Ferdinand A. Lange
A Lange & Söhne has among the more storied horological histories around, one that begins with the entrepreneurial and socially conscious Ferdinand Adolph Lange. Born in 1815 in Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, Ferdinand A. Lange would pioneer watchmaking in the region after first catching the horological bug as a 15-year-old apprentice. By 30 he set out to establish a watchmaking trade in the impoverished city of Glashütte, with records from the 1840s showing how he had secured a bank loan where he was then free to train apprentices and buy tools. By 1868 his sons Richard Lange and Emil had joined the company, officially establishing the name A Lange & Sohne.
The great-grandson of Ferdinand A. Lange, Walter Lange was the modern-day legend of the A Lange & Söhne house. He was among the founding fathers behind establishing Glashütte as an illustrious watchmaking centre to rival that of Switzerland. After serving in the second world war, Walter Lange returned to Glashütte but found he was not free to continue his family’s legacy: 1948 saw the dispossession of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Eastern Germany. Only some 40 years later in 1990 was Walter Lange, along with his renowned manager Gunther Blumlein, able to relaunch his family’s company. In 1994, the 66-year-old Lange presented his first four prototypes to the public, which retailers and the press loved and couldn't help but buy up enthusiastically.
Walter Lange tribute watches
Walter Lange died in January 2017 and to commemorate the great man, A Lange & Söhne produced a range of limited edition 1815 Homage to Walter Lange timepieces. Equipped with a stoppable jumping seconds hand - an invention of founder Ferdinand Adolph Lange himself - the watch takes after historic pocket watches. In addition to a one-off steel case version that will be auctioned off for charity in 2018 (expect a record shattering price), the watches are available with a yellow gold case (limited to 27 pieces, which references the number of years elapsed between when Lange revived the company in 1990 and the watch’s launch date), a white gold case (145 pieces, marking A Lange & Söhne’s founding date to its 1990 revival) and a rose gold case (90 pieces, commemorating the momentous 1990 year).
Paying tribute to the Saxon watchmaking industry, the A Lange & Söhne Saxonia models are a masterclass in understated design. Among the standout pieces is the Automatic Outsize Date with a rose gold case, featuring a double aperture outsize date that’s become hallmark of the house. But for ultra-sleek models that are free and clear of any fuss, that would be the Saxonia Thin. At just 2.9mm thick, the 40mm version comes in either rose or white gold (price of $24,500) while one can buy an even smaller 37mm model with a price of $14,800.
Chic understatement with design free of any fuss may be the A Lange & Söhne signature, but its complicated watches, from chrongraph to perpetual calendar creations, are just as eye-catching - and among the most mechanically superior watches one can buy. Take the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst (price around €300,000), whose movement boasts functions galore including time indicated in hours, minutes and subsidiary seconds, perpetual calendar with moon phase and leap year and a rattrapante chronograph with minute counter. Or consider the gorgeous rose gold Double Split, the first and only chronograph with a double-rattrapante function and featuring two pairs of stopwatch hands for time comparisons, lap time and reference-value measurements. The house’s most complicated watch is the rose gold Grand Complication itself, packed with a grande sonnerie, perpetual calendar and split seconds chronograph with flying seconds. And for more chronograph purists, there is the clear-cut 1815 Chronograph that’s among the most accurate one can buy today (price around $50,000), thanks to a jumping minute counter and flyback function.