & Söhne Double Split and Triple Split.
The more typical configuration sees scissor-style clamp levers that cross over each other and pivot on a shared axis with their “handles” interacting with the column wheel while their “blades” grip the split-second wheel. The 1815 Rattrapante goes a different route and basically flips the system around.
Trying something different, but with historical backing
In Caliber L101.2, the rattrapante clamp levers are long, slightly curvy J-shaped pieces that pivot at the very tip of the J’s hook. The two clamp levers mirror each other and have a small cam follower nub around halfway up the J that interacts with the column wheel now situated between the pivot and the split-seconds wheel.
This same configuration was also seen in the Tourbograph Perpetual Pour le Mérite and the new Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold Homage to F. A. Lange anniversary edition.
This main benefit of changing this up is that it eliminates the need for secondary spring levers to push the rattrapante clamp levers against the column wheel as seen in every one of the scissor-type layouts. This variation builds the spring into the J shape so that in addition to the pivot the entire length of the clamp lever is self-sprung and needs no external force applied. This reduces part count and complexity and integrates multiple functions into one component.
This idea has been seen elsewhere in recent years, for example in the Habring² Perpetual-Doppel Perpetual Calendar Split-Seconds Chronograph, which sees both clamp levers combined into one part and the column wheel replaced by a rocking cam plate as it’s based on ETA Caliber 7750.
Another instance is the Parmigiani Tonda Chronor Anniversaire, which also combines both levers into a single component but uses the center of the long clamp lever as the clamping surface, the tips extending past the split-second wheel to a column wheel on the opposite side.
This general style was also found in earlier calibers like the Venus 179 and 185 and might historically be the more common design but has fallen out of favor. I would never have known if I hadn’t looked so closely at this incredible L101.2 movement for hours.
All of these instances use the shape of the clamp levers to integrate the spring feature, minimizing part count and hassle of adjustment. While this might seem like a relatively minor change, the sheer ubiquity of the scissor-style rattrapante mechanism showcases how it is very easy to rely on designs that have become widely adopted and why shifting things around allows for mechanical creativity. And since the focus was supposed to be this mechanism, it makes sense to shift from the norm.
It’s these types of details that make A. Lange & Söhne movements some of the best in the industry, and why no matter how stunning the dial design the movement is always the highlight for me. Just gazing at the image of the uncased caliber provides ample opportunities to learn more about movement design, finishing, and engineering choices.
Like noticing the four screwed gold chatons and two plain gold chatons, or the adjustability designed into various spring levers and their mounting positions, and the gently functional variations of levers, cams, and bridges across the movement.
The 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold Homage to F. A. Lange is a winner from every angle: from the classic case through the supple black and gold dial and on to the astounding movement meant to inspire mechanical wonder. The choices made here, when placed next to the other 175th anniversary Homage to F.A. Lange pieces, stand out as holistically considered. And I dare say perfectly balanced.
While the Tourbograph Perpetual Honeygold Homage to F. A. Lange is the obvious pinnacle to the 175th anniversary pieces, I think the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold is the most successful and might help birth a permanent addition to the collection. But if it doesn’t, and the 100 pieces are all we ever see of this awesome creation, I’ll be happy that it existed as it did. I look forward to my next visit with A. Lange & Söhne and hopefully a few minutes with such an awesome and balanced piece of horology.
Since 2021 isn’t looking promising for a trip back to Glashütte, I’ll have to settle on breaking this down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.45 A. Lange & Söhne watches are easy to inspire a wow reaction, but when they really hit the sweet spot that wow turns to wooooooow!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 94.5» 926.728m/s2 The amount of lust appeal is hard to understate and its force would keep you glued to your monitor until the rooster starts crowing!
- M.G.R. * 68.9 It is really hard to say anything bad about an A. Lange & Söhne movement, let alone one with this much focus on providing a good show and exceptional functionality!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate If you are sporting a chronograph you are already well ahead. But if that chronograph has a rattrapante, well, then you definitely will need extra-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the nature inspired swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 11.4 Lifting that heavy box up the last step and feeling that twinge in your back! Moving day is never fun, but it can become instantly worse if you were to pull something right in the middle of your back while you have a 150-pound box in your hands and you are half way up a full flight of stairs. And though I literally just did this for hours, I would gladly do it for days if it meant getting one of these on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Oh the movement, it’s always the movement! It’s fairly certain that I will always fall head over heels for a chronograph from A. Lange & Söhne, and this one is no exception!
- Awesome Total * 765 Start with the number of screwed gold chatons (4) and multiply by the number of pieces in the limited edition (100), then add the number of parts in the movement (365) and it’ll come out as an unquestionably awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.alange-soehne.com/en/timepieces/1815-rattrapante-honeygold-homage-f-lange.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold Homage to F.A. Lange
Case: 41.2 x 12.6 mm, 18-karat Honeygold
Movement: manually wound Caliber L101.2, 58 hours power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency with precision beat adjustment system
Functions: hours, minutes, (hacking) seconds; split-second chronograph with 30-minute counter
Limitation: 100 pieces, boutique edition