A long­stand­ing tra­di­tion of in­no­va­tion and de­sign puts A. Lange & Söhne in the up­per ech­e­lons of watch­mak­ing

MVMT - - Contents - Words sean mossa deg photos Ching art direc­tion jas mine huang

Ex­plor­ing the her­itage and pas­sion of A. Lange & Söhne

mis­used in the present world of watch­mak­ing. Far too of­ten, we are led to be­lieve that a watch­maker’s ideals two cen­turies ago still live in the time­pieces we see put out in store­fronts of bou­tiques to­day. A name may carry weight but her­itage is far more than just that; it’s a vi­sion that’s been passed down.

For A. Lange & Söhne, her­itage is the driv­ing fac­tor for excellence at every level of the mai­son. My first brush with the brand was see­ing an im­age of the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 31 some time back. While it is a mat­ter of per­sonal taste, no other time­piece at the time evoked as much watch lust in me. It was nei­ther the ridicu­lous month-long power re­serve that caught my at­ten­tion nor the tech­ni­cal spec­i­fi­ca­tions. With A. Lange & Söhne, it’s al­ways the dial.

No other brand has come as close to per­fect­ing dial lay­outs as Lange. Be it the sym­me­try on the Sax­o­nia, or the off cen­tre but sub­tly cen­tred hands on the Grand Lange 1, the mai­son has an un­canny abil­ity to amaze you, purely by the looks of its pro ducts. It has been said that the Lange 1 was de­signed dial-first w ith its move­ment built around the dial, an un­com­mon se­quence for most watch­mak­ers.

When you fi­nally delve into A. Lange & Söhne’s move­ment­mak­ing cal­i­bre, you will re­alise that the best of both worlds is pos­si­ble. Even Stephen Forsey, one half of in­die favourites, Greubel Forsey, has de­clared his ado­ra­tion for A. Lange & Söhne’s abil­ity to craft time­pieces on an­other level of qual­ity.

The Lange fam­ily name might have been around for 171 years but its com­mit­ment to excellence has never wa­vered. You’ll need to put your­self in the shoes of Fer­di­nand Adolph Lange at the in­cep­tion of his epony­mous brand to un­der­stand how two cen­turies have yet to change this legacy’s path.

Fer­di­nand Adolph Lange found his call­ing in watch­mak­ing and ap­pren­ticed at the age of 15 un­der Jo­hann Chris­tian Friedrich Gutkaes, clock­maker to the royal Saxon court. His drive to bet­ter him­self took him to Paris as the as­sis­tant of renowned watch­maker, Josef Thad­däus Win­nerl, who at one time stud­ied un­der the il­lus­tri­ous Abra­ham-louis Breguet.

Lange was not a man who stood for the sta­tus quo. In the hope of learn­ing more, he trav­elled to Switzer­land and Eng­land to seek tute­lage un­der mas­ter watch­mak­ers. His adop­tion of higher stan­dards from pi­o­neers in watch­mak­ing across Europe and his in­sa­tiable thirst to build on top of those echoed the ear­li­est sen­ti­ments of the brand’s mod­ern day motto – never stand still. Lange re­turned to his home­town of Glashütte, Sax­ony, to set up his own man­u­fac­ture in 1845 and in do­ing so, set his fam­ily’s legacy in stone.

Her­itage is a word that can feel

From Knowl­edge Comes Skill

Func­tion­al­ity and wear­a­bil­ity have re­mained key mo­ti­va­tors in Lange’s legacy of watch­mak­ing. This ef­fort in de­sign and at­ten­tion to de­tail doesn’t just man­i­fest it­self in the com­plex yet beau­ti­ful move­ments we see beat­ing in the watches but also on the faces of the time­pieces.

The place­ment of every de­tail on any dial from A. Lange & Söhne is a cal­cu­lated sci­ence. From lengths of the minute and hour hands, to the size and po­si­tions of the sub­di­als, the brand ab­so­lutely ad­heres to the golden ra­tios of de­sign prin­ci­ples. Af­ter all, what good is a marvel of a move­ment if your dial is over­clut­tered or am­biva­lent?

Take this year’s Dato­graph Per­pet­ual Tour­bil­lon for ex­am­ple. Few time­pieces in the world can boast such an iconic dial, so much so that the ad­di­tion of a tour­bil­lon doesn’t even re­quire it to be placed dial-side. Com­bin­ing the func­tional needs of a chrono­graph and a per­pet­ual cal­en­dar would usu­ally be an ab­so­lute chore when it comes to pre­sent­ing the in­for­ma­tion on the dial, but this is where the mai­son shows off its tech­ni­cal best.

