WITH A PROVERBIAL PHOENIX-LIKE RISE, LUXURY WATCHMAKER A. LANGE & SÖHNE’S STORY OF REDEMPTION IS A LIVING COLLUSION OF HISTORY AND HOROLOGY
LUXURY HOROLOGIST A LANGE & SOHNE REDEFINES THE SIMPLE AESTHETIC
History is always partial to victors; leaving those on the losing side to carve out their own narratives of redemption and resurrection, much like in a Martin Scorsese movie. The German city of Dresden, almost all destroyed during World War II is a fine example. But the city has proudly preserved its battle scars and blackened buildings, expropriating catastrophe as cultural reference. Mirroring the grit of this great city is German watchmaking brand A. Lange & Söhne. No wonder the brand chose to open their first boutique in Dresden in 2007. But that was the second coming.
For the back story, rewind to Ferdinand Adolph Lange, a Dresden watchmaker, who established his watch manufactory in 1845, making precious pocket watches (considered a highly coveted collectible to this day). But, the company, much like the city was appropriated after World War II, and nearly fell into oblivion. It was only in 1990, following German reunification, that Walter Lange, Ferdinand A Lange’s great-grandson mustered up the courage to relaunch the brand.
But he chose to blaze his own trail and despite all the prominent watch makers being based in Switzerland, Walter Lange decided to manufacturer in its home of Glashütte, to commemorate his ancestors. He named the new company A. Lange & Söhne (meaning sons) and, together, with a group of watchmakers, began to produce fine timepieces introducing their first range just four years later. Today, in just over 22 years, Lange crafts a few thousand wristwatches only in gold or platinum a year, but their lavishly decorated proprietary movements, almost entirely assembled by hand, ensure their position among the watchmaking greats.
In order to compete with the historic brands of Switzerland in such a small time frame, the brand has focused a great deal on producing complicated timepieces. One of the biggest assets Walter Lange had was that he had inherited his great-grandfather’s notebook— A virtual roadmap— that contained the drawings for a number of his inventions and never-produced ideas as well. Perhaps it was this great partnership between the book’s traditional craftsmanship and technical advancement and design that has produced the ripples in haute horology.
Deeply attached to their German heritage, the brand also took another detour
Producing fine men’s watches is what keeps us ticking in the morning and helps us sleep at night. We do produce women’s watches but they are not our target group.We are a very masculine brand.” Wilhelm Schmid, CEO
and in an arc formation, signed their watches “Glashütte i/SA” meaning “in Saxony”; a bold move for a previously unknown watchmaker since the only watchmakers who indicated where a watch was produced were the ones in Switzerland that famously marked their timepieces with the “Swiss Made” hallmark.
In the year 2000, the brand became part of the Richemont Group now employing close to 500 people, half of whom are watchmakers. “We have 60 apprentices training to become watchmakers to ensure that there is a future for fine watch making because without watchmakers there would be no watchmaking,” says CEO, Wilhelm Schmid.
A LEGACY OF PRIDE
It is this obsessive attention to detail and craftsmanship that has distinguished the brand and established its reputation of unparalleled technical ingenuity and a degree of perfection that can only be achieved by hand. “Every single little part of our watches, whether you see it or not, is decorated, hand polished, and treated with our love for detail. To the best of my knowledge, this is not done anywhere else so there is no distinction in quality whether it is the Grand complication or the Saxonia thin, the level of involvement and craftsmanship is the same. Of course, the level of complexity will rise with the price but not the quality,” claims Schmid.
Some of the brand’s greatest successes that have become icons include models such as the Lange 1 (the most important and representative of this German manufacture) with the first outsize date in a series produced wristwatch as well as the Zeitwerk (Lange’s first watch with a digital display) with supremely legible, precisely jumping numerals.
All of the movements produced by the marque are made from German silver, an allow of copper and nickel, as opposed to plated brass used by the well known Swiss manufacturers. The best thing about this difference is that it lends the Lange watches a visually distinct sheen. Lange prides itself on a very distinctive German appearance that’s focused on a simple aesthetic, clean lines and asymmetric stylings. Schmid explains: “Our brand has two faces; when you see a highly complicated watch, it is legible, technical, with a clean design; if you consider that it is a perpetual calendar, has an outsized date, and a flyback chronogragh, you need a bit of space. So it’s clean and very engineered in a way. The entire picture changes when I turn it around. Now you see the opulence of the movement; the decoration, tiny little details and you understand how complex and difficult the watch is. We don’t produce watches for people who need products to tell others how important they are. Our customers immediately know what a Lange stands for; they don’t want to show off. An American once told me, our brand represents ‘stealth wealth’. You can have 300,000 euros around your wrist and no one will recognise it.”
Discreet yet distinctive, the brand added another accolade in December 2016 during their Jubilee event, launching another model of the Lange 1 Moon Phase, one of the most successful watch families, with a model featuring the popular astronomical complication. It has now been endowed with a new movement that combines the moon-phase display with a day/night indicator. On the disc, the different times of day are represented by varying hues of blue; during the day, it shows a bright sky without stars, while at night it depicts a dark sky with prominently contrasting laser-cut stars.
While aiming for the stars has long been a Lange ambition, the brand remains proudly rooted in its heritage. Trek the untracked by all means but forgo the past at your own peril, for legends deliver the final verdict on history.
The firsT Lange 1 waTch
The Lange 1 Moon Phase in Pink goLd
The new ManufacTory in gLashüTTe