Following our recent article on diving watches, we will now compare three classic watches with timeless designs and small seconds. Again, these all hail from well-known brands that have earned their stripes in the watch industry, though each comes with its own unique history. While the watches are quite similar, the question of which watch is the right one for you can be a difficult one to answer. In the end, it will most likely come down to personal preference.
A. Lange & Söhne 1815
Although the brand A. Lange & Söhne goes back to 1845, there is quite a gap in their watchmaking history. Shortly after their 100th anniversary, the company was expropriated in 1948. It wasn’t until 1990 that the company was re-established by the founder’s great-grandson, Walter Lange, with the help of other watch companies (mainly IWC Schaffhausen). A few years later, in 1994, they presented their first four new watch models, which included the iconic Lange 1 and a highly complicated tourbillon. The 1815 as we know it today came at a later point in time.
The Lange 1815 is a clean, classic-looking watch with an unmistakable A. Lange & Söhne design: clean sharp lines on the case, tapered lugs with a small bevel, a case that measures 38.5 mm across and 8.8 mm thick. This elegant watch from Glashütte features Arabic numerals, unlike the other watches in this comparison, which use baton-shaped hour markers. A minute track can be found on the outer edge of the dial. There is a small step downwards on the inside of the dial, and an additional step to the small seconds. This adds more depth and contrast to the dial.
Behind the sapphire glass case back, the hand-wound movement with a typical three-quarter plate is visible for your enjoyment. Make sure to notice the beautiful Glashütte stripes and hand engraving on the bridge that holds the balance wheel. The name of this in-house calibre is L051.1; it features a 55-hour power reserve when fully wound.
Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Small Seconds
Vacheron Constantin was founded nearly a full century before the other brands in this review. Back in 1755, Jean-Marc Constantin started his company as an independent watchmaker in Geneva. Over the years, the family business was taken over several times. As the company slowly expanded across borders, they realized they couldn’t keep things up without a partner. So, in 1819, François Constantin became an associate and the company continued on as Vacheron Constantin.
While this company does have the longest history, the Patrimony line didn’t see the light of day until the 21th century. This series was inspired by their models from the 1950s and ”circular perfection, a quest for essentials and harmonious proportions,” as they describe it themselves. Measuring 42 x 7.65 mm, the Patrimony Small Seconds is the largest, yet thinnest watch on this list. Long, yet subtle hour markers alternate with small second dots around the dial. Depth is added to the dial front with a stepped small seconds display.
Powered by an in-house 4400AS manual-wound movement, this watch has a power reserve of no less than 65 hours. Considering this movement carries the Geneva Seal, it should be no surprise that it’s very well finished. This seal guarantees a watch’s origin and quality of craftsmanship.
Patek Philippe Calatrava 5196
Patek Philippe introduced the first Calatrava model in 1932. This watch was heavily inspired by the minimalistic principles of the Bauhaus, which introduced a new approach to design by bringing craft and fine art together. This brought harmony to the ideas of form and function. This design approach made the Bauhaus famous and the style became one of the most influential movements in modern design, architecture, and art.
Patek Philippe has made few changes to the Calatrava line over the years. The 5196 was launched in 2004. Many consider this model to be the true successor of the very first Calatrava. The 5196 features a remarkably similar design and style if you compare them side-by-side, though the newer Calatrava 5196 is adapted to modern times. The original Calatrava model 96 measured only 31 mm in diameter, while the Calatrava 5196 is significantly larger with its 37-mm case. However, it is still modest and fits nicely with its 8-mm thickness. The dial features dauphin hands, applied hour markers and the the small seconds display has been minimized from the original model. As you’d expect from a timeless classic watch like this one, it’s powered by a manual-wound movement. The movement goes by the name 215PS and features a 44-hour power reserve. Due to a closed case back, the movement is unfortunately not visible.