Few per­pet­ual cal­en­dars have less than four sub­di­als to fully present var­i­ous cal­en­dar func­tions. A. Lange & Söhne did away with this when it re­leased the first per­pet­ual cal­en­dar ver­sion of the Dato­graph in 2006, re­tain­ing the iconic look of the dou­ble sub­di­alled orig­i­nal. The brand took that a step fur­ther this year with the Dato­graph Per­pet­ual Tour­bil­lon, mov­ing the power re­serve in­di­ca­tor to the end of the tachymeter scale at 10 o’clock. In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing sym­me­try (an im­por­tant brand prin­ci­ple), the red in­di­ca­tor is rather po­et­i­cally the cherry on top, lend­ing colour to an other­wise dark dial.

The leap year in­di­ca­tor also took a smaller stage as part of the right sub­dial. Sub­tle as the changes were, the end re­sult is a dial that lets you ap­pre­ci­ate the com­plete func­tion­al­ity of the chrono­graph and cal­en­dar.

The true beauty of good de­sign, how­ever, comes from what you don’t see. Charles Eames once said, “The de­tails are not the de­tails. They make the de­sign.” When A. Lange & Söhne added the tour­bil­lon, it wasn’t just a mat­ter of mo du­lar ad­di­tion. To craft the Dato­graph Per­pet­ual Tour­bil­lon while stay­ing true to the size of last year’s Dato­graph Per­pet­ual, the brand chose to re­build the en­tire move­ment, us­ing the in­te­grated chrono­graph base of the Dato­graph Up/down.

The Dato­graph Up/down is al­ready a mark of the brand’s de­sign phi­los­o­phy – a man­ual wound in-house chrono­graph move­ment that has ar­guably proven it­self as one of the best mod­ern chrono­graphs, thanks to the ver­ti­cal cou­pling that solves im­proper mesh­ing of the wheels. The Dato­graph also boasts the fly­back func­tion as well as the unique jump­ing minute counter dis­play.

The seam­less in­te­gra­tion of an in­stan­ta­neously jump­ing per­pet­ual cal­en­dar and a stop-sec­onds tour­bil­lon into the Dato­graph is per­haps the best proof of A. Lange & Söhne’s fi­nesse when cre­at­ing move­ments.

Bal­ance in All Things

While the Dato­graph Per­pet­ual Tour­bil­lon stands out as the brand’s flag­ship this year, with a move­ment that is un­apolo­get­i­cally com­pli­cated, the Richard Lange Jump­ing Sec­onds show­cases the sub­tler side of A. Lange & Söhne’s tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions that con­nois­seurs have come to love.

The Richard Lange col­lec­tion from the brand was pro­duced as a trib­ute to Fer­di­nand A. Lange’s son who, like his fa­ther, ce­mented his place in the an­nals of the horo­log­i­cal his­tory by de­vel­op­ing sev­eral time­keep­ing mech­a­nisms that are ahead of their time.

The Richard Lange Jump­ing Sec­onds, the third in the col­lec­tion, takes the her­itage of ab­so­lute pre­ci­sion fur­ther than we thought pos­si­ble. In­stead of the reg­u­lar sweep­ing sec­ond hand we see in a me­chan­i­cal watch, the Richard Lange Jump­ing Sec­onds does pre­cisely what its name sug­gests – the sec­ond hand ticks across the dial, one jump per sec­ond, just like a quartz watch. In truth, no sec­ond hand truly sweeps; the mo­tion is cre­ated out of sev­eral im­per­cep­ti­ble jumps per sec­ond, based on the move­ment’s fre­quency.

In most dead­beat sec­ond time­pieces, ad­di­tional gear­ing is re­quired to power the sec­ond hand via a spring that is held un­der ten­sion. A star pin­ion sits on the same axis and as the es­cape wheel turns, a whip on the pin­ion slips free to let the sec­ond hand skip for­ward once per sec­ond. This slows down the rate of the sec­ond hand’s move­ment on the dis­play.

For the Richard Lange Jump­ing Sec­onds, how­ever, the watch­maker chose to fit a re­mon­toire d’egalite con­stant force mech­a­nism on the fourth wheel. In­stead of re­leas­ing its power every 10 sec­onds as most con­stant force mech­a­nisms do, this releases its power every sec­ond in­stead, pro­vid­ing a steady es­cape­ment rate as well.

Usu­ally, this would be a nov­elty in it­self but the brand wanted to achieve even more pre­cise ac­cu­racy. It ac­com­plished this by a build­ing a zero-re­set mech­a­nism for the sec­onds hand, which stops the bal­ance wheel when the crown is out and forces the sec­onds hand to re­turn to zero. This al­lows users to set the time right down to the sec­ond.

