Review: A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin
It seems bonkers to use the term ‘entry level’ in the same sentence as ‘£13,100’, but yet, here it is: the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin is the brand’s entry level watch, and it costs a whopping £13,100. But is it worth it?
It’s very tricky to put a value on something like this. There are many people for whom no watch could ever be worth £13,100, and it’s understandable to think like that when a £10 Casio is able to keep time more accurately than any mechanical watch, while also providing water resistance, a chronograph, a calendar and any number of other features.
But this isn’t a Casio, and it really does cost £13,100. It’s also the cheapest watch A. Lange & Söhne makes after the smaller 35mm version, something that would probably make many Casio owners baulk. They’d at least want to know what you got for the money, and truth be told, the answer is: not much.
There’s a hand for the minutes and a hand for the hours, and … that’s it. It doesn’t wind itself, doesn’t have a date and doesn’t even display the seconds. Yes, it has a white gold case, but given that—at 37mm in diameter and 5.9mm thick—it’s a fairly skinny slice of the precious metal, the price seems a long way off being justified by its presence.
Of course, the sensible among you will immediately realise that the price of a product isn’t entirely dictated by the sum of its component parts—any Apple owner can tell you that—there’s overheads to consider too, the operation of a company to make the things in the first place, to promote them and sell them. And, when the annual units number in the thousands rather than the millions, each product is going to carry a larger share of the operational cost.
But even a nice watch from a big brand like Rolex costs half as much, and that’ll have all the features you could ever want and more—and still Rolex manages to find the budget to sponsor the Formula 1, the Masters and Wimbledon, and that can’t be cheap. I can’t remember the last time I saw A. Lange & Söhne sponsor anything.
So what is it then, if it’s not the weight in gold, not the marketing budget and not the list of features? Maybe it’ll help to look to the Saxonia’s big brother, the 1815 Chronograph, for answers.
We’ve gone a little off-piste here, but bear with me. This is A. Lange & Söhne’s chronograph offering, and its sits somewhere in the midrange of what the brand offers. Now, if you thought £13,100 was expensive, you’ll probably want to make sure you’re sitting down right about now, because this 1815 Chronograph costs a whopping £42,900—actually slightly more for this blue-and-silver-dialled boutique edition.
The funny thing is that, with the 1815 Chronograph, it’s easier to come to terms with the price—but only once you turn it over. What you’re presented with is the calibre L951.5, a nest of parts that instantly makes you want to pass the watch back for fear of dropping it and muddling them all up.
I don’t think there’s a person alive who would dispute that the calibre L951.5 is a phenomenal thing to look at. Each piece interacting with the next to provide full flyback chronograph functionality with a tactility that has to be felt to be believed. What do they call it? Sensory overload.
Then to discover that every part has been crafted by hand only goes to raise the bar even further, knowing that each line of grained texture, each immaculately polished bevel, each gold-filled engraved letter has been applied by incredibly skilled hands. That pattern carved into the balance cock hiding between the swirls of the swan neck regulator—that’s unique to each watch, scribed into the metal with nothing more than a sharp edge.
And, perhaps more impressively, this level of workmanship isn’t the pinnacle for A. Lange & Söhne, it’s the baseline. Every part, even the ones you can’t see, are made to this same standard. This is quite obviously not the work of a moment—more the work of a lifetime in the development of the skillset required to achieve it. When you want to be the best, you have to pay for the best to make it for you.
And that’s equally so with the Saxonia Thin. It may be simpler than the 1815 Chronograph, but it is no less beautifully made. This is visible in the shared architecture of the calibre L093.1, the refinement visible on every part even at high magnification. Many manufacturers may treat their cheaper watches as lesser watches, but that’s far from the truth in the case of A. Lange & Söhne—every watch gets the same level of workmanship all the way through to completion.
Nothing—except inflation—will ever stop £13,100 being a lot of money for a watch. But to think of this in terms of value, the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin demands a lot for its asking price. You don’t pay for sponsorship or celebrity endorsement, you pay to keep a brand that makes some of the most exquisite watches in the world continuing the skills and traditions to do so for another generation.
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