If you hop across the boarder into neighbouring Germany, you will find the traits of exceptional quality, history and overall horological pedigree that you can find in the motherland, Switzerland. Without a doubt one of the most recognisable names in German watchmaking is that of Ferdinand Adolph Lange. Now the keen eyed amongst you will put two and two together and make four; in this case four means that Ferdinand Lange is in fact THE Lange of A. Lange & Sohne.
Remarkably, German watchmaking can be traced back to the town of Pforzheim in 1760. A chap by the name of Jean Francois Autran was given permission to open a watchmaking facility in an orphanage. The aim was to offer the orphans the chance to develop useful skills, as well as economically benefitting the surrounding area. By the time the 20's came around, wristwatches were starting to become fashionable, which paved the way for new watch manufacturers to start popping out of the woodwork. Two of the most prominent brands to emerge from the Pforzheim region of German watchmaking were Laco and Stowa. However, having spent the best part of a decade imbedding themselves as two of the premier German watch manufacturers, their progressed was stifled by war. They were forced into repurposing their facilities to produce artillery rounds and torpedo's as well as a number of Flieger watches for the Luftwaffe.
Glasshutte is the other region in Germany reveared for its watchmaking! And this is wear FAL started the watchmaking factory that is now one of the most recognised names in watchmaking in the world. At the time, industry in Glashutte was in a fairly shoddy state. Lange decided that with the experience in watchmaking that he had learnt abroad, he would approach the Saxon government Dragons Den style, and see if they would fund the framework for a brand new industry. The thought process behind this seemingly bold move was this. Lange thought that with the ability to produce watches very efficiently, alongisde introducing an apprentiship programme married with Glashutte's relatively isolated location, would be key factors in supporting rapid growth of the industry. And with this simple formula, Glashutte quickly became the most important city for watchmaking in Germany. Now, in the same vein as in the first installment of this mini series, I am now going to talk about my favourite brand from the country in question, and look specifically at my favourite three models, and we can all have a bit of a nerd out about them!! And it will come as no surprise that they German brand I have chosen is also my favourite watch brand of all time, the legendary A Lange & Sohne...
A lange & Sohne
A lange & Sohne are widely considered as not only the best that German watchmaking has to offer, but as one of the luxury watch brands in the world. This maybe slightly biased considering they are by a mile my favourite watch brand. Their designs are unusual and distinctive, and their movements are truly works of art. A Lange & Sohne was established in 1845 in Glasshutte. It has remained there ever since and has been crafting gorgeous and interesting time pieces to this day. Now, if you are familiar with Lange, you will know that they are a brand that produces traditional watches alongside contemporary designs with ease. The three watches I am going to talk about are my personal favourites, as well as being the personal favourites of some of the most knowledgable and well regarded watch people in the world.
This was one of the brands first watches, having been rebranded as a company to A Lange & Sohne in 1990. It was released in 1994, and quickly became the signature design of the brand. Interestingly Lange refer to this design as its 'face'. The style has remained the same since then, with its distinctive lopsided dial and power reserve indicator. The date display, which considering its size is definitely one of the focus points of the dial, has some pretty interesting and patented technology. One disc is named the 'ones' disc, meaning it contains numbers 0 through to 9. The other disc, unsurprisingly, is nicknamed the 'tens' disc, which contains the digits 1, 3 and a blank field. This is technically a pretty special feature, considering the watch designers had to ensure that the calendar switched correctly on the 31st days of the months with that many days in. On the 31st day, the 'ones' ring had to stay still in the lead up to 12 o'clock whilst the 'tens' disc pivots to the blank position for the date to refresh. All in all this is not only a stunning watch, but also technically amazing. So all in all, as the iconic model from the brand, i'd say its pretty 'Langeish'... (new word invented).
The Lange I. This particular model is the platinum cased model...
Lange Datograph Perpetual Tourbillion
Now, lets skip forward twenty-odd years to SIHH (the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève) for those of you who don't know. At SIHH two years ago, Lange revealed one of the most bonkers-cool and insane watches ever: the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillion. I mean the name it's self does not exactly scream simple, and with three major complications and five supplementary functions, simple is not what Lange were intending with this watch. The three complications in question are a flyback chronograph, obviously a tourbillion and a perpetual calendar. Now I know the complication nerds amongst you are going to call me up on branding a Tourbillion as a 'complication'. Yes, it is not technically a complication like an annual calendar or a power reserve, but as a skilled piece of watchmaking that is technically just added to watches because manufactures are skilled enough to be able to do it, I feel like it qualifies? Now, as much as I would like to go into massive depth about the technical aspects of the mechanics here, I have another watch to talk about, so I wont. However, visually, the watch is unsurprisingly as gorgeous on the outside. All of this technical Langeness (another made up word) is housed within a 41mm platinum case with a black dial made of solid silver. The only disappointing thing is that this watch was made in a limited edition run of 100 pieces subsequently retailing at a sickeningly outrageous (but arguably justified when compared to Richard Mille) £263,000... So I feel like this watch will most likely remain on my unobtainable grails list, despite this being probably my favourite watch of all time.
The complicated but utterly stunning Datograph Perpetual Tourbillion. Busy yes, but damn its gorgeous...
The best thing about this watch is the movement... I would wear this thing movement side up over dial side up ANY DAY OF THE WEEK...
Saxonia Thin 37mm
The last watch that I am going to talk about is the simplest, from a complication point of view, as well as an aesthetic point of view. It is, however, one of the most gorgeous watches that Lange offer. I am of course talking about the Iconic Saxonia line and, specifically, the Saxonia Thin 37. This is probably the most uncomplicated watch from Lange. It is a time only two-hander in an ultra-thin, white gold case. When I say it is 'ultra-thin' I mean this is ultra thin... 5.7mm thick no less. The simplicity of the dial is for me the most attractive quality of this watch. Whilst Lange manage in most cases to pull off incredibly complicated and busy dials seamlessly, they also really know how to absolutely nail the simplest of dials. The only text on this dial is the arched name below the 12 o'clock marker, and that is it. This watch is the epitome of 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication', despite also being more than capable when it comes to the movement. Despite not being anywhere near the dizzying heights of the Datograph or Lange I, it is still a superb movement. It houses the in-house caliber L093.1. This movement has been used to power the Saxonia thin since the first iteration of the watch. It is, unsurprisingly, a manual wound movement, cast in German silver, with all the usual bells and whistles found in even the most expensive Lange's. Considering this is Lange's 'entry-level' watch, it still comprises of 167 components and boasts a pretty impressive 72 hour power reserve. All in all this watch is drop dead gorgeous, and if you need a dress watch, that is not a Cartier Tank or a JLC Reverso, this is without a doubt your guy. They also do a 35mm one for those of you who don't conform to the Bullsh*t of guys not being allowed to wear sub-40mm watches.
This watch really is the most simple but stunning watch ever... less definitely is more...
Well geeks, I hope you have enjoyed my second stop on the 'Who does it best' Tour... For the third and final part of this mini series we will be going to a slightly more unconventional, but still incredibly prominent and legendary watchmaking destination, Japan. Now these are the three most well known countries for watchmaking, but please let us know if there are any other countries you would like me to include in this series, and I can just keep adding instalments on!!
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