Over the last few years we’ve witnessed some very healthy consumer interest in mechanical timepieces — particularly, practical, stainless steel, vintage-inspired tool watches. This has been driven by changing lifestyle choices, the rise of more casual luxury streetwear, and the growth in millennial collectors. Although this has largely been in the more accessible entry-to-middle market luxury segment, and secondary markets, there is also growing demand for all-steel premium sports timepieces — most notably the very covetable Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref 5711 and Rolex Cosmograph Daytona — due to price point but largely rarity due to the companies limiting production. Although Gérald Genta-designed watches, vintage and new, will always be sought after by collectors, releases of steel versions of iconic pieces from premium brands have made them more accessible, particularly helping the Swiss during the downturn in the industry four years ago.
In 1972, Audemars Piguet introduced its groundbreaking Genta-designed Royal Oak with its grande tapisserie dial and octagonal bezel. It was the first of the genre-defining, all-steel premium sports watches that would inspire many more over the ensuing decades. Also designed by Genta, the equally iconic Nautilus Ref 5711 followed in 1976, and the Jorg Hysek-designed Vacheron Constantin 222 a year later. Appealing to a younger consumer lifestyle both on practicality and price, this new category of luxury timepieces was sporty yet elegant, and became the ultimate expression of independence, style and success.
It appears that history is on repeat as seen in the revisit to the genre with Chopard’s recent launch of its new Alpine Eagle, a modern interpretation of their iconic St Moritz from 1980, as well as Bell & Ross with its elegantly bold BR05.
With the “sporty-elegant” Odysseus, A Lange & Söhne has introduced not only a new family member to its premium collection but also its first in stainless steel. Although this marks a departure for a brand known for using only precious metals, familiar design cues such as oversized date windows, prominent subdials and rounded bezel profile, make it a likely sibling and just as exceptional in every detail.
The Odysseus is powered by a new tailor-made Calibre L155.1 Datomatic movement, which is beautifully hand-finished to the elaborate standards expected by the maison. At 32.9mm, the Calibre L155.1 fits snuggly in its 40.5mm stainless steel case, with the company guaranteeing a high-rate of accuracy from the newly designed balance operating at a frequency of 28800 semi-oscillations per hour, and regulated with four countersunk poising screws on the outside of the balance-wheel rim that reduce turbulence despite the higher frequency. Fully wound, the mainspring barrel offers a power reserve of 50 hours.
The brushed surfaces and chamfered edges of the sculptural case with its slightly cantilevered middle band are echoed in the lugs and links of the integrated stainless-steel bracelet. The three-dimensional, deep blue symmetrical dial features outsized day-of-week and date displays, white-gold hands and markers, and large seconds display. It is framed by a bevelled, silver flange ring with a printed minute scale. Their typical lancet-shaped hands have been made more prominent than in other watches. Designed for people with active lifestyles, the three-part case features a screw-down crown and screwed caseback so is ready to take a plunge with water-resistance to 120m. Tapered pushers for day and date adjustments are also specially sealed.
• The A Lange & Söhne Odysseus is priced online at €28,000 (approximately R454,000).