Excellent German finishing and quality
Ergonomic features like the well-shaped crown
May be pricey for a three handed watch
Today, we look at the Lang and Heyne Johann. This is one of Marco Lang’s earlier works with a simple three handed movement. The Johann uses Caliber I, which is the first caliber created by this brand. The Johann is available in six variants, and the one we had our extended hands-on session and which we review here is the model in white gold with a white enamel dial with Roman numerals.
Lang & Heyne is an independent watchmaker based in Dresden, Germany. It was founded in 2001 by Marco Lang and Mirko Heyne but the latter left for Nomos early in the history of the brand. Currently, Lang & Heyne produce about 50 watches per year and 8 watchmakers are employed to create these pieces. We covered in detail their latest offering, the Georg. See here for some of the brand’s history and our analytical review of the Georg.
Lang & Heyne Johann
The Johann is named after King Johann, who was a very cultured, highly educated and artistically gifted monarch. He not only translated Dante’s “Divine Comedy” into German, but also created several critically acclaimed works. He examined and renewed numerous aristocratic rules and led Saxony’s economy into a blooming period of economic development. He ruled from 1854 to 1873, and was succeeded by perhaps the most famous of Saxon Kings, August the Strong.
As a result of this homage, the Lang & Heyne Johann retains the characteristics of elegance, and artistic beauty in its design.
The case, dial and hands
The Johann case is a classical round case in a three piece construction. The case is highly polished on all parts, and the front and rear bezels are very thin and almost non-existant. The case side is bombé. A rather elegant case.
The signature triple lug design is also carried on to the Johann case. This design is consistent throughout the entire Lang & Heyne lineup. In our review of the Georg, we also noted this feature. Marco tells us that the triple lugs were made in older watches to ensure the stability of the watch when worn on one’s wrist, due to the size of earlier watches. Today it is an artistic cue and tribute to those former times.
The crown of the Johann is in the form of yet another signature of Lang & Heyne: the onion shaped crown. This design does not only serve as an aesthetically pleasant component, it is also a practical feature. The crown can be pulled out easily, and has proved to be highly ergonomic, regardless of the owner having long or short fingernails. Adjusting the time is a breeze as there was a good amount of purchase afforded by the shape of the crown. The hands offer a smooth feel through the crown as there is adequate resistance, a testament that the movement is well constructed and nicely finished.
The 3 dimensional spherical shape of the onion crown also reflects the bombé round case nicely. And the shape of lugs also reflect this curved aesthetic, wrapping itself around the wrist for a comfortable fit. For a case measuring 43.5mm in diameter, the Johann wears small.
Six variants of the Johann are offered. The case comes in rose gold, white gold and platinum with a further option of two dial styles – a solid silver dial in black galvanic finish or a white enamel dial. The Johann is not offered in yellow gold, as Marco felt that it is will not be a popular choice.
The white enamel on the dial is of good quality, although Lang & Heyne does not state where the dial is manufactured. Described in their documentation as just white enamel, we are not sure, but from examining the dial, it looks like it is a traditional grand feu enamel. The dial is elegant and is a two piece construction with black enamel transfer printed Roman hour markers. As mentioned, there is an option to have the dial in solid silver which is galvanised black.
The hands on our white gold, enamel dial review sample is in steel and shaped like the shape. The hands are hand blued. In contrast, the platinum cased, enamel dial version has gold cathedral hands.
The literature provided by Lang & Heyne states that the Caliber I is an in house movement with a very high value-added content of approximately 95%. The only parts which are outsourced are the mainspring, hairspring and precious stones. We hear some sources (um, we politely decline to reveal who) who say that the Caliber I is a modified Unitas 6498. While this is not wholly true, we suspect there is some worth in that statement.
Marco tells us that the Unitas was indeed used as a reference for the construction of the Caliber I, but the movement is constructed in his premises. And we do suspect that the 6498 was used probably more than just as an academic reference, but perhaps some parts are borrowed. But we speculate, perhaps as we are persuaded that the plate design and the layout of the pinions are visually the same as the Unitas.
However, it is also important to note that as Lang & Heyne’s design expertise has developed over the series of later calibers, and we see that a signature of their own have emerged. The Georg is the prime example of this.
From the case back, the movement can be admired to be well finished. The main plates are frosted, as is common in the early German watches. This finishing is done through a process of silver grinding, where salt and silver is brushed on to the brass parts of the movement using a stiff-bristle brush. This finishing technique results in a surface that has a grain like fine leather, with a frosted finish which radiates quite beautifully.
The edges are finished with a nice bevelling. A hand engraved balance cock with a beautiful swan neck escapement is found with a diamond end-stone. This is a clever aesthetic choice, and a common indicator of what was known as Glashütte Quality 1A, the highest produced in former times, and made famous by the legendary A. Lange & Söhne, who till today marks their Pour le Mérite collection with this small gesture.
As the movement is manufactured in-house, all parts like shafts and screws are made on a lathe under microscope from raw materials. The wheels and pinions are also made by the turning machines, and finished with polished flanks. The arms of the wheels are cut and bevelled, and then matted and gold plated. The wheels on the gear train are solid gold, and given a shiny, double sun-ray finish.
All told, the finishing on the Johann is quite nice indeed, and performed to a high level. Marco tells us that the finishing on the Johann takes up to five times as long as the construction itself.
The Johann is the entry level model into Lang & Heyne’s world of independent German watchmaking. The watch is attractive. But the asking price is not low. Although we figure the amount is, by most accounts not totally unattractive. The Johann retail price for the white gold version reviewed is €24,890. The rose gold version slightly less expensive and the platinum is available at a premium. Interestingly, the solid silver black galvanic dial is priced the same as the enamel dial.
Aesthetically, the Johann appealed to our senses. The case, dial and hands on the face side of the watch is classic. The movement is well thought out, and nicely finished. We quite like the watch, especially the white gold, enamel dial version.
We do not offer a comparative landscape in this review, but perhaps a plea might be entered that for less than the asking retail of the Lang & Heyne Johann, one might also consider the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin which retails for €20,800, quite a tidy amount less for a watch which is usually held in higher regard. But of course, we note that the Saxonia Thin does not come with an enamel dial. We leave you to ponder.
Lang & Heyne Johann Specifications and price
Power reserve: 46h
Frequency: 18,000 bph
Water resistance: 3 bar
Price: €23,470, €24,890 and €30,550 for rose gold, white gold, and platinum respectively