I haven’t wanted a watch this badly in a long time. Sure, there are grails and dream watches out there that might get my blood pumping harder, but no watch that is both so appealing and so close to possible reach as the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin 37mm. Beyond my personal affinity, this new entry-level watch from Lange has a lot going for it, from design to finishing to market positioning. Buckle up, we’re going deep on this one..The best place to start? The beginning – duh. You’ve probably heard this story before, so I’ll keep it brief. After the Berlin Wall fell, a lange sohne saxonia thin was almost immediately resurrected and work on the first collection of watches began. In 1994, those watches were unveiled, and the initial collection included four pieces: the Lange 1, the Cabaret, the Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite,” and, of course, the Saxonia. The first Saxonia was a 34mm watch with central hour and minute hands, a small seconds at six o’clock, and a big date at 12 o’clock. The brand’s name was broken up into two sections, spanning the entire dial width.
You can see elements of the current collection in this first watch, and certain traits like the slim hands, the simple case shape, and the restrained dials have carried through over the years. Now’s probably a good time to remind you though that, technically, the Datograph is a part of the Saxonia family as well. In addition to the Datograph, we’ve gotten a ton of different complications under the Saxonia banner, including a dual-time, an annual calendar, a perpetual calendar, and even a perpetual calendar chronograph with tourbillon. Yeah, not every Saxonia is simple.
But, I’m going to pivot back in that direction. The core of the Saxonia collection is the time-only watches, which come in three flavors – manually-wound, automatic, and ultra-thin. While the first two are essentially no-nonsense dress watches for a general audience, the ultra-thin versions are more purists’ watches. The Saxonia Thin is an incredibly restrained two-hand watch that is all about the little touches. If you look too quickly you could miss everything interesting about it entirely. Previously this watch was only available in 40mm, but earlier this year the watch at hand was released, adding an even more understated 37mm option to the collection in both white and pink gold, and with a very appealing $14,800 price too.
The a lange sohne saxonia thin 37mm is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an ultra-thin, two-handed dress watch in the Saxonia style with a new, smaller 37mm case diameter. I told you this watch was simple. The case is white gold (also available in pink gold) with brushed sides and a polished bezel and lugs, and it comes in at just 5.9mm thick. That’s just a little thicker than three U.S. quarters. The lugs are short and curved, which makes the watch feel even slimmer than it already is.
The dial is solid silver with a soft grained finish and the markers and hands are bright rhodium-plated gold. Some might call the dial sparse, but you’re going to find me using the word “restrained” quite a bit here. The only text on the dial is an arched signature that spans from 10 o’clock to two o’clock and a tiny “Made In Germany” below the marker at six. The printing is crisp and inky black, with really sharp edges and fine detail. I’d love it if we could keep the “Made in Germany” on the back, cleaning up the bottom a little bit, but it’s definitely not enough to cause me any long-term anxiety.
And then we’ve got the hands and markers. The hands are the classic Saxonia hands, which could be described as sword-shaped, with a short, slim base and a wide start to the “blade” portion of the hands. The markers are relatively tall, very slim bars with a double-bar at 12 o’clock. There’s no minutes track or extra stuff inside or outside of them to muck things up. The tip of the minute hand reaches precisely to the outer edge of the markers, while the hour hand sits gracefully just inside the markers altogether. Getting these relationships right is always important, but especially with such a stripped down design like this.
Now we’re getting to the heart of what makes this watch so successful for me. Modernist architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe very famously said “Less is more,” but he also said “I don’t want to be interesting. I want to be good.” This watch does away with the flourishes of modern watchmaking that are typically considered interesting and instead focuses on doing the core things really well. Until you turn it around, that is.
The movement inside the a lange sohne Saxonia Thin 37mm is both good and extremely interesting. It’s the in-house caliber L093.1, the same basic movement that’s been used to power the Saxonia Thin since its inception. It’s a manually-wound movement made of German silver with all the usual Lange trappings found in the more expensive movements, such as a trio of gold chatons, deep striping on the three-quarter plate, and a hand-engraved balance cock. The movement is comprised of 167 total components and has a 72-hour power reserve when fully wound.
If we’re going to speak of the obvious and the non-obvious, the balance cock and chatons definitely fall into the first category. But less glaring is the way Lange has finished the less ostentatious components. The edges of the three-quarter plate show a thin bevel that’s been mirror-polished, the wheels have been brushed and snailed, and even the click for the winding mechanism looks as precisely machined and finished as is possible. As the least expensive watch in Lange’s collection, I half expected to find some little corner that had been cut, but I really couldn’t find any – especially not where the movement was concerned.
For some men, 37mm might sound small by today’s standards. And, sure, it is. Most brands start their men’s offerings around 38mm, with the average size being more in the 40mm to 42mm range. There’s nothing wrong with those sizes, but people who dismiss 37mm are really missing out.
When I first strapped on the Saxonia Thin 37mm, I knew almost immediately I was going to enjoy this one. Lange’s black alligator strap (a shorter strap, by request) matches the thinness of the watch and the white gold buckle is comfortable underneath. Up top though, the short, curved lugs allow the case to sit low on the wrist, emphasizing the slim profile. The watch can easily disappear under a shirt or jacket cuff, and wears particularly well with something like a sweater that tends to be a little more snug around the wrist area. The crown is on the smaller side, but still big enough that you can set or wind the watch while it’s on the wrist with minimal fuss.
