A. Lange & Söhne – Cabaret Tourbillon – The Millennium Watch Book
Designed to improve the precision of watches, the tourbillon had never been coupled with a mechanism for stopping the seconds – until the appearance of the Cabaret Tourbillon A. Lange & Söhne. But how do you stop a whirlwind?
As watchmakers A. Lange & Söhne explored the idea of creating a tourbillon with a seconds-stopping mechanism, the first thing they had to rule out was any approach involving the direct stopping of the tourbillon cage. It would have been quite simple from a mechanical point of view; but if only the cage is stopped, the balance remains free, and its oscillations will decrease in amplitude until they finally cease and it comes to a stop. Once the brake is released, the restart phase may therefore require an external input for the oscillation to resume. Instead, the mechanism ultimately patented by A. Lange & Söhne stops the balance itself, allowing it to conserve its potential energy – and provide a perfect restart.
The next challenge for the Saxon Manufacture was therefore to design a system capable of stopping the balance, knowing that the latter sits in the middle of a mobile cage with three pillars, each of which represents an obstacle to any braking mechanism. Watchmakers have developed a stop lever consisting of a V-shaped spring, with two arms exerting pressure on the outer circumference of the balance to stop it. The spring is mounted on a hinge, so that if one of the arms hits one of the pillars of the cage, the second will still strike the pendulum – and can still stop it on its own. The curvature of the tip of each arm has been carefully studied with this in mind, and finalized after numerous tests, thus guaranteeing optimal action in all configurations. When the brake is released, the balance instantly begins to oscillate again.
Cabaret Tourbillon © A. Lange & Söhne
This ingenious mechanism has been integrated into a magnificent rectangular movement, the manual-winding caliber L042.1, equipped with a large date and a power reserve indicator. It beats at 21,600 vibrations per hour, with two barrels offering a substantial autonomy of five days. The caliber L042.1 presents a design faithful to the sacred tradition of A. Lange & Söhne, with impeccable finishes. The three-quarter nickel silver baseplate features six gold bezels, held in place by blue-tinted steel screws. Three other bezels adorn the hand-engraved bridges on the intermediate wheel, the tourbillon and the polished black tourbillon bridge on the dial side. The balance oscillates between two diamond counter-stones. The movement measures 22.3mm x 32.6mm x 6.35mm; it comprises a total of 373 components, 84 of which are for the tourbillon alone.
The caliber L042.1 is housed in the elegant rectangular Art Deco-style case of the Cabaret collection and can be admired through the transparent sapphire crystal case-back. Available in 18k gold or 950 platinum, it measures 29.5mm by 39.2mm. The silver or rhodium-plated dial is made of solid silver and features applied Roman numerals and diamond-shaped indexes. Its calculated symmetry results in a distinctive visual harmony. The large date indicator at 12 o’clock provides a pleasant counterpoint to the tourbillon, which is flanked by the seconds and power reserve indicators. The elegant faceted hands are in rose gold or rhodium-plated gold. The final touch is the brown or black alligator strap, with a rose gold or platinum folding clasp.
* Written by Xavier Markl
* This year, GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarizing the last 20 years of the Tourbillon in The Millenium Watch Book – Tourbillons, a large, beautifully laid out tabletop book. This article is an excerpt. The Millenium Watch Book – Tourbillons is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and in English.