Below, background: page showing drawing from Lange's 1886 patent for jumping chronograph indication mechanism, "A. Lange & Sohne", Reinhold Meis
In thinking about the Datograph's place in the lineup of the barely 8-year-old contemporary version of A. Lange und Sohne, I believe this watch reveals a lot about the firm's commitment to its particular design aesthetics. This is the largest watch in a compact line of round watches, ranging from smallest, the 34mm diameter Saxonia, like stairsteps through the 1815 (36mm), Langematic (37mm) and the signature Lange 1 (38.5mm). The Datograph, at 39mm diameter, gives me the sense that the designers were reluctant to push the size of their watches any higher, relenting only to accomodate the aesthetic requirements of the 12.5mm thick case. Lange does not offer any truly small watches, and if they were inclined to sell large ones, this would certainly be the ideal candidate. So, the Datograph is a bit chunky (145 grams with standard strap and buckle), but really pretty compact considering all that is squeezed onto the dial, and into the interior.
Also from a design viewpoint, I note that there is only one case and dial combination available, platinum and black. I reason thusly: The hour, minute and large seconds hands are intended to be readable in dark and low-light conditions, so are made of luminous-filled (hour & minute only) white gold , which suggests that for best contrast the dial itself should be black. The 2 subdials are of silver color, and their secondary hands of blued steel. and all printed markings are either white on black or black on white. As one should certainly expect in a watch of this magnitude, all of this is executed very cleanly and precisely, and even my rather far-sighted eyes find this a most readable chronograph.
The Datograph is now barely 3 years since its presentation at the Basel fair in 1999, so I have not been able to track down very many reviews. However, one I did find is Peter Chong's tremendous introduction to the Datograph from just a few months following the fair. Also, DannyNY has posted reproductions of some of the original Datograph sales literature.
Click the pictures for even larger!
The dial is so unadorned that I thought I should try to show the concentrically-engraved silver subdials, and their blued hands:
As gorgeous as the rest of the watch is, it would be hard not to let this movement steal the show. Measuring 30mm diameter by 7.5mm thickness, comprising 390 parts, the L951.1 is a contemporary column-wheel chronograph incorporating flyback capability and virtually instantaneous jumping of the minutes register. The action of the activating buttons is soft and silky, with just enough "click" to confirm that one's request has been fulfilled. It is handwound and runs at a traditional 18kbph (which I especially love) with a reserve of approximately 36 hours, and incorporates the Lange signature large date, screwed balance with overcoil hairspring and engraved balance cock with swan's-neck adjuster. Virtually the entire chronograph mechanism is not just visible, but sculpturally highlighted through the back crystal. This is one watch wherein all that expensive and marvelous mechanical engineering and machinging is easy to appreciate. Whether it is the interplay of the levers around the column wheel, the engagement and dis-engagement of the center seconds wheel, or the little operetta leading up to (and through) the jumping minutes-hand, both sides of this watch are worth the attention! And just as Lange has designed the obverse to enhance readability and sobor functionality, the reverse is a gorgeous, multi-leveled riot of German Silver, stainless and blued steel, deep red rubies and gold chatons, engraving and wheels; hence three views: