A. Lange & Söhne “With the new Lange 1, we changed nothing and we changed everything”
Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, talks about size, the not-so-distant future and sound, three concepts that are at the foundation of his 2015 collection.
Your most important model has celebrated its 20th anniversary. And now you’re rolling out a new Lange 1 that changes…nothing compared to the previous one?
Yes, that was the idea of it. I always say it’s tempting for a CEO to touch an icon because you leave a mark. But we resisted that temptation because there is no good reason to change a design just for the sake of it. The Lange 1 is a sought-after piece, so the only thing we changed is our font for the logo, now in line with the other models, but you won’t even see it. And by a fraction of a millimetre, we opened the bezel. No chance to spot that either.
And yet you changed the movement.
Yes but that is another story. The current construction is 20 years in production so the movement is 24 years old. In those days, certain parts we bought from suppliers and since then, we’ve gained experience. So a couple of years ago we thought about the future of the Lange 1. We want to make it safe for the next 20 years. Our icon should carry our own hairspring, that’s where it started.
But you could have changed things step by step, couldn’t you?
That’s how we started, but little by little, we realised it’s better to start from scratch. And we ended up with a new movement. Now the date jumps exactly at midnight. The power reserve was always much more than the 72 hours mentioned on the dial, more than 100 hours. But beyond 80, especially for the last 10 hours, it loses accuracy. With the new one, the movement comes to a standstill after 80 hours and the seconds hand stops at 12, where it’s easier to set the time. We do that with many recent watches.
"A Lange must always look like a Lange"
Isn’t it early to renew the Saxonia line?
It’s in line with our usual renewals, because it’s been around for 9 years now. It’s the access to our brand. With the new design, it’s got a more German identity. A Lange must always look like a Lange, and it’s more elegant. We played with the dial design and the size. The dual time has changed quite significantly, by 1.5 mm.
But more surprisingly, you’re coming up with a very small hand-wound Saxonia. Why did you decide to make it a 35 mm?
The movement fits perfectly with that size. And it distinguishes it more clearly from the automatic model. In a window, one doesn’t see a 1 mm difference, or a dial detail. A 35 mm watch stands out. We have a very nice line where you can decide between a large watch, a small watch and something in between.
You’re coming up with a much anticipated complication, the minute repeater, in the form of the Zeitwerk minute repeater. How long did it take to develop it?
We released a minute repeater last year. It was one of the complications of our Grande Complication, since the minute repeater is part of any Grande Sonnerie. The project started four years ago.
It doesn’t strike the quarters of hours, but it is a decimal minute repeater. Why is that?
It’s logical if you look at the watch. A classical watch will have a 3, a 6 a 9 and a 12 so it strikes the quarters. But when time is displayed in a digital way, like with our Zeitwerk, our brain wants to hear what it sees. And from that standpoint, you need hours, and minutes split in tens and units.
It’s made of platinum, a metal that’s notoriously hard to use with chiming watches. How did you pull that off?
I struggle with technical details but our R&D director says it doesn’t really matter. The challenge is to define quality of sound, but we realised we had no problem working with platinum. We experienced it with our Zeitwerk Striking Time (Editor’s note: a Sonnerie au Passage, that strikes hours and quarters with a single gong, automatically but not on demand) and it was not very different in white or pink gold. There are so many other factors that influence the sound.
What else did you want it to be?
We wanted it to be slow so that one can easily count the time, probably one of the most difficult things to adjust. I believe it’s loud enough. I’m happy with the prototypes we’ve been showing around but we’ll work on certain things before the first production model is released.
"The Zeitwerk is without comparison"
At €440 000, it is much more expensive than most of its competitors. How come?
We keep our best watchmakers busy with this watch, so we are talking about a scarce resource. And the Zeitwerk is without comparison. Most other minute repeaters are based on the same principle. Ours has a set of complications that is beyond comparison. So to a certain extent, you are paying for its uniqueness.
Following the vision of Ferdinand Adolph Lange to build the world’s best watches, A. Lange & Söhne strives for ultimate precision and explores new avenues in order to advance the art of fine watchmaking.Find out more
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