‘Soirée’ 110.030 A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1
Lange are great at what they turn their ample determination toward. Like Porsche with the 911, their core offerings have marched on consistently with small evolutionary improvements. They don’t really let their hair down often. Particularly so in their earlier years, pre-2010s when limited editions and ‘honeygold’ cases were a bit less common. Which is why the ref. 110.030, with a mother of pearl guilloché dial so elegant it garnered the name ‘Soirée’, is kind of a big deal. It’s Walter Lange five Hefeweizens deep, quietly singing along to Dancing Queen at the end of an evening; a casual celebration of ability in engine turning a full guilloché on top of mother of pearl (a high failure rate, no doubt). Yet, in a characteristically German manner, the change is so subtle one may be forgiven for overlooking the distinction entirely at a glance. As ‘look closer’ details go, this MoP puts Tiffany to shame.
There are a surprisingly large number of ways in which this Lange 1 differs from the standard production at the time, despite looking extremely similar. Lange fans will notice, there is no MiG or Made in Germany text under the main dial, totally omitted to let the material take precedence. The Glashütte I/SA line has moved up and wrapped under the Lange signature for the same reason, sharing a non-guilloché plaque. The case, despite being finished identically at 38.5mm in white gold here, is .6mm taller to accommodate the layer of MoP over its solid silver dial blank. It’s a lot of thought for a simple material change. Everything here is dial-first, which makes sense as the process is laborious. Oyster shells are hand selected to be aesthetically pleasing, CNC’d into dial blanks, polished, adhered to silver, then engine turned by hand. MoP is notoriously difficult to machine, making this very tight, radial, engine turned pattern ridiculously impressive.
It makes one wonder just what else might be possible. Can you imagine a guilloché MoP Zeitwerk? Or tantalum case Odysseus? What about a dial-side skeletonized Datograph? Or 1815 Double Split? I am ultimately an enthusiast of Lange’s efforts, but the one wish I long for is more of the attitude this Lange 1 carries: doing something extremely difficult and ultimately very likely to be entirely unprofitable simply because you can. You can’t build a brand that way, but you can celebrate one that way. And it creates watches that people like me will write about and appreciate deeply, decades later. Can you place a monetary value on that respect? I’m not sure you can.
This example is strong. The case has light surface wear visible, which is really the case with any Lange 1 that’s been worn, as the white gold highly polished bezel sections basically magnetically attract hairlines. Otherwise, it’s great and comes with a full set, from a well-regarded Belgian retailer.