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