The Rebirth of A. Lange & Söhne
The name Lange has been tied to watchmaking and the Saxony area of Germany for centuries. In the 1800s, Ferdinand Aldoph Lange – which is where the “A” in A. Lange & Söhne comes from – began his watchmaking journey under the tutelage of master watchmaker, Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes. Passed from father to son, the Lange name flourished, before encountering considerable obstacles during 20th century. The brand got caught up in the turmoil caused by World War One, the financial crash of 1929, World War Two and was finally placed under the rule of the Soviet Union. The company was nationalised for the next 45 years, essentially spelling the end of the A. Lange & Söhne name.
Years later, in 1990, the brand was resuscitated by the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, Walter, and watch industry veteran, Günter Blümlein. Blümlein, a Nuremberg native who grew up in post-War Germany, had previously overseen the resurgence of IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. This started the four-year journey that Lange and Blümlein would go on with their small team to bring the company back from the ashes, with the release of their first four models on the 24th October 1994. The brand released four innovative models, all of the with their own distinctive visual language, the Arkade, Saxonia, Tourbillon Pour le Mérite and the Lange 1.
THE LANGE 1
One of the first watches released by A. Lange & Söhne following the resuscitation of the brand, the Lange 1 has become a modern icon in its own right. The decentralised arrangement of the displays on the dial is characteristic, with the centers of the displays designed to form the corners of an isosceles triangle. The masterful use of empty space, with none of the displays overlapping, creates an overall sense of balance and refinement.
In keeping with this classic styling, the watch features a crisp dark blue dial and faceted white gold hands. Exhibiting an aesthetic that is undeniably Lange, an oversized ‘outside’ aperture is displayed at the top right corner of the dial, inspired from the Five-Minute Clock at Semper Opera House in Dresden. At 3 o’clock, the power reserve is indicated in German, a reminder of the manufacture’s origins.
This reference 101.027, produced exclusively between 1997 and 2002, sets itself apart from other Lange 1’s thanks to its distinctive dark blue dial. The two subsidiary dials, with the indication for the hours, minutes and seconds, have a slightly darker, even finish. The rest of the dial features a vertical, satin-brushed finish, providing a subtle contrast with the lightly recessed subdials. The cult status of this early Lange 1 with blue dial is such that, in 2017, A. Lange & Söhne released a collection of watches with blue dials, directly inspired by this piece. Being an earlier piece from the German watchmaker, it is housed in a classically-sized 38.5mm case, similar to the original Lange 1.
Much attention is given to A. Lange & Söhne’s more technically-complicated watches, like the Datograph or Zeitwerk, but looking at this Lange 1, it is evident that their uncomplicated approach to form and design is equally noteworthy. More frequently produced with a white dial, this blue variant of the Lange 1 remains as elusive, as it is attractive.
The aesthetics of the movement are just as impressive as the mechanics, with chamfering and interior angles superbly hand-finished. Moreover, it features an artistic flourish, a balance-cock engraved by one of Lange’s master engravers. In fact, each individual watchmaker's unique engraving style can be identified as a result. The bridges and plates are made from German silver, an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc, with a warm silver tone that will develop a subtle patina over time. The use of this metal, along with the hand-engraved balance cock is a signature of A. Lange & Söhne.
The A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 houses a manual-winding calibre L901.0, with a 72-hour power reserve. The movement is comprised of 398 components, of which 54 are jewels and five screwed gold chatons – the latter of which are a mark of Lange’s traditionally German movement. The watch has a lever escapement and the balance beats at 21,600 A/h.