German Precision in A. Lange & Söhne's 2015 Timepieces
From detailed complications to platinum strikework, exploring the newest watches through the brand's history
At this year's Concorso d'Eleganza, we had the opportunity to get hands-on with luxury watch brand A. Lange & Söhne's latest pieces. Over a year ago, we were taken by their 1815 Tourbillon and this year's crop is just as impressive. From the ultra-luxe Zeitwerk Minute Repeater to new variations on their Lange 1 and Datograph timepieces, the key to understanding these watches is via a better understanding of the brand's history.
Ferdinand Adolph Lange's path toward watchmaking was not a traditional one—at first. The 19th century inventor began by studying the development of physical instruments at a technical college in his hometown of Dresden, a skill he would later apply to watchmaking. Upon graduating and intrigued by the precision of watches, Lange moved to Paris to study under Breguet. At this time, France was a global power and a hub for precise watch production, and precision would become Lange's obsession. His next stop was Switzerland, where he sought out experts on individual components. When Lange finally returned home to Dresden in 1845—when he finally founded his own manufactory—he took the skilled workers of Saxony and turned them into even finer watchmakers. Lange even created watch component measuring tools for the sake of perfecting production.
The brand's major breakthrough occurred in 1861 and by 1868, Lange's sons Richard and Emil became active within the company. One, a scientist and the other, a businessman; the two sons continued to innovate and drive global acclaim. They amassed 27 patents in watchmaking. The next generation of brothers would keep the company alive during and after WWI, but WWII saw much of the manufactory destroyed. In 1990, the brand relaunched and in 1994 they debuted their first pieces in nearly half a century. Once again, precision was at the forefront. And Lange would rise to be one of the most respected manufacturers in the world.
At the center of this year's releases rests the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater, a very unique piece particularly because of its source material. Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development for Lange, shares, "Platinum is not so loud. It's a very sweet, fine tone. Thus, we think it's a very precious complication, very individual." This watch is not small, clocking in at 44.5mm, and is filled with 717 components. "We worked five years to develop this watch. It is because we wanted to do things completely different," de Haas furthers. While there are pieces out there with more components, he strikes the point that efficiency is a priority. Hours are struck on the left, minutes are struck on the right. A double-tone 10-minute count strikes on both.
The most iconic piece in the Lange roster, the asymmetrical Lange 1, has evolved internally—to include a brand new manually wound calibre. It is actually the 50th new movement developed in house. Technical innovations in watchmaking, especially those that reflect precision, are incredibly valuable when preserving a hallmark design. The brand's Datograph UP/DOWN saw a material development, now available in pink-gold, but also sports a black solid-silver dial, lending a distinct edge. Lange's latest pieces are a nice addition to an already stellar canon.
Images courtesy of A. Lange & Söhne