A. Lange & Söhne is "the life's work of a man who wanted no more and no less than to make the best watches in the world." - Walter Lange
Now that I am sitting on a train heading back to Berlin I have a chance to reflect on what Chris and I experienced at the A. Lange & Söhne manufactory in Dresden. We learned a lot, viewed beauty and dedication and in the end fell in love with some pieces (maybe one day we can call our own). But it wasn’t until I read a quote in Walter Lange’s memoirs that everything clicked. I was looking for words, some sentences to describe Lange and nothing seemed to fit until everything was so simply read. A. Lange & Söhne is “the life’s work of a man who wanted no more and no less than to make the best watches in the world.” This world of complication, precision and perfection is derived from such a simple foundation – to be the best. The brand DNA is not formed from the desire of fame or fortune, instead it’s stemmed in rich history, innovation and passion.
If you take one look at a Lange timepiece you might be able to understand the price and the beauty, but it isn’t until you learn the history, admire the details and appreciate the craftsmanship that you will just get it. Then you will understand why a Lange timepiece is truly a piece of art.
Visiting the Lange Factory in Glashütte
We were picked up from our hotel in Dresden by our driver, in a VW Phaeton (everything seemed to come full circle on this trip) and drove the half hour to the small charming town of Glashütte. The road leading to the manufactory was lined in the colors of fall. The air was crisp and the leaves were all yellow, orange red with only a few specks of green left. It was the perfect “introduction” of what we were about to see.
When you pull into the town you cant help but feel that Lange dominates. From the beautiful glass building of their headquarters to the newly built manufactory, it seems as if every building on the road is occupied by Lange.
The team at A. Lange & Söhne is world class. They are down to earth, yet very elegant and poised. They move through the halls with determination and smiles in their crisp white lab coats, which are fitted perfectly. It’s fun to watch the quiet hustle and bustle of the team. It’s unlike any work environment I’ve ever been in.
Every employee is well trained and most have worked their entire life at A. Lange & Söhne, with no desire to leave. Many start their careers as apprentices at the young age of 16 and go through extensive training to get the title of “watchmaker.” Once you’re in, you stay.
Coming from San Francisco and a background where I have changed jobs and companies frequently it was so hard for me to understand what makes these people want to stay. Now I get it, it’s not the company but rather the culture that surrounds them. They are surrounded by beauty, both in the nature surrounding the workshops and the innovative timepieces they work on. They are constantly challenged, taught and they get to work in an industry that only seems to get better with time…haha get it.
Throughout our day at Lange we were lead from room to room and building to building, as everything is compartmentalized. We visited areas dedicated to only 1 watch type, rooms where all the master watchmakers work, the detailing room, the 1st assembly room, the second assembly room and my favorite the engraving room…where the balance cock (an important component for a watch) is engraved under the microscope.
Every aspect of the Lange manufactory is carefully guarded. As transparent as the company is they have their secrets they must keep from competitors, so unfortunately I couldn’t get any pictures inside.
Talk about feeling special, we went where very few people have gone before and truly got a behind the scenes look at the brand which is A. Lange & Söhne
Why I Love A. Lange & Söhne
- Rich History – After WWII A. Lange & Söhne was expropriated by the East German regime and prevented from making timepieces under their name. It wasn’t until the German reunification that the founder’s great-grandson, Walter Lange, together with watch industry executive Günter Blümlein, restored the company and refounded Lange, again operating from Glashütte. Only 4 years later in 1994, the company was ready to present their 4 new models, which would also be the start of a new era of watchmaking for the brand A. Lange & Söhne. For more detailed history read here.
- Precision – Every single part of the timepiece (even the ones that seem microscopic) is lavishly polished and finished by hand – even the pieces you will never be able to see.
- Complicated – Lange watches have 160 up to almost 900 different parts and pieces
- Perfection – Each timepiece is assembled, then taken apart and reassembled again…just to make sure they get everything perfect
- True pieces of art – The engravers (who are master artisans) each engrave the same floral motif but in their own style. So each piece is different than that of another.
- Patience – It takes 9 – 18 months to complete 1 timepiece
- Exclusivity – Althought they wont officially comment on a number, Lange makes just a few thousand pieces a year, compared to the hundreds of thousands Rolex makes and the tens of thousands Patek Philippe makes
- Education – Lange has their own watchmaking school which educate and train their future employees
- They pay attention to details – I’m a sucker for good packaging and appreciate these types of details. Lange is so detailed they even have their own color grey (aptly named Lange Grey) that they use consistently through the wall colors of their boutiques to the boxes the pieces come in
For the True Watch Enthusiast
- Lange has five watch families: LANGE 1, RICHARD LANGE, 1815, SAXONIA, ZEITWERK as well as masterpieces (EX: DATOGRAPH UP/DOWN, DOUBLE SPLIT, LANGE 31, GRAND COMPLICATION)
- Lange is the epitome of extreme precision to its fullest. Each timepiece is built, then dissasempled and then rebuilt again to make sure everything is perfect. For Ex: If there is a thickness deviation in the spring, of merely .001 millimetres, this will cause the watch to be about 30 minutes fast or slow per day
- 50 in-house developed calibres have been presented by A. Lange & Söhne over the last two decades which feature technological achievements, like the first outsize-date display in a series wristwatch, the first fusée-and-chain transmission in a wristwatch, the first chronograph with double rattrapante mechanism, the first movement with a 31 day power reserve, the first stop seconds feature for the tourbillon or the first precisely jumping numerals display
- In 2013, they introduced the most complicated wristwatch ever built by A. Lange & Söhne: The GRAND COMPLICATION which combines seven, partly very rare, complications, including a grande sonnerie, a perpetual calendar and a split-seconds chronograph with flying seconds The work involved is so intricate that only one of these watches can be produced per year. Only 6 were created and all are sold out.
Favorites From the Debut 2014 Pieces
RICHARD LANGE PERPETUAL CALENDAR “Terraluna”
The Terraluna also accommodates four precisely jumping displays of the perpetual calendar – date, day of week, month and leap year. A further unique complication can be admired through the sapphire-crystal case back of the watch: the patented orbital moon-phase display. It shows the moon phase, the position of the moon as an observer in the northern hemisphere would see it and day/night indicator. It’s highly complicated and I love it! The moon-phase indication is so precise it will take 1058 years before a correction by one day is required.
ZEITWERK STRIKING TIME in rose gold
The ZEITWERK STRIKING TIME was presented in 2011 and now in 2014 it is available in rose gold. For me this piece is the perfect marriage of traditional craftsmanship and innovation. Taking all the elements of a mechanical timepiece this watch just looks cool and modern. It has brushed components on the dial, reads out digitally and a visible striking mechanism that chimes at quarter hours and on the hour.
If you ever find yourself near an A. Lange & Söhne boutique, make sure to stop in and admire the beauty that is this brand…you won’t be disappointed.