Split Decision, The Sequel: Patek Philippe Reference 5370P vs. A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold Chronographs, An Owner’s Perspective
How fortunate I am! Fifty years ago, when I bought the very first watch I ever paid for from my own pocket, I had no idea of the watch-related travels and adventures I would experience and the wonderful friends I would make in our hobby over the following decades. And I had absolutely zero comprehension of the amazing timepieces I would have the opportunity to handle, photograph, and in some cases own.
For reasons I still don’t fully understand, I’ve long been drawn to chronographs. Perhaps it’s the idea of “capturing” small portions of our limited existence, or maybe it’s just the joy of obsessively clicking start, stop, and reset and watching the indicators jump.
Within the assortment offered by A. Lange & Söhne alone, I own or have owned four chronograph watches, including a first-generation Datograph, Datograph Perpetual, Double Split, and now a watch that I believe equals or surpasses them all: the 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold.
And, when after years away from Patek Philippe I returned to the fold, the watch I fell in love with, begged for, and ultimately bought was the gorgeous Reference 5370P rattrapante chronograph in its black-dialed guise.
When I first bought the 5370, the obvious comparison to make was with the Mighty Double Split. The extremely brief summary of that comparison article: for function, the Lange; for looks, the Patek.
In addition to the comparison against the Double Split, I’ve written before in some detail about why I bought the 5370P and the 1815 Rattrapante. I won’t rehash those rationales in detail here but will call out some features that I believe make both Reference 5370P and the 1815 Rattrapante great watches, as well as some points of difference between the two, before rendering a verdict.
Why they’re both great – and directly comparable
One nice thing about comparing the 5370 against the 1815 is that it’s a fair fight between two purpose-built single rattrapante chronographs of classical construction. The Double Split (and subsequently the Triple Split) with its flyback mechanism, instantly jumping chronograph minutes, and split displays for both seconds and minutes is a titanic achievement, but that prowess comes at the price of substantial bulk and limited power reserve.
With the 1815 Rattrapante, less is in some ways more as A. Lange & Söhne has created a high complication watch that is both unmistakably a Lange and eminently wearable in the tradition of my other most prized Lange watch, the original Pour le Mérite Tourbillon.
There’s a bit of a theme there: when I bought the 5370P, I also had the option of choosing Patek Philippe’s split-seconds perpetual calendar, Reference 5204P, instead but ultimately went for the “simpler” watch for both its clarity of purpose and its drool-inducing black enamel dial.
And it’s on the dial side that I think both of these watches first distinguish themselves with beautiful design and execution. Patek Philippe’s black enamel is darker and deeper than Satan’s basement, and I have yet to find a single bubble, dull spot, or included imperfection. The white gold indices provide both welcome tonal variation and are their own miniature works of curvaceous, liquid-looking art.
And while Patek Philippe likely considered other hues for the printed indices, the pure white the brand chose does a wonderful job of contrasting with the black dial surface and the shiny gold appliques.
A. Lange & Söhne also plays with color variation on its dial by using a reddish hue for the lushly printed indices and main time-telling hands, lending a touch of added warmth to the Honeygold that surrounds the dial.
At the same time, A. Lange & Söhne retains the key elements of the 1815 design codes with small red trefoils at the corners and multiple examples of symmetry including the placement of the subdials, the horizontal text that gives a sector-dial look, and the way that the corners of the windows at the tips of the chronograph seconds hands frame the axes of the chrono minutes and running seconds hands.
A. Lange & Söhne uses a beveled tachymeter flange and grooved subdial surfaces to grab our eyes; Patek Philippe relies on the raised numerals and dots to provide texture. For me, both work.
Finally, as far as I can tell the hands on each watch are appropriately finished, with clean vertical edges, uniform surfaces, and in A. Lange & Söhne’s case smooth doming on the main hands. There’s been some pearl-clutching of late by some pixel-peepers about a perceived lack of finishing quality on the underside of Lange’s hands; I’m pleased to report that a) a quick look with a high-powered loupe at the undersides of the chronograph second hands as reflected in the polished hour hand reveals tidy frosting, and b) I really don’t care.
Looking under the hood
Let’s go around to the back! With A. Lange & Söhne’s reputation for top-notch finishing and the 5370P having been made in Patek Philippe’s special High Complication workshop, we should expect to be pleased with the results – and neither maker disappoints.
Side by side, the difference in movement diameters is immediately evident, with Patek Philippe’s Caliber 29-535 at 29.6 mm and A. Lange & Söhne’s L101.2 a full three millimeters wider at 32.6 mm. To my eye, however, the Genevan look of the Patek Philippe is for once more striking than the layered architectural appearance of the A. Lange & Söhne due in part to Lange’s use of vintage-style frosting taken from its early pocket watches versus the striping employed by Patek Philippe.
