A. Lange & Söhne don’t always do things by the book. The year is 2019. The demand for steel luxury sports watches is at an all-time high. And along comes the brand’s brand new Odysseus model. The polarising design (with naysayers focusing on the thicc steel bracelet as a flaw) took the established trope of water resistant, blue-dialled steel watches with an integrated bracelet. But in typically Lange fashion, it added nigh-on incomparable levels of engineering. The push buttons alone, hidden inside the gently sloping crown guard and used to advance the sophisticated day and date wheels, mark out the Odysseus technical territory. At 2020’s online edition of the Watches & Wonders trade show, the Glashütte giants unveiled a new version of the Odysseus. sporting a sleek grey dial and rubber or leather strap. However, in a sleight of hand that Audemars Piguet fans may find familiar, the biggest shock was that the case wasn’t steel, but 18k white gold.
First things first. This edition is miles ahead of the steel Odysseus visually. Not that the older model is subpar by any stretch, but the stippled centre dial section, surrounded by concentric circles, tends to fall a bit flat when viewed from afar. The new smooth-matte grey, encompassed by radial guilloché, not only grants the watch a sharper, more aggressive look, but also increases the versatility with a certain dressiness — especially when paired with the leather strap. The contrast between white, steel and grey is still legible enough for practicality, whilst also allowing the red-highlighted ‘60’ at the top of the chapter ring to pop out more than on the blue dial.
You’re out of luck if you prefer metal, but the integrated rubber or leather straps look far more suited to the Odysseus than the steel bracelet. While the brushed finish and aggressive tapering had some appeal to me, the simplified geometry and darker contrasting straps don’t allow for many distractions from the masterpiece that is the dial.
In fact, the only distraction from the dial is the inevitable urge to flip the watch over and peer in at A. Lange & Söhne’s pride and joy — the caliber L.155.1 DATOMATIC movement. The skeletonised and platinum-adorned rotor weight allows you to take in the full majesty that is a Lange decorated movement. The warm lustre of German silver is enriched with Geneva stripes and perlage, whilst chamfered edges distinguish the layers against themselves. The hand-engraved balance bridge honours the importance of the watch’s beating heart, and speckles of colour from the heat-blued screws and light-red jewels add plenty of intrigue.
The specifications may not seem as impressive as the looks, with a healthy 50 hours of power reserve and a freely oscillating balance spring vibrating at the luxury-standard 4Hz, but the ingenuity behind the oversized date-and-day mechanism can be appreciated on both technical and practical fronts. The ease of being able to advance either day or date from the simple push of a button may seem like something every watch should have, but there is a reason why it takes the likes of A. Lange & Söhne’s engineering to get it working reliably. If you find yourself going one click too far, you can also decrement the displays by using the crown.
The elephant in the room is the fact that this watch, once intended for daily wear-and-tear, is now made of a precious metal. It seems dissonant that the practicality of the piece has been simultaneously increased with more versatile and resilient straps, yet decreased with white gold, unless you truly are carefree enough to take your gold watch swimming. The screw-down crown and sealed pusher system gives the watch 120m of water resistance, and that does seem phenomenal in comparison to Lange’s dressier options, considering they can struggle to reach 30m. However, while gold is very much in the spirit of the brand, it does not feel in the spirit of the watch.
Perhaps my perception of the Odysseus is skewed, and it is meant to sit in secure safes until worn for a weekly board meeting, but there is a firm part of me that is desperate to see an Odysseus in 20 years time — a watch scuffed, bruised, but ultimately enjoyed to its full potential. Were this new dial and strap variant to be made available in steel somewhere down the line, it would absolutely be a contender for the perfect luxury daily.
A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus in white gold pricing:
The A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus in white gold is AUD$62,000.