WAL­TER LANGE

World of Watches (Singapore) - - Reports -

When Wal­ter Lange re-launched A. Lange & Söhne, he was al­ready 66 years old – an age where most peo­ple are ei­ther wind­ing down their ca­reers or well into their re­tire­ment. It’s an un­com­mon de­ci­sion to plunge into such a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing at this age, but an un­der­stand­able one – as the great­grand­son of founder FA Lange, he would likely have taken over its reins if the pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties weren’t bombed in 1945 on the day of Ger­many’s sur­ren­der, and if the com­pany hadn’t been ex­pro­pri­ated and merged with other Glashütte-based watch­mak­ers into the Glashüt­ter Uhren­be­triebe (GUB). Lange him­self has passed the ba­ton on, and is no longer ac­tively in­volved in the day-to-day run­ning of the busi­ness. Al­though he still at­tends im­por­tant events, the man is tak­ing some well-de­served rest, af­ter re­viv­ing a fam­ily busi­ness amidst po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic tur­moil, and re­turn­ing it back into the up­per ech­e­lons of watch­mak­ing.

OUT­SIDE, LOOK­ING IN

“When the Quartz Cri­sis was hap­pen­ing, I was in the jewellery busi­ness, and even had a quartz watch made by Jaeger-lecoul­tre, which I still own. Be­cause of my back­ground, how­ever, I was keep­ing track of what was hap­pen­ing in the in­dus­try. The Swiss watch in­dus­try was lucky to have got­ten a se­cond chance, but things aren’t like the old days when there wasn’t an al­ter­na­tive to me­chan­i­cal move­ments, so it still needs to take care and make sure that it has a niche. Of course, it was a dif­fi­cult time, but from an­other per­spec­tive, the two ac­tu­ally sup­ported each other. For all the “trou­ble” quartz watches brought, they also pushed time­keep­ing tech­nol­ogy for­ward. At the same time, me­chan­i­cal watches were forced, yet also free, to go back to tra­di­tional watch­mak­ing. The fo­cus re­turned to crafts­man­ship, and there was re­newed in­ter­est in aes­thet­ics, such as case de­sign and move­ment fin­ish­ing, in­stead of just func­tion­al­ity.”

RE­PEAT­ING HIS­TORY

“When the Ber­lin Wall started crum­bling in 1989, I was re­ally con­cerned, be­cause I was afraid that peo­ple in Glashütte would be­come un­em­ployed af­ter the re­uni­fi­ca­tion. I was very sure that the GUB would not sur­vive be­cause it was state-owned and staterun. Restart­ing A. Lange & Söhne was al­most like his­tory re­peat­ing it­self – my great-grand­fa­ther FA Lange had brought watch­mak­ing to Glashütte as a means of em­ploy­ment, and there I was, do­ing the same. Of course, we started small, with just 15 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a few watch­mak­ers, one en­graver, and one fin­isher. To­day, over 1,800 peo­ple work in the watch­mak­ing in­dus­try in Glashütte, and I’m happy to have con­trib­uted partly to this.”

CROWN­ING ACHIEVE­MENT

“My proud­est mo­ment was prob­a­bly in 1999, when A. Lange & Söhne launched the Dato­graph, our first chronograph move­ment. It was a sen­sa­tion at that time, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the fact that the watch came from an East Ger­man watch man­u­fac­ture – there was still a lin­ger­ing per­cep­tion that East Ger­many’s me­chan­i­cal cre­ations weren’t of good qual­ity. That was the watch that made the Swiss watch in­dus­try sit up and take no­tice of us, be­cause even Patek Philippe didn’t have its own chronograph move­ment back then. The in­dus­try was a lit­tle like Sleep­ing Beauty at that time, and the Dato­graph was the Prince that woke her up!”

LEAV­ING A LEGACY

“Peo­ple, even en­tire gen­er­a­tions, for­get things eas­ily. Peo­ple who grew up in the Ger­man Demo­cratic Repub­lic times don’t re­mem­ber the A. Lange & Söhne from the old days, be­cause they lived in a time (GUB) was the only watch­mak­ing com­pany. That means that the achieve­ments of my great-grand­fa­ther and his sons have been largely for­got­ten in these peo­ple’s minds, which is a pity. What would I like to be re­mem­bered for? Per­son­ally, it was im­por­tant to me to have brought watch­mak­ing and work back to Glashütte.”

The Dato­graph that de­buted in Baselworld 1999 in plat­inum

The re-launch of the brand in 1994 The his­tor­i­cal build­ing of the man­u­fac­ture, circa 1920

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