This year marked both a major retrospective and a great leap forward for A. Lange & Söhne, with the double celebration of its founder’s two-hundredth birthday and the opening of a new manufacture in Glashütte. It was also time to infuse new life into the brand icon, the Lange 1.
Despite her overflowing diary and the demands of the migrant crisis, Angela Merkel found time to attend the sumptuous inauguration ceremony for the new manufacture of Glashütte’s most emblematic brand, A. Lange & Söhne, on 26 August. Two hundred years after the birth of its founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the firm has established itself as the flagship of an entire region, as the Chancellor was keen to point out: “Success stories like yours are the result of the excellent reputation of East Germany, a reputation that endures today, with innovative, flexible and modern centres.”
With a surface area of 5,400 m2, the new building, which has many ecological features, “gives us flexibility above all: we can grow, provided we continue to respect our quality demands,” as CEO Wilhelm Schmid explained. He prudently points out that it takes three to five years to put young watchmakers and finishers through their demanding training. “Last August, we signed and celebrated our new watchmakers’ training contracts,” Wilhelm Schmid continues. “If in thirty years’ time they are all still as happy with their work and as enthusiastic about our brand, we will have succeeded in our aims. That’s what drives me today: ensuring that our manufacture continues to thrive in the decades to come.”
THE NEW HEART OF THE LANGE 1
There is nevertheless one certainty: the Glashütte brand, which introduced four new models at the last Watches & Wonders fair, will continue to develop strictly within its five product families: 1815, Saxonia, Richard Lange, Zeitwerk and Lange 1. “They cover a very broad spectrum, from pocket watches to highly contemporary timepieces. We don’t intend to create another new family.” Of course, that does not rule out innovation. “The minute repeater is a very traditional complication. But our Zeitwerk Minute Repeater model, for example, is incredibly contemporary without deviating from our values.”
Another certainty, if we look more closely into the collections, is that the Lange 1 has remained the ‘face’ or DNA of the manufacture ever since its renaissance in 1994. With its fusion of innovative design, outstanding functionality and immaculate craftsmanship, this collection has become what might be called a Magna Carta for the manufacture’s self-perception (a ‘pillar’ role that is easily understandable – you just have to look at the watch’s name…). This year, however, marks a change for the emblematic collection, which now includes 15 different models, with a new edition that has been endowed with a technically evolved, manually wound calibre.
- A. LANGE & SÖHNE: LANGE 1 TIMEZONE - GRAND LANGE 1 MOON PHASE
The reference L121.1, the manufacture calibre that equips the new version of this Haute Horlogerie classic, is in fact the 50th in the brand’s portfolio of in-house movements. What new features does it offer? Well, quite a few… First, its precisely jumping outsize date, whose display switches at midnight. The force needed to perform this action is slowly built up over a period of several hours. Additionally, the escapement of the Lange 1 has a balance wheel with eccentric poising weights and a free-sprung hairspring crafted in-house. Beneath the hand-engraved balance cock, it still beats with a frequency of 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour. The reliable twin mainspring barrel with a power reserve of 72 hours was also retained.
As far as the watch’s external appearance is concerned, the model’s characteristic asymmetric dial with its outsize date display and prominently positioned power reserve indicator remained practically untouched. A slightly narrower bezel is the only visible hint of a modification. It adds openness to the face of the watch, despite its unchanged diameter of 38.5 millimetres. The Lange 1 is available in the classic case-dial pairings of yellow gold/champagne, pink gold/argenté and platinum/rhodié.
TARGETING UNCOMPROMISING COLLECTORS
Beyond the very attractive features of this new interpretation of the iconic collection, if Wilhelm Schmid appears confident about the coming decades, it is also largely because of his unique clientele, which is made up exclusively of collectors.
“I consider us to have a single market: collectors. Where they live is not the most important factor. In our globalised world, I always ask myself, when a Chinese person buys one of our watches in Lucerne, does this concern the Swiss market or the Chinese market? Our strength lies in the fact that we are never dependent on a particular market. We don’t design products for a specific culture or taste. We are our own benchmark!”
Under Wilhelm Schmid’s guidance, the brand has even reduced its points of sale somewhat. “I want to be with the best, not with the most.” Today, the only region where the brand does not have a presence is sub-Saharan Africa. “Perhaps in ten years Africa will become an important market, and we will need to be represented. I’m not ruling it out. But that’s all in the future.”
Source: Europa Star November 2015 Magazine Issue