BY HARLAN CHAPMAN-GREEN
When I got my hands on the original Odysseus from A. Lange & Söhne in 2020, I described it as the Saxon brand’s “Porsche Cayenne moment”, as they needed to do something to increase their popularity in the market. The analogy went along the lines of comparing the watch to Porsche’s largest SUV, which debuted in the early noughties. That car took the carmaker to places it’s never been before and secured Porsche’s success. At the time, large off-roaders were the hottest trend in the motor industry (they still are) as buyers wanted something safer, more practical and, most importantly, showier. While I wouldn’t call A. Lange & Söhne’s effort gauche, like many of those cars from back then, it’s easy to see the similarity between the watch and the car. On a side note, does early 2020 feel like a decade ago to anyone else? I felt old just writing that first sentence. Anyway.
We don’t have exact production or sales figures because A. Lange & Söhne don’t tell us, but the comments about waiting lists and dealers go some way to give us an idea about the watch’s popularity. At least, you can rest assured knowing that the delays are because they can’t make them fast enough. Anyway, I’ve become sidetracked again. Our meeting with product director Anthony de Haas a few years back indicated that A. Lange & Söhne makes somewhere around 5,000 watches per year. However, it’s possible the numbers have shifted since then. Now I really do feel old.
The key question on my mind when going into this review was, “will it wear as the steel one did?”. To put that answer simply: yes. I believe I said the wearing experience was “sublime”, and the way the titanium Odysseus wears is no different. The key part to what makes wearing it sublime, apart from knowing that it’s much more expensive than I can ever afford and I got it free for a week or two, is that every single part you touch on it during daily wear has been smoothed to perfection. There are no sharp edges, creases, or corners to catch you off guard.
When this watch was launched, A. Lange & Söhne said that you should be able to run your hand over the watch as it’s on your wrist, and it should be smooth like a pebble. It’s hard to describe this motion without a video, but they managed it with the steel watch and nailed it again with the titanium one.
So, the next question is, “does the titanium case make a difference?”. Yes, it does. Firstly, it makes it more expensive, but more on that later. Physically, the watch is much lighter as expected. When measured on our soon-to-be-patented VSS (Very Scientific (Kitchen) Scales), the watch and bracelet weighed in at 105 grams. The stainless steel Odysseus, one of the heaviest watches we’ve measured, has a mass of 154 grams. The difference, therefore, is noticeable, although if you have them side-by-side, you’ll be able to appreciate that more for yourself.
The titanium helps you to push the watch’s presence to the back of your mind. The watch becomes an extension of you, in a good way. Normally, I prattle on about how a heavier watch is good as it reminds you it’s there. This still does that; feeling the smooth links on my wrist did that very well. It also helps that it’s still a well-sized watch, measuring 40.5mm with an approximate thickness of 11.4mm. It’s not going to disappear entirely, but the lightweight titanium is a noticeable difference, as I said above.
Titanium is also a much darker coloured metal than stainless steel. If you put the photos from my other review side by side, you’ll see that the metal is a gunmetal grey colouring in its nature. It shouldn’t be an issue when choosing an outfit, however. Despite being as silvery grey as an Audi dealership, it paired well with jeans and a t-shirt to something more formal, just as the stainless steel model did.
Before I move on to the dial and other details, I should note that part of the reason watch brands use titanium is, simply, because it’s a challenge. Titanium is a much more difficult material to work with than stainless steel. It’s more complex and more resistant to tooling than stainless steel, and much harder to work with than gold, which is what most of A. Lange & Söhne’s collection is made from. I feel we should applaud when the effort is put into a watch and it pays off. You might not need a titanium Odysseus, but having one makes you feel extra special.
The brass dial of the Odysseus is the same in some ways and different in others. It’s a similar grey colour as the white gold Odysseus has, if a little lighter, but the guilloché around the minute markers is different. Whereas the white gold version had straight lines radiating outwards and the steel version had concentric rings called azurage, this one has something different yet again. It looks pretty similar to azurage, but the lines bend downwards when they get close to one of the applied markers, almost as if they are deforming under the markers’ weight. It’s unique enough to make this watch stand out in the range without being too eccentric.
