AN UNTIRING QUEST FOR THE PERFECT WATCH
A. Lange & Söhne celebrates the 200th birthday of Ferdinand Adolph Lange
This year we are celebrating the 200th birthday of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the man who put Saxony on the map of the international watch world. With the establishment of his manufactory in 1845, he laid the foundation for Saxony’s precision watchmaking industry and made the name A. Lange & Söhne synonymous with unmatched craftsmanship, precision and ingenuity. His vision to build the world’s best watches still sets the standard for the watchmakers at A. Lange & Söhne.
His career as a watchmaker started in 1830 when Johann Friedrich Gutkaes, one of the most eminent clockmakers of his time, accepted Ferdinand Adolph Lange at the age of 15 as an apprentice in view of his exceptional talent. After having successfully completed his apprenticeship he travelled through Switzerland and France. In Paris he worked for four years as the workshop foreman of Joseph Thaddäus Winnerl, another noted watchmaker of that epoch. He painstakingly recorded his observations and ideas in a journal – and workbook. As a compendium full of horological insights and ideas it is, to this very day, the spiritual foundation on which every A. Lange & Söhne timepiece is built.
On December 7th, 1845, Ferdinand Adolph Lange transformed his life’s dream of making the world’s best watches in his own manufactory into a reality by establishing a production workshop for pocket watches in the secluded town of Glashütte. By choosing this remote location he wanted to offer a new perspective to the people of the region who had been deprived of their livelihood when ore mining was discontinued. He hired 15 apprentices and trained them to become watchmakers. In the years to come, he tirelessly evolved the craft of watchmaking with his insights. He introduced the metric system to watchmaking and developed the threequarter plate for improved stability of the movement – an invention that still characterises the design of our modern timepieces.
In 1868, Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s eldest son Richard became co-proprietor of his father’s business. From now on the company operated under the name “A. Lange & Söhne” (A. Lange & Sons). A few years later, his younger son Emil also joined the company. When Ferdinand Adolph Lange died in 1875, he bequeathed groundbreaking accomplishments and legendary timepieces to the world of precision watchmaking – and a flourishing business to his sons. Within a few years time they took the company to new levels. The luxury watches from Saxony were exported throughout the world and A. Lange & Söhne won worldwide fame. Equally impressive as the number of available complications was the list of illustrious customers. Among them were German Emperor William II and King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The company’s pocket watches were renowned and coveted not only because of their many useful innovations, but even more so because of their extraordinary accuracy.
This success story was abruptly ended after World War II. In 1948, the manufactory was nationalised by the communist regime that until 1989 governed the eastern part of a divided Germany. It was not until forty years later, that the reunification of Germany opened the door for new beginnings. On December 7th, 1990, Walter Lange, the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, founded the Lange manufactory anew, and registered the A. Lange & Söhne brand worldwide. Together with his business partners he took up the interrupted task of his family – at first sight a completely unrealistic objective. But on 24 October 1994, dealers and journalists witnessed the presentation of the première quartet during a vibrantly memorable event in Dresden’s Royal Palace. The new A. Lange & Söhne collection with its iconic Lange 1 surpassed all expectations. Unlike any other watch, it symbolises A. Lange & Söhne’s untiring quest for the perfect watch. With its revolutionary off-centre dial layout and the outsize date, it defined new benchmarks.
Very early the Lange engineers and watchmakers began to explore the spectrum of horological complications in the brand’s own inimitable style, and to break new ground in watchmaking. The domain of grand complications is an area in which we have played a leading role ever since the launch of the Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite”, the first wristwatch featuring a fusée-and-chain transmission in 1994. In 2013, the Grand Complication, the most complex wristwatch ever built in Germany, marked the preliminary highlight of an ongoing development. But with the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar “Terraluna” and its patented orbital moon-phase indication, we have already taken the next step. Our ambition to never stand still will keep us committed to following the founder’s vision and desire to build the world’s best watches and enrich the world of fine watchmaking with meaningful contributions.
T H E F I R S T B U I L D I N G WI T H L A N G E ' S WO R K S H O P IN GLASHÜTTE ( A R O U N D 1870 ).