In 1902, Heinrich Schäfer, from Vienna, paid 5,600 German Marks for the second-most complicated timepiece ever made under the A. Lange & Söhne name. The price at the time could have purchased a large house in the area so the piece had to be something unique to command such a price tag. In the strictest definition the watch is a grand complication. It contains a perpetual calendar, split seconds chronograph, and minute repeater but the 42500 is so much more than a grandly complicated timepiece. In recent years, it has become the life-work for watchmaker Jan Silva.
As a timepiece, the 42500 Grande Complication was almost lost to history. In 2001, a married couple brought the watch to A. Lange & Söhne’s headquarters in Glashütte and asked if it was worth repairing. They had received the pocket watch from a housekeeper who received it as a gift some fifty years prior. The case and dial of the watch appeared to be in good condition, and A. Lange & Söhne watchmaker Jan Silva immediately recognized the piece as something special. The rose gold case was designed in the Louis XV style and bore an engraving of the goddess Minerva.
Internally, the timepiece was a disaster. Silva recognized the movement as the 42500, a timepiece which had not been accounted for in some time and was the only timepiece of its kind in existence. Only the larger components of the movement were still identifiable, and Silva faced a monumental conundrum. Where there was normally an intertwined network of bridges, springs, and wheels, there was only an amorphous mass. Did he leave the pocket watch as-is to document the historical significance of the timepiece, or did he attempt to recreate the complex glory of the 42500?
Over the next five years, Silva and a team of four watchmakers dismantled and re-constructed the 42500, restoring it to the glory of the historic timepiece. Featuring 833 components housed in rose-gold, the Grande Complication contains a seven-part enamel dial. The Grande Complication has both petite and grande sonneries. The gong block is imprinted with the initials “JAP” for Jules Audemars and Edward Piguet, founders of Audemars Piguet. Audemars Piguet may have constructed more than just the gongs, as it was not uncommon for Swiss companies to produce entire raw movements at the time which were then finished to a particular watchmaker’s specifications in-house.
After manufacturing several components with little to no guidelines, the complete restoration was revealed at SIHH 2010 in Geneva for public display. The 42500 Grande Complication currently resides at the Mathematics and Physics Salon in Dresden, a museum dedicated to historical timepieces and scientific instruments.
Lange I (1994)