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 with their own distinctive visual language, the Arkade, Saxonia, Tourbillon Pour le Mérite and the Lange 1.
For a remarkably long period, time has been displayed in a predictable and familiar manner, with the help of an hour and minute hand. However, over time, some watchmakers have challenged this approach. One of these alternatives can be found in jumping hour watches, which usually feature a series of discs in different configurations, jumping with the change of every hour and sometimes minute, hence their name.
An early example of a digital display can be found inside the Semper Opera House in Dresden, which Ferdinand Adolph Lange helped to develop, under the leadership of Christian Friedrich Gutkaes. In low lighting situations, the bold, oversized numerals are easier to read than a thin pair of hands. Introduced in 2009, the Zeitwerk built on this legacy, being the first mechanical wristwatch to display the time from left to right, in a digital layout. The tremendous torque required to help the hour and minute discs "jump" into place required a reengineered barrel and innovative constant force mechanism.
Instead of displaying the time vertically, as is seen in most historical digital displays, the time on the Lange Zeitwerk is read from left to right, just as you'd expect on a digital clock. The Zeitwerk carries a large, hand-finished "bridge" on the dial with apertures at 3 and 9 o’clock for the minutes and the hours. Placed on this same bridge is the sub-seconds display, which is mirrored by a power-reserve indicator at the top of the dial.
Measuring 41.9mm by 12.9mm, the case is made out of white gold, which complements the darker tones of the dial. The case features the brand’s distinctive notched lugs, which are mirror polished and bevelled separately, then attached to the case. One of the more noticeable characteristics of this watch is the crown located at 2 o’clock, making it unobtrusive and comfortable to use.
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.
Particularly impressive considering the three large discs that have to be moved to display the time, the power-reserve measures approximately 36 hours when fully wound. This proportionately large power-reserve is made possible though a remontoir, integrated between the barrel wheel and the balance. This mechanism gains, holds, and releases the energy required to move each disc every 60 seconds in a small burst of power, and then over the remaining minute rebuilds, continuing in a cycle.
This A. Lange & Söhne, Zeitwerk Ref. 140.029 comes with its outer box sleeve, outer box, inner box, leather folder, dust cloth and envelope, Lange Guarantee Seal (confirming sale in 2017 in Germany) and instruction booklet. It also comes on a beige grained calfskin strap, as well as its black alligator strap and corresponding white tang buckle.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Zeitwerk 140.029 will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.