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Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC vs Patek 5204: the clash

Date: Apr 01, 2013,05:56 AM -  (view entire thread)

The recent presentation of the Lange Sohne 1815 Rattrapante PC gives me the opportunity to make a syde-by-side comparison with his Patek alter-ego, the 5204. If Patek remains the most prestigious brand, Lange, since the unveiling of its first contemporary collection in 1994, has found its place at the top of the horological pyramid. This is why Patek and Lange are considered, rightly, as two of the brands that best symbolize the excellence of Haute Horlogerie. They are often compared but almost everything differentiates them: country of origin, history, style, aesthetic, architecture of the movements, complications, production figures. It is impossible to be confused with a Patek or a Lange. This comparison will show one more time and immediately that each watch is profoundly affected by the style of each Manufacture. This is what we expect from brands of this high-end level: an unique, strong commitment, a true belief that the principles which are applied are the best.

The 1815 Rattrapante PC  was unveiled at the SIHH 2013, just a few months after the 5204 which was presented during the Basel Fair in 2012. They therefore focus on the know-how of both Manufactures around complications they perfectly master: the split-seconds chronograph and the perpetual calendar. I propose you to compare them around several topics that will highlight the clear differences between them.

The two stars:

Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC:

 Patek 5204:

A) The place in the brands collections

The 5204 is not the  first Patek split-seconds chronograph PC , replacing the controversial 5004: this is the magic Patek, despite its reliability problems, the 5004 remained a fascinating watch. The 5204 has a dual mission: an official one which is to replace its predecessor by using this time the in-house chronograph movement, the other less blameless which has the goal to get rid of the reliability problems of the 5004. Aesthetically speaking, the 5204 has a clear family resemblance with the 5270 chronograph PC, at least if we look at the dial lay-out since the case of the 5270 is much more daring with its prominent lugs. In a few words, with the Patek 5204, we feel to be in a very known territory.

The 1815 Rattrapante PC is however more singular in the Lange collection: this is the first time that Lange tackles such a group of complications even if they have been previously separately developed (Datograph Perpetual - Double Split ).  Never an 1815 has been as complicated since the previous 1815 were housing a max of two additional complications (day  and number of the week for the Kalendarwoche) and more generally a single one: power reserve, moon phase. The 1815 Rattrapante PC is also the first Lange that displays the date ... without the big date (like the Grande Complication which has been presented at the same time). This  singularity comes from the desire to organize differently the dial compared to the Datograph Perpetual.

Winner:  the Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC for its singularity in the Lange collection

B) Case and comfort on the wrist

The style differences can be felt very quickly. The 5204 is a bit more contained than the 1815 Rattrapante PC with a diameter of 40mm while the Lange has a 41,9mm diameter. However, the thicknesses are similar: 14.19 mm for the Patek, 14.7 mm for the Lange. The Lange case height is a bit slimmer but at the end their ratios diameter / thickness are close even if the Lange seems to be a bit more slender.

The 5204 is even smaller than the 5270 (1mm less) and especially its lugs are less prominent which makes it more comfortable to wear than its Patek cousin, yet less complicated.

The 1815 Rattrapante PC  is a heavier watch and we feel it. Lange does not skimp in the use of precious materials and the weight of the movement accentuates this feeling. Undoubtedly, the 5204 is  easier to wear on a daily basis and more comfortable. The 1815 Rattrapante PC requires a good positioning on the wrist to enjoy it.

Please note that  so far, the 5204 is available in platinum while the 1815 Rattrapante PC can be purchased in platinum and in rose gold.

Winner : Patek 5204 for the comfort of its case

C) Dial

I find myself in a very familiar territory since  the principles of 5270 have been preserved with the 5204. To make the sub-dials clearer and more readable, four data are displayed through windows: the days and months in a traditional way, the leap year and day/night inside very discreet round openings in the lower part of the dial. The advantage is that each sub-dial is occupied by a single hand. The date at 6 o'clock is very readable:  we don't forget that the date is the calendar information which is the most important to read.

