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Review: A. Lange & Söhne 310.032 vs Patek Philippe 5146/1R

I’ll level with you—it’s hard to pitch a wristwatch that costs £40,000 as a bargain, but there’s a logic to the suggestion that an A. Lange & Söhne sitting in that price bracket presents something of a value opportunity—albeit to a very select few. Tell you what, let’s take this back a step and start by looking at a watch that just might be the quintessential endgame piece: the Patek Philippe 5146. All will make sense very soon.

Patek Philippe Complications 5146/1R

In rose gold and on a bracelet, the 5146/1R is available for anywhere between £35–40,000. That’s a lot of money, but it’s the price to pay to become a member of an exclusive group of people who own one of the most coveted complications from one of the most coveted watchmakers in the world.

The 39mm-wide and 11.23mm-thick case belies the complexity of this piece, although the dial does hint at the calibre 324 S IRM QA LU’s capabilities: this is a calendar movement, an annual calendar to be specific, and it’ll keep track of the date, days and months throughout the year, the only change needed at the end of February.

It’s the quintessential Patek Philippe, cleverly subtle and classically appointed, not a single line or curve out of place. It’s no wonder that it remains virtually unchanged since its launch over two decades ago, and side-by-side with Patek Philippe’s more modern—read: larger—offerings, it radiates a clarity that has drawn customers to the brand since its founding in 1839.

So, what do you get for your not inconsiderable spend? The good looks and brand name of course, but the 5146 works to earn respect on merit with a balanced day and month indicator, a moonphase display, a date window and a power reserve indicator at 12. This all resides on a creamy lacquered dial, embellished with rose gold indices.

It’s not completely reserved and aloof, however, because for the owner’s eyes only comes a bit of a treat once the 5146 is reversed. It’s not the visual drama of a hand-wound chronograph, but it is undeniably worth a look, Patek Philippe’s unrelentingly high standard of construction and finish apparent in every nook and cranny.

It’s hard to imagine a watch that fulfils what this 5146 can with quite the same ease. It’s a watch that works as well in a casual situation as it does in a formal, the kind of piece that can be strapped to the wrist and never taken off again. That’s the definition of the endgame watch—the one you put on and never want to take off, and this Patek Philippe is that. Well—almost.

A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual 310.032

I say ‘almost’ not because of anything the Patek Philippe has done wrong—more because of what this, the A. Lange & Söhne Langematik Perpetual, does right. But first, let’s weed out the casual collectors by listing all the reasons why you wouldn’t want one of these at all.

First and foremost, it’s not Swiss. At this point—and despite centuries of history suggesting otherwise—it seems that Switzerland is the only place a credible watch can be made. Emerging as a cottage industry to make parts for French and British watches as local skill became too expensive, the Swiss—after a few shaky decades—built a reputation for producing a high class of watchmaking, and the nation hasn’t looked back since.

So, to choose a German watch would be almost unspeakable, and that’s what this A. Lange & Söhne—if the name doesn’t give it away already—is. And, although it can be purchased for the same price bracket as the 5146/1R, it has an RRP a fair amount higher, its residuals lacking the sheer solidity of its Swiss counterpart. Last of all—and probably worst of all—it’s just not a Patek Philippe.

These are three solid reasons why the A. Lange & Söhne shouldn’t get a look in over the Patek Philippe, but if you’re still here, then let’s continue and discuss some of the reasons why you should consider it.

First and foremost, where the Patek Philippe is an annual calendar, the Langematik Perpetual—if the name doesn’t give it away again—is a full perpetual calendar. Set it once, keep it wound, and it won’t need adjusting until 2100, the next skipped leap year. Granted, an older 5146—as it’s been around for so long—can be found cheaper than the Langematik Perpetual, but comparing apples to apples and an extra £10–15,000 is needed to enter the Patek Philippe perpetual calendar club.

The A. Lange & Söhne calibre L922.1 goes about its duties in a slightly different—but equally well-finished—way to the Patek Philippe 324: it has a regulated balance rather than free sprung; a micro rotor instead of a full-size one; German silver versus traditional rhodium-plated brass and nickel silver¬. This gives it a clear German identity to distinguish it from its Swiss cousins, with embellishments like the swan-neck regulator and engraved balance cock the cherry on the cake.

Looks are subjective of course, and both watches are as well-appointed as each other, but there’s no denying the smugness that comes with the little sub-sub-dial at three o’clock on the A. Lange & Söhne that serves to remind that this is a watch that has every date mechanically memorised for the next 80 years.

Some might call the Patek Philippe overly reserved; others might call the A. Lange & Söhne needlessly severe, and both sides will undoubtedly be as entrenched as the other in their opinions; this is, after all, the very sharpest end of the market where the smallest differences mean a lot, where nothing can succumb to compromise. The Patek Philippe to many may seem like the obvious, default choice, but as this Langematik Perpetual proves, it has proper, solid competition, that—in this particular field of battle—could almost be considered a bargain.

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