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The heterobitopic ligands LAB4 and LAB5 have been designed and synthesised with the ultimate aim of self-assembling dual-function lanthanide complexes containing either a magnetic and a luminescent probe or two luminescent probes emitting at different wavelengths. They react with lanthanide ions to form complexes of composition [Ln2(LABX )3]6+ of which three (X = 4; Ln = Pr, Nd, Sm) have been isolated and characterised by means of X-ray diffraction. The unit cells contain triple-stranded helicates in which the three ligand strands are wrapped tightly around the two lanthanide ions. In acetonitrile solution the ligands form not only homobimetallic, but also heterobimetallic complexes of composition [Ln1Ln2(LABX )3]6+ when reacted with a pair of different lanthanide ions. The yield of heterobimetallic complexes is analyzed in terms of both the difference in ionic radii of the lanthanide ions and of the inherent tendency of the ligands to form high percentages of head-head-head (HHH) helicates in which all three ligand strands are oriented in the same direction with respect to the Ln–Ln vector. The latter is very sensitive to slight modifications of the tridentate coordinating units.