The lay-out  of the 1815 Rattrapante PC dial is less familiar in a  Lange context: as stated before, this is the first time that the big date system is abandoned. I regularly blamed that the  Datograph Perpetual sub-dials were a bit too busy and too cluttered. Here they are more harmonious, more readable but on the other hand, the date is obviously more difficult to read with a hand than with a large double-window display. The presence of two hands in the sub-dials does not simplify the task either. The whole remains very accessible even if the Patek 5204 seems to me more convincing on this point. But the colors code of the Lange  hands is a true added-value: they clearly separate the  displays related to the Chronograph (blue hands) from the other data. You can't be confused with them.

Winner : draw, the Patek 5204 has an optimized dial lay-out  and is more readable, but I appreciate the colors code of the Lange hands.

D) Secondary complications

Both watches offer the same main complications, however they do not have the same secondary complications. The 5204 has a very useful day / night indicator in a window which greatly facilitates the  time setting  and avoids any accident related to the use of quick-set pushers outside the right time range. The 1815 Rattrapante PC  doesn't have  a 24-hour display. However it features a power reserve indicator which is welcome in the context of a handwind watch with perpetual calendar to avoid an unexpected stop if the daily winding process was forgotten.

Winner : draw, each additional complication is useful. Note that the two watches have a permanent second hand which is a very good point.

E) At the use

The great strength of the handwind Lange movements  is the pleasure they bring  when we use them on a daily basis: winding, activation of the pushers, perfection is close and with the  1815 Rattrapante PC, this is no exception to the rule! The 5204 has nothing wrong either and even take the lead thanks to its efficient way to activate the split-second hand: the button integrated into the crown is much more convenient than the pusher at 10 hours of the Lange ... this reproach was already made with the Double-Split.

Winner : 5204 Patek for its split-second pusher integrated into the crown

F) Performances of the movements

The movement of the Patek 5204, the CHR 29-535 PS Q takes advantage of all the improvements brought by the in-house chronograph movement if we compare it with the former  New Lemania base. The 4hz frequency of the 65 hours power reserve make it more efficient than the L101.1 penalized by its shorter power reserve (42 hours with a  frequency of 3 Hz). With its power reserve that exceeds 60 hours, the Patek 5204 can be left during the weekend and still working on Monday morning  which is not the case of the Lange.

Thanks to the use of the in-house chronograph movement, Patek  corrects an issue which was a kind of technical gap or delay when compared with Lange: the minute counter is now instantaneous which has always been the case with Lange since the unveiling of the Datograph in 1999.

Winner : Patek 5204 for the longer power reserve despite its higher frequency, an important point in the context of a PC watch.

The CHR 29-535 PS movement Patek Q:


Lange L101.1 movement:

G) Movements lay-out

Unquestionably, Patek and Lange had the will their most successful and impressive movements for these watches which can be perceived as a kind of standard-bearer for their respective Manufactures.

The base of the Patek 5204 is the in-house chronograph movement on which the QP module is added. The integration of the split-seconds mechanism was particularly made with a lot of care with the isolator for the split-seconds lever and the mechanism for reducing the offset between the split-seconds and chronograph hands. The objective of the isolator is to uncouple the split-seconds wheel from the chronograph wheel once the split-seconds hands is stopped. Since there isn't any contact anymore between the split-seconds lever and its heart cam, the amplitude of the balance is not influenced when the split-seconds wheel is stopped. The isolator is thinner than in the 5004 because it is part of the split-seconds column wheel cap. It was a wheel spring mounted on the split-seconds wheel with the 5004. Moreover, the isolator moves back and forth this time.

The mechanism for reducing the offset between the hands has the objective to reduce the very small gap that may exist between the two hands due to the behaviour of the ruby roller. It is the reason why Patek redefined the alignment of the split-seconds hand by using the contact surfaces of the split-seconds lever to avoid the influence of the movable ruby roller.

Aesthetically speaking, the CHR 29-535 PS Q is very close to the CH 29-535 PS Q of the 5270: only at the end the addition of the split-seconds mechanism differentiate them. This mechanism enhances the beauty of the movement by giving more depth and especially by breaking the bridges curves I found a bit lazy on the original movement. I find it so much more appealing in this context.