A. Lange & Söhne’s mastery in the world of chrono­graphs was a pre­cious ad­van­tage when it was de­vel­op­ing the Richard Lange Jump­ing Sec­onds. The re­setto-zero de­vice uses a clutch disc se­cured to the fourth­wheel ar­bor and a spring that firmly presses the top and bot­tom discs to­gether. Pulling the crown opens the clutch and sep­a­rates the fourth-wheel ar­bor from the wheel train, al­low­ing vir­tu­ally fric­tion­less ze­ro­ing.

An­thony de Haas, di­rec­tor of prod­uct de­vel­op­ment at the brand, put it sim­ply: “Lange wouldn’t be Lange if we left it like that.” The need to con­tin­u­ally in­te­grate com­pli­ca­tions into its time­pieces is a mas­ter­ful show­ing of A. Lange & Söhne’s in­sis­tence at never stand­ing still.

The Road is End­less

While one can wax po­etic about A. Lange & Söhne’s mastery in mak­ing clas­sic time­pieces with move­ments to match, the brand’s Lu­men direc­tion of time­pieces has been a di­vi­sive and in­trigu­ing in­tro­duc­tion. The Lu­men watches fea­ture a tinted sap­phire dial that al­low move­ment lovers to look be­yond.

The only word that comes to mind for this year’s Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase Lu­men, which has ben­e­fited from the tinted sap­phire dial treat­ment, is “con­tem­po­rary”. It has every­thing to do with the Su­per-lu­mi­nova treat­ment given to the date discs, nu­mer­als, hands, and the large moon­phase disc that con­trasts against the tinted sap­phire and black­ened sil­ver dial.

The moon­phase disc is the most nat­u­ral point to rest your eyes ow­ing to its sheer size. For the first time, A. Lange & Söhne has used a glass disc for the moon­phase in­di­ca­tion. The sur­face of the disc is treated with a patented coat­ing process then laser­cut to achieve the 1,164 stars and the moon. Be­hind the disc lies a lu­mi­nous com­pound that gives the night sky its ra­di­ant ef­fect.

While the brand has proven year on year that it ranks up there with the best watch­mak­ers in build­ing and in­te­grat­ing greater com­pli­ca­tions, its most ba­sic time­pieces are of­ten ig­nored by the pub­lic. Watch con­nois­seurs know and un­der­stand that even the sim­plest A. Lange & Söhne time­piece boasts the same level of at­ten­tion to de­tail and ad­her­ence to qual­ity as its prici­est peers. But that mes­sage (and a fin­ish­ing that can’t be seen) is of­ten l ost on a new­comer.

A. Lange & Söhne is slowly rec­ti­fy­ing this. Its two-handed ap­proach to ex­pand­ing col­lec­tions has seen the brand em­pha­sise the Sax­o­nia range and this year, the brand rein­vig­o­rated its thinnest watch, the Sax­o­nia Thin. Re­mov­ing the dots from the ends of the in­dices, it tweaked the dial, mak­ing it cleaner and more el­e­gant. While the SIHH 2016 ver­sion of the Sax­o­nia Thin came in at 40mm, A. Lange & Söhne has in­tro­duced a 37mm ver­sion priced al­most $10,000 less. What’s more im­por­tant to note is that the 37mm and 40mm Sax­o­nia Thins share the same L093.1 cal­i­bre that is un­apolo­get­i­cally A. Lange & Söhne – high­end fin­ish­ing on the Ger­man sil­ver three-quar­ter plate, a han­den­graved bal­ance cock and Glashütte rub­bing, with the bonus of a 72-hour power re­serve.

The other new of­fer­ing is the Sax­o­nia Moon Phase, which also dis­plays A. Lange & Söhne’s unique char­ac­ter­is­tics, from the out­sized date to the spot­less dial lay­out. The watch is als o the 16th piece in the brand’s col­lec­tion to boast its iconic moon­phase dis­play, first seen in 1994 on the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase. Once set, the dis­play only has to be cor­rected by one day every 122.6 years with an ac­cu­racy of 99.998 per cent.

While both new Sax­o­nia watches are fit­ting ad­di­tions to the brand’s her­itage, they also serve as a re­minder that A. Lange & Söhne does evolve and adapt to the times. In build­ing a more ac­ces­si­ble range of time­pieces, the brand is look­ing at the fu­ture and not just the present.

Fer­di­nand Adolph Lange un­der­stood that Ger­man watch­mak­ing had a role to play in the big leagues of horolog y and his ini­tial ef­forts have paid off hand­somely. This year, the legacy that he left be­hind as mas­ter watch­maker has been re­alised in a col­lec­tion that mar­ries the high­est of com­pli­ca­tions with the el­e­gance of sim­plic­ity. That’s not an easy task.

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