The day was October 24, 1994. The place was Dresdenâs castle. Germanyâs premier retailers and a handful of press had gathered to witness a historical event, though the pictures would show the large date on the more than life-sized photos of the watches to be October 25 so as to coincide with the publication date in the newspapers.
To an outsider, the first public appearance of the new watches by A. Lange & SĂ¶hne may seem to have sent out a signal only within Germany, where, indeed, the rebirth of the countryâs premier luxury watchmaker was celebrated like nowhere else. Despite the location, this event also sent out a global signal: something special had been created from literal ruins like a phoenix rising from the ashes. And it signified two very human things: the indomitable spirit of the human being and the enterprising spirit of Saxony, home to a technically advanced, industrious people that could well have withered and died of the many horrible setbacks it experienced throughout decades of economic disaster, warfare and communist rule in the wake of World War II.
Now with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, it is easy to say that A. Lange & SĂ¶hne couldnât fail, but the runaway success that it has become was unexpected as Walter Lange recently told me again. And looking back over the past 20 years of horological history, there are many renowned specialists and experts who would declare A. Lange & SĂ¶hneâs goal achieved in terms of quality and ingenuity.
The simple answer is because it was so different from everything else on the market at the time, or before it, and this was apparent at first glance. But its design also remained within the âLangeâ codes, which were luxurious and traditional. Its off-centre visuals dragged the eye in, which hungrily roamed around the dial trying to allow the brain to understand why the watch was so appealing even to the most conservative watch lover. It even self-confidently passed the scrutiny of a second and third looks. The tangible excellence of the watches proudly bearing the name A. Lange & SĂ¶hne on the dial and outfitted with manufacture movements (an absolute rarity in 1994!) not only revived a 150-year-old legacy, it enriched itâand the entire horological worldâwith the rebirth of a legend and brought it straight into the twenty-first century. Walter Lange and his contemporaries were confident that founding father Ferdinand Adolph Lange would be proud of what they had created.
The Lange 1âs appearance
The outside appearance of the Lange 1 was straightforward in an elegant way, though it could never be called bland or vapid. Walter Lange remembers that one of the rules laid down for its design was that none of the displays could overlap. âI found the outcome amazing,â he remembers.
Contrary to a ânormalâ watch with a centralized layout, the Lange 1 possesses an off-centre display for hours and minutes. A separate subdial placed at about 5 oâclock points out the passing seconds, which naturally emphasizes the timepieceâs accuracy.
The large hand for the power reserve display, the length of which is close to that of the minute hand, is located right above the subsidiary dial for the display of seconds. According to German tradition, the power reserve indication is called the Auf/Ab, or âup and down.â The hand makes its way from âaufâ (âupâ) to âabâ (âdownâ) in about three daysâ time. The very large date window displaying two separate numerals has not only become the hallmark of A. Lange & SĂ¶hneâs modern timepieces, it kicked off an industry-wide trend for large date displays in 1994. This is yet another way that A. Lange & SĂ¶hne has influenced the industry as a whole. Said date display, which is modelled after the famous Five-Minute Clock found above the stage within the Semper opera house in Dresden, is very conspicuously positioned above the power reserve hand at the 2 oâclock position. The date is easily adjusted by pushing the button located at 10 oâclock on the case.
Today, this award-winning watch is available in a great number of variations that also include extra functions, and even an automatic version, whose dial displays are positioned in mirrored manner so as to immediately allow those in the know to recognize the type of movement powering it.
Alongside the original case size of 38.5 mm, a smaller version is also available, especially conceived for more delicate wrists. This version is often embellished with gem-set bezels and mother-of-pearl dials, making it quite feminine. As its 36 mm case is 2.5 mm smaller in diameter, there is no room left for a movement holder ring or even the date button. Instead, the somewhat rarer Kleine Lange 1 contains a corrector recessed into the case that is activated by using a stylus that comes with the timepiece.
Space is not a problem for the Grand Lange 1, which boasts a proud 42 mm case, perfectly befitting some modern tastes for larger watches. The subdials were also proportionately increased in size as well. The Grand Lange 1 is the only variation to include interesting dial versions comprising contrasting scales and a sportier Luminous model featuring greenish luminous numerals and hands against a matte black dial. All serial watches by A. Lange & SĂ¶hne are only available in precious metals.
The Lange 1âs movement
Contrary to a ânormalâ watch with a straightforward layout, the Lange 1 possesses an off-centre display for hours and minutes, which is the result of an off-centred movement design that allows room for the twin spring barrels needed for the timepieceâs three-day power reserve. In 1994, three daysâ worth of power reserve in a manually wound movement was nothing to sneeze at. Nor is it today.
In order to make the separate subdial for the seconds possible all the way across the dial, an additional wheel attachment was created for the fourth wheel. One of the most visible movement design traits of the Lange 1âits great power reserveâwas achieved by two serially operating spring barrels. Calibre L.901.0 ticks at the quasi-vintage speed of 21,000 vph (3 Hz).
The only major change to take place to the classic Lange 1 model in 20 years can be found within the movement: the standard Nivarox hairspring that Calibre L.901.0 began life with has meanwhile been replaced by an in-house hairspring made by the manufactureâs own technicians.
This most beautifully finished mechanism offers a great deal of GlashĂŒtte-style tradition, beginning with a polished three-quarter plate made of radiant German silver and continuing through to screw-mounted chatons secured by thermally blued screws, a finishing technique called GlashĂŒtte ribbing (similar to cĂŽtes de GenĂšve), and a hand-engraved balance cock holding a swan-neck fine adjustment in place that makes each movement unique and allows for individuality at client request. These are the type of elements that originally created the legendary reputation of Langeâs pocket watches.
One element, though, is not traditional anywhere else today: all movements by A. Lange & SĂ¶hne are assembled twice before they are encased. Once to ensure perfect running order, and a second time after all the untreated German silver and steel components have been finished to perfection.
When Walter Lange said, âmit 66 fĂ€ngt das Leben anâ (âlife begins at 66â) in an interview I took with him nearly a decade ago, I was certain he was talking about that day: October 24, 1994, and the immense effort put into the reconstruction of a new brand based on vintage ideals handed down through his family, which included product development, production room outfitting, employee training and so much more. Every last minute of sweat, blood and tears was probably worthwhile, for on that particular day, Germanyâs tastemakers lauded the efforts of Walter Lange and GĂŒnter BlĂŒmlein. And put an avalanche into motion that to this day has not ceased.
The Lange 1 continues to write chapters of watch history, fascinating new and old horological enthusiasts alike. The Lange 1 has become an evergreen, a standard set for manufacturers inside and outside of Germany.
We are an international publishing group with titles covering a wide range of topics from Fashion & Design to Home & Garden. Our magazines are modern and contemporary, featuring world-class photography and stylish design.