Lange has chosen a new path for our greatest pleasure: the L101.1 movement has a new architecture and it doesn't look like neither the Double Split movement nor the  Datograph Perpetual one even if, of course, it shares the stylistic and technical approaches which give it an indisputable "Lange" signature.

It clearly marks a new direction: indeed, while the chronograph movements of the Saxonian Manufacture are relatively thick due to their architecture, a special effort was undertaken to reduce the thickness.  Parts like levers were refined compared to a traditional Lange chronograph movement. Thinner, they are also slightly wider. The result of this change is quite successful because the movement has a height (9.1 mm) similar to that of Patek movement (8.7 mm). I remind you that the movement of the Double-Split (a split-seconds and split-minutes chronograph without the PC complication) has a 9.45 mm height what gives the proof of  the performance of the movement of the 1815 Rattrapante PC.

It is interesting to note that despite similar dimensions, the Lange movement is made of 631 components against 496 for the Patek movement, a sort of constant between the two brands, Patek favoring integration while Lange did not hesitate to add components to get a perfect behaviour. We have here two opposite ways to design movements.

You will  also note the position of the column wheel, different from the Double Split, the column wheel of the chronograph is located between the pushers. Even if due to the wider parts, it loses a bit its  "mechanical lace design", the  L101.1 movement remains spectacular and a real feast for the eyes.

Winner : draw, the Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC seduces by the spectacular design of its movement and by its new architecture. The only downside is that the regulating organ becomes almost invisible even if we can catch a brief glimpse of it beneath the flyback mechanism. The clever design of the Patek 5204 movement has to be highlighted and it balances the comparison.

H) Finishings of the movement

Again, we are facing two different paths: one rather quiet, the other more demonstrative. I must admit that Lange still manages to seduce me more by its style particularly controlled but at the same time more "luxuriant". At no time, despite the blued screws, the golden chatons, I feel a sense of excess. In addition, I appreciate the perfection of the continuity of the Glashütte ribbing despite the clear separation of the bridges and the beauty of its architecture. The Patek movement is obviously also very nice to observe but I almost prefer the charm of the previous one based on the New Lemania caliber. I think Patek has eased the finishing tasks thanks to clever shapes of various elements: they are eye-catching but not so difficult to decorate.

Winner : the Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC movement  is more demonstrative without falling into an excessive style

I) Overall aesthetics and finishings

Once again, two opposite paths were chosen. Patek has adopted a resolutely contemporary style. It can be felt in the lay-out of the dial, in the font which is used. Lange is much more classic and inspired by the traditional pocket watches. If the dial of the Patek is particularly well designed, there are some details that I regret however: the size of the index, for example. They are very thick and very visible, they break some refinements of the watch due to their length differences between the upper part and the lower part of the dial. The shape of the hands is not very elegant in my opinion. I think the general aesthetics of the 1815 Rattrapante PC are more consistent and above all it gives off a better perceived quality. In this respect, the observation of the moon phases display  is the best proof. The sky is bright, shining on the Lange and much more austere and sad on the Patek. Alpha hands of Lange are ideal and the beauty of the dial is enhanced by the quality of the finishings.

Winner : Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC for its better perceived quality. ​​Some choices made by Patek are a bit disappointing.

Conclusion: draw? No, a clash between two opposite styles.

If I try to quickly sum up the overall picture, I get the following score: 3 wins for Patek, 3 wins for Lange  and three draws. So there isn't any clear winner?
It is more complicated than this pure arithmetic. Ultimately, the purpose of this confrontation was not to say that one is better than the other. It had, however, the objective is to demonstrate that in front of similar complications, Patek and Lange would choose different options. The strengths of the Patek 5204 are its contemporary style, its perfect behavious on a daily use while the Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC recreates the elegance of the high-end pocket watches.

Personally, I prefer the Lange 1815 Rattrapante PC because I find it more spectacular and my heart is more seduced by the aesthetical choices made by the Saxonian Manufaxcture. The Patek 5204 attracted me also but for other reasons: the clever design of the movement and the  dial lay-out for example. But the most important behind this analysis is to note that each of these watches worthy of the Manufactures they embody and at the end, their differences only reinforce their respective strengths.

Big thanks to the Patek and Lange teams.

This message has been edited by foversta on 2013-04-01 06:04:35
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