It was there in the House of Lange that Daniel Goh dis­cov­ered just ex­actly how much work goes into A Lange & Söhne’s dou­ble assem­bly process of mak­ing watches.

The Peak (Malaysia) - - Contents -

It was there in the House of Lange that Daniel Goh dis­cov­ered just ex­actly how much work goes into A Lange & Söhne’s dou­ble assem­bly process of mak­ing watches.

A cou­ple of months ago, as I walked into the House of Lange Ex­hi­bi­tion held in the Na­tional Mu­seum of Sin­ga­pore, I found my­self think­ing how a mu­seum felt like a per­fectly nat­u­ral place to ex­hibit watches of A Lange & Söhne’s cal­i­bre.

The brand has a vast his­tory that dates back to the early 19th cen­tury with an in­cred­i­ble se­quence of events which tran­scend World War II and the Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion be­fore it be­came the Lange we know to­day. There is gen­uine in­no­va­tion in mi­cro me­chan­ics within the move­ment of the watches, some­thing that should be doc­u­mented and ce­mented in time. And last but not least, to some, watches are just as emo­tion­ally mov­ing as a time­less work of art. So why not host an ex­hi­bi­tion of watches in a mu­seum?

The House of Lange ex­hi­bi­tion I at­tended was the sec­ond one held in Sin­ga­pore, with the first one oc­cur­ring 12 years ago. The ex­hi­bi­tion was de­signed to tell a story of the brand’s Saxon legacy, im­press at­ten­dees with im­mense watch­mak­ing in­no­va­tions, and of course ex­cite the col­lec­tors with rare and ex­clu­sive time­pieces.

To achieve this, six pri­vate col­lec­tors con­tributed watches from their per­sonal col­lec­tion to be dis­played. There was the A Lange & Söhne “165 Years – Homage to F. A. Lange Col­lec­tion”, a set of three time­pieces – The Tour­bo­graph, Pour Le Merite’, Lange 1 Tour­bil­lon and 1815 Moon­phase, all pre­sented in the ex­clu­sive honey gold case; the “Dato­graph Pisa”, which had only 10 pieces made for Mi­lanese re­tailer Pisa Orologe­ria in 2004 and is the only lim­ited edi­tion Dato­graph to date; and the Cabaret “Lange Own­ers Group” Edi­tion, a spe­cial edi­tion pro­duced for the group in 2009, lim­ited to only 25 pieces.

How­ever, for me, the high­light of the ex­hi­bi­tion was the Con­nois­seurs’ Akademie, a mini watch­mak­ing work­shop where we were al­lowed to get hands-on with as­sem­bling a watch. Of course, we went nowhere near a Lange move­ment but in­stead were pro­vided with a sim­ple move­ment, not un­like those used for be­gin­ners at a watch­mak­ing school. The goal was to as­sem­ble just the en­ergy trans­mis­sion por­tion of the move­ment. This meant con­nect­ing the bar­rel to the es­cape wheel through a se­ries of gears and pin­ions.

Af­ter watch­ing countless pro­fes­sional watch­mak­ers do this, I was con­vinced it would be rel­a­tively sim­ple. Af­ter all, we were given stepby-step in­struc­tions, and the pieces within a move­ment fit to­gether like a puz­zle don’t they? I couldn’t be more wrong. Never mind the tiny scale of th­ese lit­tle pin­ions and gears which made it in­cred­i­bly hard to see, but be­cause of their size, th­ese com­po­nents were in­cred­i­bly frag­ile as well. Ev­ery­thing had to be viewed through a loupe and more amaz­ingly, when it came time to lu­bri­cate the jewels, a mi­cro­scope was needed to as­cer­tain if there was just the right amount of oil on a spe­cial tool.

Of course the pro­fes­sion­als made all of this look easy but for me, there was def­i­nitely a lot of sweat­ing, and a lot of swear­ing in­volved. And as if that wasn’t dif­fi­cult enough, our in­struc­tor, Robert Hoff­mann, Head

of the Zeitwerk depart­ment from the man­u­fac­tory pro­ceeded to re­mind us that this was just a sim­ple move­ment for watch­mak­ing stu­dents and what they work with at Lange was ex­po­nen­tially more com­pli­cated.

Then there was the say­ing that ev­ery Lange is as­sem­bled twice. The first time is to test all the com­po­nents to­gether and then it is dis­as­sem­bled, each part fin­ished with dec­o­ra­tive tech­niques and re-as­sem­bled again. If the pres­sure was al­ready loom­ing the first time, I just can’t imag­ine what it would be like on the sec­ond assem­bly where one wrong move with the very sharp tweez­ers can ren­der a part use­less thus de­stroy­ing hours and some­times days of work. And to think all the watch­mak­ers I’ve seen went about their tasks with such stoic faces; they must be made of dif­fer­ent stuff.

While I sat there fully con­tem­plat­ing the amount of work that goes into each A Lange & Söhne watch, I sud­denly made the con­nec­tion with yet an­other en­ergy trans­mis­sion sys­tem – the fusée­and-chain, a sig­na­ture of Lange’s hall­mark, “Pour le Mérite”. In or­der to achieve a con­stant force as the main­spring un­winds, this fusée­and-chain trans­mis­sion works like an in­fin­itely vari­able gear­box. The tech­nique is not some­thing en­tirely new as it was mainly used in marine chronome­ters but what Lange did was to shrink down this sys­tem to fit into a wrist­watch.

Just to give you an idea of how tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing this was, the chain that is at­tached to the fusée con­sists of 636 in­di­vid­ual parts and has a cross-sec­tion mea­sur­ing 0.6 by 0.3mm. I can’t even be­gin to imag­ine the amount of pa­tience re­quired to put some­thing like this to­gether. As An­thony de Haas, Di­rec­tor of Prod­uct Devel­op­ment at A Lange & Söhne puts it: “Even if each of the 684 parts is man­u­fac­tured strictly within the mi­crome­tre tol­er­ance range, the watch­maker still has to per­form many minute ad­just­ments to en­sure that all the mech­a­nisms work to­gether per­fectly as en­vis­aged by the cal­i­bre en­gi­neers. On the part of the watch­mak­ers, this calls for the ut­most of tech­ni­cal com­pre­hen­sion, ex­pe­ri­ence-based knowl­edge, man­ual vir­tu­os­ity and vir­tu­ally in­fi­nite pa­tience.”

BE­LOW The Na­tional Mu­seum of Sin­ga­pore adorned with the Lange tagline – “Never Stand Still”.

01 The assem­bly of the fusée-and­chain mech­a­nism in a Lange watch. 01

02 The watches on dis­play at the ex­hi­bi­tion be­longed to pri­vate col­lec­tors who loaned it to them for the event.

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