TIME­LESS STYLE

WITH A PROVER­BIAL PHOENIX-LIKE RISE, LUX­URY WATCHMAKER A. LANGE & SÖHNE’S STORY OF RE­DEMP­TION IS A LIV­ING COL­LU­SION OF HIS­TORY AND HOROLOGY

India Today - - CONTENTS - BY CHUMKI BHARADWAJ

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.

GER­MAN HER­ITAGE

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

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