404.048 A. Lange & Söhne Double Split Japan Limited Edition
The way I explain what a rattrapante is to non-watch people is simple. I say, ‘It’s like a mechanical stopwatch, but magic . . .just watch.’ Then, as the watch enthusiast, you have the pleasure of watching their mind explode in slow motion as one chronograph hand freezes an event in time, the other totally uninterrupted. But in this, the double split, Lange went above and beyond the traditional high complication. When the double split debuted in 2004, it was like Lange was re-explaining what was possible in watchmaking to enthusiasts, all our collective minds were re-blown. This is a dual rattrapante, splitting minutes as well, the first of its kind. It’s Lange at their best, particularly this example, which is 1 of just 10 with a grey dial made only for Japan.
A rattrapante or split seconds chronograph is generally considered the most difficult high complication to produce on its own. But this is two of them, layered into eachother in a caseback with more depth than the Mariana Trench. That, thanks to 465 individual components, which is even more impressive when you remember that Lange assemble each movement twice in order to asses wear on individual components and be certain everything is within tolerance. This yellow gold with anthracite dial is really quite a special thing, if it doesn’t raise your heart rate at least slightly you’re in the wrong place.
Lange used to be a little more liberal in just how frequently they’d pull out a limited edition until watches in general had a massive increase of popularity mid 2010s and their business exploded. I’m often browsing through old auction catalogues or forum posts for this and on occasion I’ll see a Lange from this time which is out of this world. I’m often left wondering, ‘Does anyone even know this exists?’ This is one of those watches. And as Lange have now become known as the undisputed king of the rattrapante, following up with a triple split in 2018, this feels like the ultimate expression of the brand. I’ve said it before, but Japan gets all the best stuff.
This example has a strong case with light surface wear only, and a lovely rose patina developing on the deeper parts of its yellow gold case. The dial is undamaged, I see nothing out of place. Just don’t ask how much it costs to service it. It comes with a full set from a well-regarded Shanghai retailer.