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. These innovative models, all of the with their own distinctive visual language, the Arkade, Saxonia, Tourbillon Pour le Mérite and the Lange 1.
In 1999, A. Lange & Söhne introduced the Datograph, powered by the caliber L951.1. The movement challenged the status quo that had been in place for decades, where high-end manufactures such as Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet used movements provided by external suppliers. The newly developed caliber combined impressive mechanics with a remarkable aesthetic construction. It was praised by none other than Philippe Dufour, who owns a Datograph himself, and wears it on a frequent basis. As the Swiss watchmaker put it,
“Take ten movements out of the current range of any contemporary brand, put them next to a Lange movement, and comment honestly on what you see. That is the best way to judge — by examining the truth.”
The Datograph name is an amalgamation of the words Date and Chronograph, indicating the two key complications of the model. This particular variant - with its platinum case and black dial - was the first iteration of the design, having remained in production from 1999 to 2011. To many, it remains the quintessential Datograph.
This Datograph 403.035 features a carefully designed dial, which perfectly balances the different elements throughout. The date and chronograph subdials form an equilateral triangle, with the central point being the pinions in the middle, which hold the hands in place. The applied roman numerals - at 2, 6 and 10 o'clock - also form a triangle, which subtly reinforced the balance of the overall design.
The subdials are slightly recessed, with a warm, creamy tone, which contrasts with the stark, black dial. This layering creates a satisfying level of depth, which becomes especially prominent when light hits the dial at different angles. All the indications are printed in white ink, including a tachymeter scale, which follows the circumference of the dial. The A. Lange & Söhne signature is discretely placed at 12 o'clock. The broad hands are lumed, helping with legibility, and leaning into the more contemporary aesthetics of the Datograph.
Measuring 39 mm by 12.8mm, the case is made out of platinum, which complements the darker tones if the dial. The case features the brand’s distinctive notched lugs, which are mirror polished and bevelled separately, then attached to the case. The pushers follow the lines of the case, with subtle bevels used on the edges.
This Datograph 403.035 is powered by the caliber L951.1, which combines a range of impressive technical and aesthetic features. It is understood that the development began in 1995, with several years of design, prototyping and construction required to achieve the end result. It features a column wheel, lateral clutch and flyback chronograph movement, combined with a date function. The “flyback” chronograph function also allows the stopwatch to be instantaneously restarted for continuous timing, without having to stop, reset, and restart the chronograph.
The architecture of A. Lange and Söhne movements are perhaps their most distinctive feature, with a three dimensional aspect that is truly unique. Every bridge is ribbed, polished and chamfered, with a hand engraved balance cock bringing an additional flourish. It is comprised of 405 parts and has an approximate power reserve of 36 hours.
This A. Lange & Söhne Datograph 403.035 comes with its outer box, inner box, manuals and Warranty Card (confirming sale in 2004 in Germany). It comes on a grey nubuck strap, as well as its black alligator strap and corresponding platinum tang buckle.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Datograph 403.035 will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.