On closer inspection, A. Lange & Söhne takes the lead with several beveled, sharp interior angles; both watches have some lovely black polishing, and in particular that traditional polished column-wheel cap on the Patek Philippe is a joy to consider through macro lens or loupe. I have to give A. Lange & Söhne the finishing nod overall for things like clear bevels on the wheels, but as considered by the naked eye the Patek Philippe movement engages me more.
Functionally, Patek Philippe’s movement is more sophisticated with its split-seconds isolator, instantly jumping chronograph minutes, roller mechanism to align the chronograph seconds hands, and blade springs throughout trumping A. Lange & Söhne’s simpler construction that lacks an isolator and features semi-instant chrono minutes and a coil spring in the return mechanism.
When it comes to pusher feel, though, the A. Lange & Söhne fights back with a tactile experience that is more progressive and consistent across the start-stop, rattrapante, and reset buttons. I’m confident that Patek Philippe’s firm feel on the crown-based split button and feather-light return pusher touch are intended features rather than bugs, but I prefer A. Lange & Söhne’s more uniform approach.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the pusher sensation on the 1815 Rattrapante isn’t quite up to the buttery-smooth standard set by the Datograph line, but it’s still very good indeed.
As for the position of the rattrapante pusher, while some folks have a very strong preference for the crown-mounted button of the Patek Philippe I’ve long since gotten used to A. Lange & Söhne watches with pushers over at 10 o’clock, and I’m not enough of a split-seconds purist to demand crown-based actuation, so the Lange arrangement is just fine with me.
Just in case
One of the great things about the 1815 Rattrapante is that it is very obviously a Lange watch, and as we’d expect that extends to the design of the case with its characteristic arched lugs and brushed case band.
Patek Philippe, on the other hand, has more freedom to utilize a variety of shapes while at the same time drawing on its own substantial historical catalogue, and as far as I’m concerned, the 5370P case design is a modern classic.
One critical thing that the 1815 has in its favor is the marvel that is Honeygold. It’s harder than other precious metal alloys and it looks fantastic, especially when paired with the black dial, red-toned accents, and brown dial that A. Lange & Söhne has used to add contrast and lend warmth to the overall impression.
On the wrist
When the time comes to strap these pieces on the wrist, the joy really begins as each is one of those watches that makes you want to slide your sleeve up and glance down at every possible occasion.
Perhaps it’s the onset of autumn here in California as I write this but there’s just something satisfying about the way that the A. Lange & Söhne picks up the warm fall outdoor light in the image above – and that warmth translates into pretty much every setting in which I’ve worn the watch.
The Patek Philippe, on the other hand, stuns with its austere beauty; there’s nothing quite like gazing into that bottomless black and swiveling your wrist to see the light glinting from the various surfaces of the applied numerals. Philippe Dufour once told our collector group that one major advantage of high-quality bombé finishing is that there’s always a sparkle or glow visible regardless of the position of the watch, and that’s certainly true with the dial side of the 5370P.
I appreciate and enjoy wearing substantial-feeling watches, and at 113 g and 138 g including the provided buckles respectively, both the 1815 and 5370P deliver. I do wish that A. Lange & Söhne had included a Honeygold deployant to match Patek Philippe’s platinum one, though!
Making the call
In this battle of the titans, who wins? I’ll look forward to your thoughts in the comments below, but here’s where I land:
- The Patek Philippe is the better chronograph, and in its own way matches the aesthetic appeal of the A. Lange & Söhne, and so is the better watch – as it should be, given its price premium.
- I never thought I’d say this in an A. Lange & Söhne vs. Patek Philippe heads-up comparison, but in its Honeygold guise the Lange is actually the prettier and more wearable watch. As a result, I’m fairly sure that I will wear it more frequently and on a more diverse set of occasions than I will the Patek Philippe.
Let me know what you think – and in the meantime, remember: if you own it, wear it!
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold Homage to F.A. Lange Reference 425.050
Case: 41.2 x 12.6 mm, proprietary Honeygold with polished and brushed bezels and brushed case band; sapphire front and rear crystals
Dial and hands: black-treated solid silver dial with gold printed indices; pink gold, white gold, rhodium-plated steel, and gold-plated steel hands
Movement: manually wound Caliber L101.2; 58-hour power reserve; 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, twice assembled, frosted finish
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; rattrapante chronograph seconds, 30-minute chronograph
Limitation: 100 numbered pieces, sold only through A. Lange & Söhne boutiques
Production years: 2020-2021
Quick Facts Patek Philippe Reference 5370P
Case: platinum with pressed-in white gold cabochons on lugs and brand-characteristic diamond (signifying platinum) at 6 o’clock; interchangeable sapphire crystal case back and full platinum solid case back; 41 mm
Dial: gold with fired black enamel, applied Breguet numerals and markers and printed white scales including tachymeter
Movement: manually wound Caliber CHR 29-535 PS; 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency; 55-65 hours’ power reserve with chronograph disengaged
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; 30-minute instantaneously jumping chronograph with rattrapante
Production years: 2015-2021; replaced in 2021 with blue enamel dial version
You may also enjoy:
Split Decision: Patek Philippe Reference 5370P vs. A. Lange & Söhne Double Split, An Owner’s Perspective
Why I Bought It: Patek Philippe Reference 5370P
Why I Bought It: A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Honeygold Homage to F.A. Lange
Why I Bought It: A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual In White Gold
Lange & Söhne Presents Two Perpetual Calendar Tourbillons: Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon And New Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar
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If the Patek were closer to the Lange’s price, it’d be the outright winner for me. One of the very few high-grade chronographs that could turn my attention away from Lange, who 9 times out of 10 will win any chronograph competition in my eyes. The 1815 Chronograph glides over the Cornes de Vache and 5172 blowing raspberries, the Double and Triple-Split are in leagues of their own, and by itself this 1815 Rattrapante is glorious; but as soon as you put it in the same photo as a 5370…
You’re a lucky man indeed.