The dial layout is the same as the previous models, perhaps A. Lange & Söhne will integrate complications at some point, but this is what we get for now. The main draws to the eye are the Outside Date and Outsize Day-of-the-Week (has it got a name yet?) windows. They add balance and symmetry and are controlled by the shoulders on either side of the crown. A simple push advances the date or day of the week in one place with a satisfying click. The double action whereby you push it and moves the disk halfway and release it to do the other half is pleasing to use, I’m not sure it was intentional, but it’s nice. I think it’s a little odd that they went with white backdrops to the windows rather than colour match them to the dial. Perhaps the legibility wasn’t very good with white on light grey. There’s also red used for the sixty seconds marker on the inner flange ring, although I completely missed it when wearing the watch. I think it shows up in a couple of my photos, though. Oh, if you’re wondering why the dial looks blue in some angles that’s the anti-reflective coating for the sapphire crystal showing up, sadly it’s not really possible to edit that out.
The rest of the dial is the same as the other models, with pristine lancet hands indicating the time, and a small seconds hand is present too. There’s also plenty of lume on the hands and markers, so reading this watch at night should be a doddle. I hope we get to see a “Lumen” variant of this watch, and I hope they’ll send one to me for a bit! I like how the graining of the dial centre seems to match the micro-blasted finish of the case and bracelet. Meanwhile, the polished hands and markers provide sparking contrast, just like the polished edges of the bracelet links and the case. Above, I said that the case flows smoothly when running your hand over it. Well, the juxtaposition of the two finishes of the case also flows onto the dial to give you a sense of the watch being “complete”, for lack of a better term.
Inside the watch is calibre L155.1 DATOMATIC, the same movement as in the other two models. It’s a surprisingly complex movement with 312 individual parts, and I expect a lot of this is contributed by those windows on the dial. As with all A. Lange & Söhne watches, the movement’s finishing is exceptionally high quality. The plates are made of German silver, which has a warmer quality to it. It also patinates exceptionally well, going a warmer gold colour.
The free-sprung balance is held below a finely decorated balance bridge, the engraving of which changes each time depending on who has engraved it. The balance bridge and free-sprung balance provide stability and shock resistance for this sports watch, and it’s currently the only model range from the Saxon brand which has this. The balance wheel beats at 4Hz, and for a total of 50 hours. It also has an arresting arm which stops the balance wheel when the crown is pulled to its furthest position.
When re-reading my review of the steel version, I noted the movement has quite a noisy rotor. I found this to be the same here, unsurprising, considering it’s the same movement. As before, the noise seems to come from the ratchet, which stops the mainspring from unwinding in one go. It’s not a nuisance, just an observation.
Another observation of mine is the crown, which was interacted with a lot during the photoshoot. It’s small and hard to screw and unscrew from its seated position. Of course, the fact that it’s easy to unscrew is good, and it’s partly why the watch is 120m water resistant. But hooking it back onto its thread was trickier than I’d have liked.
I also liked the quick adjustment in the clasp, which can be resized on the fly thanks to a button disguised as an A. Lange & Söhne logo. I just wonder how resistant to scratches it will be over time. This watch is pristine in its design, and it would be good to keep it like that, even though I strongly disagree with treating watches like investment objects. You can’t have it all, I guess.
However, you might wish to treat it like an investment piece, as this watch is limited to 250 examples available from boutiques only (unless they’re already spoken for). The price for one of these is €55,000.
Many people have called this watch the “Lego Lange” or the watch A. Lange & Söhne shouldn’t have made as if it destroys their image. The thing about image is that it’s fluid, like a lot of things, actually. It’s free to do what it wants at the will of that who makes it. To me, this watch says that A. Lange & Söhne is connected to its audience and listens to what they want, but when it provides a response, it does so in a way that’s innovative but not unforgetting of its heritage. The Outsize Date and classical movement finishing are the throwbacks, while the modern case with multi-link bracelet look forward to the future. The Odysseus is genuinely one of the greats of the high-end sports watch category.
Visit A. Lange & Söhne here.