Extreme close-up! Exploring the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk with Mr. Macro @horomariobroZach Blass
For watch enthusiasts, it’s always a pleasure to get a closer look at our favourite watches – especially when the watch in question is the A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk. In his conversation with Mr. Macro himself, @horomariobro, Andrew gets a little more familiar with the Zeitwerk movement that essentially offers a digital watch in mechanical form. Within four masterful shots, @Horomariobro neatly lays out exactly what makes the digital display jump – and even digs into a hidden feature regarding the movement’s brake lever.
AM: What are we looking at here? I assume it is A. Lange & Söhne.
@Horomariobro: Yes! There are four quadrants to this video of my Zeitwerk. The Zeitwerk is a very iconic design that uses a digital display with a mechanical movement. The digital display numerals jump every single minute – and at every top of the hour, all the three digits jump together. In my shot I’m trying to show the mechanism in the movement, the remontoire, for the Zeitwerk is what makes the time jump.
AM: Very cool!
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@Horomariobro: The first picture on the upper left, that’s more of a high level view. I’m trying to show, “Okay, this whole thing is the remontoire here.” I’m trying to show, “Okay, look at number one area, number two area and number three area.” And then in the other three boxes, I’m kind of zooming in close to each of the numbered areas. If you look at number one you can see a ruby roller. It is a roller that’s turning around and makes a full circle once every 60 seconds. This is also controlling where the second hand moves on the dial.
Because the second hand moves 60 increments it will make a full circle in 60 seconds, so the jewel roller here does the same thing, and what you will see is, if you look closely, you will see a red jewel there. I don’t know if you can see it.
AM: Yeah, I can.
@Horomariobro: Each minute it engages with a palette, kind of like a fourth thing there, that’s when it starts to trigger the remontoire mechanism. It starts to trigger the release of the energy to jump the disk, so when you see it moving, moving, moving, and then all of a sudden the lever will just flip, that’s when …
AM: The minute flips.
@Horomariobro: And then on the right hand side, the last one is more like what they call the “air brake”. So it’s a braking system, because when the energy is released there’s quite an impact also being released. You will see something that will spin. That is to reduce the impact of the energy being released. I was told by ALS, when I visited the manufacturer, they told me if they don’t have this mechanism, the movement will break pretty quickly.
AM: A crucial component then. So it absorbs or reduces some of the shock?
@Horomariobro: Yeah. I think so.
AM: Incredible. Wow, so when you said that the Zeitwerk is your most miraculous piece, it’s this kind of detail?
@Horomariobro: Yeah, it’s just so complicated. This design is brilliant. The Zeitwerk will use this remontoire mechanism for accuracy of the watch, but Lange step it up to another level; it’s not only for accuracy, it only uses this behaviour to also jump the disk. Put simply, it’s trying to store energy for one minute, and then release to jump the minutes.
AM: Amazing! What is the power reserve of the Zeitwerk?
@Horomariobro: This one is 36 hours I think. Yeah, and this one I’m still also trying to make another video, a very cool video, but the problem is I need to find something that’s stable because I need to pull the crown and release the crown. I will also need to wind the crown too, but then, I don’t have a base, like a watch holder, for me to do it in a stable way, because when I wind the crown, the whole thing … the watch will move and then the video will move, so I had not been able to do a video, that shows what I would say is a hidden feature.
AM: Oh yeah?
@Horomariobro: So we have previously spoken about hacking seconds and brake levers right?
@Horomariobro: When you pull the crown, the brake lever would touch the balance wheel and stop it. But for the Zeitwerk, the brake lever has a hidden feature. Normally you just pull it and push it to engage or release the brake lever, but the Zeitwerk has a more intelligent mechanism. When the power runs down to the last hour or so, the brake lever will automatically lower itself … and it will touch the balance wheel and then stop it.
@Horomariobro: And then when you wind it, the brake lever would release and decouple with the balance wheel. The balance wheel would then start moving. So you don’t normally see that in most watches, because in most watches you would just … the power just keeps running down and then when the power is gone, then it will stop moving, but then the brake lever never moves, unless you pull the crown. For the Zeitwerk, you don’t need to pull the crown towards the end. When the power runs down, it will touch the balance wheel to stop it without you ever touching the crown now. And then when you wind it to give it more power, it would disengage and then let the balance wheel move.
AM: Why does it bother doing that?
@Horomariobro: What ALS told me is that the power reserve, when you fully wind the watch, it’s more than 36 hours. It’s probably like 38 or 39 hours, but then if they let the watch run more than 36 hours, the remontoire will not work.
AM: I see. There’s not enough energy for torque.
@Horomariobro: Exactly – it helps the remontoire work correctly, so they have to intervene; make sure it’s stopped at 36 hours.
AM: That’s fascinating, because I had a Big Pilot, and if you let the Big Pilot run down in the last day or two, the torque is so bad that the accuracy is terrible.
@Horomariobro: Yeah, so I think that’s part of the reason — the accuracy and also in order for the … so they told me if they don’t intervene, the remontoire may have issues. You may have to send it back for repair.
AM: I think you’re right, would make an interesting video some day – can’t wait to see it!