Agree completely with the lucky man part! And I also agree that it’s very hard indeed to beat the 5370 for its combination of looks and function. So happy to have the choice!
Fantastic write up as usual, thanks again for sharing with us your enthusiastic collector feelings! Much appreciated.
With regards to the watches, I would never understand why AL&S decided to go with a coil spring in a watch in this price range, it’s simply totally out of place IMHO. At least they should have tried to hide it better, I remember how astonished I was when you first presended the watch and the coil spring was clearly visible in one of your pictures.
Would you mind sharing your feelings about this issue? Thanks in advance.
Hi Fabio — I’ve tried to be pretty clear that the use of a coil spring is pretty much my least favorite element of an otherwise fantastic watch. Obviously not enough to keep me from buying it, and from a functional perspective it works just fine, but not the level of refinement I would hope for.
The 5370 is so perfect it seems like it should be displayed on a pedestal behind glass just for viewing. The 1815 Rattrapante in Honey Gold is begging to be worn.
Gary, please explain the significance of the “coil spring” that is disturbing Fabio.
And would you be so kind to drop me a line on Lange’s next Honey Gold offerings as you seem to be so well informed. They are sold out by the time I hear about them.
Gorgeous images as always!
First, I do wish that I received advance notice on Lange’s new offerings! I’m in the same boat as the rest of us — I moved right away with my request for this one and was very happy to receive a slot.
Agree with you on the pedestal vs. wrist comparison — a great way of explaining why the 1815 is likely to get more wear from me going forward.
If you look very closely at the center of the Lange movement in the final photo of it in this article, you will see a small coil spring that is part of the return mechanism for the chronograph. It works fine, but it’s less sophisticated than the tuned blade springs used in other high-end chronographs and visually not to my taste — and if I understand the Geneva Seal requirements correctly, among other things this sort of “wire” spring would disqualify the Lange from consideration.
Glad you enjoyed the images!
Gary, you had promised this article some time ago and I really did enjoy it. INDEED! As you might (not) remember I am one of those folks with strong feelings against the pusher at ten (and now with strong feelings against the vertical layout as well). A. Lange is indeed an excellent piece of art and if we are talking about the double or the triple split I can think of reasons to prefer over the PP. But the PP is a pure and traditional swiss masterpiece with attention to details that one cannot even imagine as you very well explain and one may never even realise; a very complete proposition technically and aesthetically; an almost perfect watch! For me it is the difference between a Rolls and a Merc (in almost every aspect).
Greetings, Dimitris! I appreciate your strong views on these design features — debating back and forth on what we love and what we don’t is a big part of what makes this hobby so great.
You’ve made me want to strap on the 5370, as I completely agree with your assessment of its merits.
the clock is very beautiful, very far from my reality, but it doesn’t hurt to dream.
I had to dream for many years before I began to have the chance to acquire any expensive watches, and for me the enthusiasm and love for our hobby is the most important thing!
All best wishes, Gary
Not a fan of the 12 & 6 o’clock subdials on the Lange.
Nor am I sure if I’d be able to wear the Lange more often. It’s upright stance on the wrist makes it too hard to dress down (very much). At least that’s the problem I have with my Datograph. For sure can’t fly under the radar with either one.
Can’t beat the Breguet numerals on the Patek though the choice of numerals for the Lange is stylish in its own right.
I’ve not seen the honey gold in person so can’t comment on it. Though I will say the Lange mvt in German silver will really age nicely.
Dallas Texas USA
Greetings! To each his own — I will say that I took the 1815 to a watch event this past week and without exception, each person who checked it out said that they were surprised that it sat much lower on the wrist than they had expected from photos.
I’ve owned a Dato, and found its ratio of diameter to thickness did make it sit higher from the wrist than what I’m experiencing with the 1815.
Looking forward to seeing the movement take on a patina!
The Lange is both very German and quite lovely!