Lang 1943 Field Watch Edition One: Competitively Priced and Approaching Perfection
by Martin Green
Time sometimes goes faster than you realize (or would like). When I heard of the passing of Gerd-Rüdiger Lang earlier this year at the age of 80, it felt somewhat like the end of an era. Most people remember Lang as the founding father of Chronoswiss, one of the brands that made quite an impact on me during my early years of collecting, which is already over two and a half decades ago. Chronoswiss was quite a prominent brand back then and stood out thanks to its onion crowns, coined edge bezels, and exquisite dials.
Lang had a knack for details and a passion for chronographs. He worked at Heuer, along with Jack Heuer, and built, over the years, one of the world’s most important collections of historic chronographs. When the quartz crisis hit, he had the fortitude to purchase large numbers of vintage mechanical movements, which at the time were considered scrap. Part of them ended up in Chronoswiss watches, but a large portion of them remain untouched, but more about that later.
In my archives, I still have a response from Lang on my request for a catalog. In those days, you could approach brands, and they would send you a nice booklet with their latest and greatest models. In the case of Chronoswiss, this was quite a thick book, bound in green fabric with gold letters on the cover, and a personal note from Lang, signed with a fountain pen with his signature green ink. It even came with a bookmark in the shape of a regulateur, a way of displaying time that Lang made popular again during the Renaissance of mechanical watchmaking.
While Lang eventually sold Chronoswiss in 2012, his legacy remained, and just before his passing, got a new chapter with the founding of a brand that bears his name by his close friend and admirer Georg Bartkowiak.
Bartkowiak not only shared the same passion for, and outlook on, fine watchmaking with Lang, he also made quite a name for himself. As one of the founders of Grieb & Benzinger, he knows exactly what makes a good watch great, and that is what he puts in Lang 1943.
If you doubt that the link between the legacy of Gerd-Rüdiger Lang and this new watch brand is only the use of his name, think again. Lang not only supplied his name to this new endeavor in the final chapter of his life but also supported it with his stock of vintage watch movements, in particular those of Marvin. This once esteemed Swiss brand went out of business during the quartz crisis, and Lang acquired their remaining stock of thousands of fine movements in the 1980s. This combined forms the basis of the Field Watch Edition One, the first watch of Lang 1943, and unfortunately, Gerd-Rüdiger Lang’s last watch before he died. But his legacy lives on.
Trouble in paradise
The Field Watch Edition One is posing quite a dilemma for me, as I like to examine watches with a critical eye. However, this Lang 1943 is made with such care that, quite frankly, the only critical note that I have is the name. While it makes sense to add Lang’s year of birth, 1943, to the brand name as a tribute, it can be confused by some not familiar with the story that this is the year of the brand’s founding.
Combined with the vintage-inspired design and the historic movement, that is not far-fetched.
With this minor remark, we are getting to the good stuff, and that is a field watch honoring what was quintessential the first tool watch in history. However, the Lang 1943 is not a homage, it stands its own ground and can best be summarized as a beautiful tool.
The first thing that the team at Lang 1943 got right was the proportions. A diameter of 39mm is spot on, particularly when the thickness is just 8.40 mm. This results in a timepiece that is comfortable to wear, large enough to be easy to read, but not overly bulky that it hinders movements.
The three-piece case is well made, with relatively short lugs, and a brushed finish on every surface. The watch could have outlined its shape more by polishing some angles on the case and lugs, like Cartier does with the Santos, but that would take away from what a field watch stands for – it’s a tool.
Also the size of the strap, at 20mm wide it makes for a beautiful proportioned watch. The crown is slightly oversized but not thick. Thanks to deep grooves, it is easy to operate. This is also the only part where we see some polishing. A contemporary touch is the ‘L43’ abbreviation of the Lang logo decorating the crown.
Dial me in
Lang 1943 describes the dial as ‘black to grey sunray-brushed fumé,’ but it is hard not to see a sand tone in it as well. This compliments nicely with the Arabic numerals and hour markers filled with Swiss Super-Luminova in the color old-radium. The beautiful syringe hands are not something we see that often these days. They are both the right length and perfectly complement the rest of the dial.
A dash of contrast is offered by the black subdial for the seconds, which is also slightly recessed in the dial but doesn’t cut the railroad track for the minute indication. It is a bold focal point that balances nicely with the sunray-brushed fumé finish of the dial. The slender hand clearly indicates the seconds, aided by the crossed lines in the middle of the subdial.
The movement moves me
With Chronoswiss, Lang also pioneered putting display backs in their watches long before this became common practice. He considered a finely finished movement as a watchmaker’s calling card and was very particular about how the movements used by Chronoswiss were decorated. That the movement of the Field Watch Edition One meets those demands is not surprising, as Lang used it in a similar execution in the Chronoswiss Orea many years ago. That watch was also powered by a Marvin Caliber 700.
The movement is a treat, not only because of its finishing but also because it is a tangible part of watchmaking history. We don’t get an upgraded Sellita, which is often the norm in watches that cost the same, or even more, than the €3,500 that Lang 1943 asks for the Field Watch Edition One. While its rate of 3Hz/21,600 VpH is a testimony of its age, its power reserve of 46 hours is even competitive today with many modern Sellita calibers.
Before Lang puts the vintage Marvin movements in the Field Watch Edition One, they are completely overhauled, finely finished, and calibrated. The Geneva Stripes are stunning, as is the layout of the bridges. Gold chatons, although unnecessary these days with the standardization of synthetic rubies, add a dash of gold, as do the engravings.
The diameter of the movement is also nicely proportioned in relation to the case. It leaves a nice edge for Lang 1943 to engrave some information and secure the caseback with four screws.
And it keeps getting better
At €3,500 is the Field Watch Edition One, competitively priced. Its good looks and vintage movement give it an edge, but it gets even better as the watch is delivered in a robust Pelican case. This is not only much cooler, but also quite handier than an elaborate case with a leather of wood finish. It also suits the nature of this timepiece.
Interesting is also that the Field Watch Edition One comes with two straps. Both have both quick-release spring bars and their own buckle. This buckle is also very nicely designed, showing that Lang 1943 isn’t cutting any corners anywhere.
One strap is a brown calfskin with a robust texture and a vintage vibe, and the other takes a more modern approach, made from a high-tech-looking woven textile with an Alcantara lining. Again, no detail is overlooked as the floating keeper of the strap is even secured by small loop to ensure that it doesn’t wander off too far from the buckle. It is this eye for detail that makes the Field Watch Edition One by Lang 1943 such a delightful, close to perfect, timepiece.
For more information, please visit https://lang1943.com/products/edition-one
Quick Facts LANG 1943 Field Watch Edition One
Case: 39 x 8.4 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound Caliber L43.1 based on Marvin Caliber 700 from the 1960s, appx. 46-hour power reserve, 3 Hz / 21,600 vph frequency,
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds