Momentous Times

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In the year that celebrates the 200th birthday of Ferdinand Adolph Lange – founder of A. Lange & Söhne – the preeminent watchmaker of Glashütte inaugurates a magnificent new Manufacture. Nick Rice attends the grand occasion.

Despite the volatile anD troubleD times we live in, it’s a fitting mark of respect that the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Saxony’s Prime Minister Stanislaw Tillich, saw fit to jug- gle the pressing commitments and issues of the day in order to honour the official opening of the new A. Lange & Söhne Manufacture on August 26th.

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It’s a sign of respect that has been indisputably well earned. A. Lange & Söhne has been through some torrid times in its 170-year history, including being expropriated by the post-war Soviet administration in 1948. The company was defunct until, following the collapse of the East German government, it was brought back to life in 1990 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s great-grandson, Walter Lange, with help from the industry executive Günter Blümlein and several brands such as Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC.

The 91-year old Walter Lange was in fine shape with eyes gleaming as he received congratulations for his monumental achievement of rejuvenating a non-existent watch company into one of the most venerated in today’s global watch industry.

Chancellor Merkel addressed him directly at the ceremony, saying, “The new beginning was not easy, but you and your companions suc- ceeded in securing the manufactory’s top-tier position among the world’s finest watch brands once again. Eastern Germany’s good repu- tation as innovative, flexible and modern location is based on success stories like yours.” Merkel also made a point of thanking all of Lange’s employees for their dedication and collective efforts that have made the company what it is. The Free State of Saxony’s Prime Minister, Stanislaw Tillich, joined in the praise saying, “A. Lange & Söhne is a world-fa- mous brand rich in tradition. It has always preserved its myth – against all odds. Now, with the new building begins another successful chapter – with much space for tradition and modernity.”

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Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 16.29.30The new manufacTory building, which cost tens of millions of euros to build – A. Lange & Söhne’s biggest investment ever – is a powerhouse of both innovation and traditional craft – an incredibly advanced facil- ity that is optimized for every watchmaker in every division, and built to last and adapt for at least a century.

The construction was relatively swift, taking just three years to com- plete. Company CEO Wilhelm Schmid said, “The new building is a response to employment growth in recent years and represents an in- vestment in the manufactory’s future,”

“The focus,” he added, “was on a modern, energy-efficient building that would offer appealing surroundings and ideal working conditions. This will help us further enhance the quality of our watches and opti- mise our production processes. All the while, we strive to minimise our ecological footprint and resource consumption.”

During a comprehensive tour of the facility it becomes clear that sustainability was a major driver in the planning and vision for the fu- ture. The building harnesses geothermal energy via 55 heat exchangers that plunge down into the ground as far as 125 metres. This maintains a pleasant indoor climate 365 days a year. The electricity required to operate the pumps is also green, bestowing CO2-free status on the facil- ity – a suitably appropriate contribution to climate change mitigation.

The employees we meet and momentarily disturb in their work are all effusive about how nice the building is to work in, with the vast windows, calming views, dust-free atmosphere and agreeable tempera- ture. The entire production area amounts to 5400-square-metres and from outside the building stands as a towering landmark – a beacon standing sentinel at the southern entrance to this remarkable watch- making town.

Words: Nick rice

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