That said, despite this obviously being a dress watch by traditional standards, I didn’t limit its wear to shirt-and-tie days. Because the model I wore was white gold, it could go incognito as a semi-casual steel watch when I wanted it to. During my testing period I traveled to a friend’s wedding and took just this watch with me for the weekend away. It looked elegant on the big night with a suit and equally at home the next morning with a t shirt over brunch. It surprised me how well the Saxonia adapted to whatever I wanted to wear – I really expected this to be a watch for dressing up, but it’s much more of a daily-wearer than that.
That said, it’s not for everyone. I’m not the kind of person who wants someone across the room to instantly know what’s on my wrist, and this watch fits that bill perfectly. However, I know that’s not how everyone rolls and if you’re looking to be called out (even by die-hard watch guys) or want lots of attention over what you’re sporting, look elsewhere.
Then there’s the question of boredom. We call these reviews A Week On The Wrist, and usually they involve wearing the watch for, you guessed it, a week. But I had concerns with this watch that were going to take a little longer to assuage. I thought there was the possibility that I’d get bored with it. So, I took one for the team, and, out of the generosity of my heart, asked Lange if I could hold on to it for a bit longer. In all, I wore the watch for about 16 or so days, nonstop. I didn’t let myself wear anything else. And the results surprised me. Instead of getting bored with this watch, I found myself loving it even more. I found myself taking it off my wrist to gaze at the movement. I found myself pulling out a loupe to admire the geometry of the markers.
It’s caveat time again. While I found myself anything but bored by the new entry-level Lange, let’s just say “results may vary.” I’m a guy who dresses almost exclusively in blue, grey, and white, who collects modernist furniture, and whose favorite artists are the likes of Rothko and Serra. I’m sort of predisposed to like this sort of thing. If you’re more of a Chippendale and Renoir kind of person, there’s a good chance this could leave you flat.
One of the key things about the Saxonia Thin 37mm is that at $14,800 it is now the most affordable watch in A. Lange & Söhne’s line-up. So, if you’re looking to buy a simple time-only watch from one of the top manufactures, it’s a seriously formidable option. But how does it stack up against the other giants’ entry-level pieces? You’re in luck – I’ve got them right here.
I’ll go ahead and start with Patek Philippe, to get the most obvious comparison out of the way. The least expensive men’s watch from Patek is the ref. 5119J, a 36mm yellow gold Calatrava. The watch has a white lacquer dial with Roman numerals, black hands, a hobnail bezel, and a sub-seconds register at six o’clock. It’s very, very old-school and nails the early 1960s dress watch look. It’ll set you back $19,730, and if you want the white gold version it’s a tad more at $21,540
To me, this is an easy decision. I don’t love the hobnail bezel and small Roman numerals on the ref. 5119, which give the watch a completely different feel to the Saxonia. To me, the entry-level Calatrava that stacks up against the Saxonia is the ref. 5196G, which is a 37mm manually-wound model in white gold with a more minimal dial and case. But that model is priced at $22,000, making this a totally different kind of comparison.
Then there are Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet, arguably the other two top Swiss brands. For Vacheron, there’s a very direct competitor in the Patrimony ref. 81180 in white gold with the silver dial. It’s bigger at 40mm, but it is also a sleek two-hander with minimal text on the dial and restrained markers. It’s priced at $18,000, so about 20% more than the Saxonia. If you’re flexible on price, want a slightly more ornate dial, and a slightly less ornately-decorated movement, the Patrimony is a real competitor.
Audemars Piguet, despite its watchmaking chops and history of making super elegant dress watches, doesn’t really make something like the Saxonia right now. The closest model in the collection is a Jules Audemars Self-Winding 39mm, which is priced at $22,700 and is a larger automatic watch with much softer styling. It’s a great watch, just (again) something different from the Saxonia entirely.
But what about the most obvious comparison of all, the 40mm Saxonia Thin. Of course there’s the almost $10,000 price difference to contend with (that watch retails for $24,500 in both white and pink gold), but I’ll let you make that judgement for yourself. What stands out to me is how much better this watch works in 37mm, price aside. The movement fills out the case, rather than sitting with a hefty spacer and the dial styling works much better on a smaller canvas. The 40mm does start to veer towards austerity, even for a lover of all things minimal like myself.
There is nothing entry-level about the Saxonia Thin 37mm. Sure, it’s the least expensive watch in a catalog of extremely high-end modern timepieces, but the two are not the same thing at all. While pared down in looks and number of functions, the new Saxonia Thin is every bit a full-fledged A. Lange & Söhne watch from A to Z. The dial is beautiful and does an excellent job executing on the simple functionality. The case is comfortable, moderately sized, and in proportion to the dial and movement. And then there’s the movement, which is, without a doubt, the absolute best modern movement that you can obtain for under $15,000, no question about it.
I would never suggest that $14,800 isn’t objectively still a lot of money (another reason this can’t possibly be considered a true “entry-level” watch), but I really feel that with the Saxonia Thin 37mm, that price feels like a steal. There have been too many price hikes over the last few years and this is one of the few brand new watches that I would describe today as presenting outstanding value for money, especially in this segment of the market.
So, while the Saxonia Thin 37mm might not be the most interesting watch A. Lange & Söhne makes, I can say one thing for sure: It is a damn good one.