Words of wisdom and three beautiful watches from A. Lange & Soehne
Lange & Soehne is one of the brands in my personal top three of watch brands. I very much admire their „Germanness”: their elegant restraint, their hard work, the incredible quality of their watches. In 2020, they are celebrating 175 years since one Ferdinand Adolph Lange opened a teaching workshop with 15 apprentices in Glashutte, in December 1845.
I may not be there to celebrate these days, but I felt much better when they invited me to a Zoom meeting with Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid and with the living legend Anthony de Haas, Lange’s Director of Product Development.
The reason was the launch of three limited edition models as an Homage to F. A. Lange – all three in Lange’s honeygold, with special movement decorations and special dials dedicated to the pioneering work of Mr Lange, in the 19th century.
The three watches are, as they should be, on the classical side, but innovation is always there at A. Lange & Soehne. Every day. Or, as Mr Schmid put it in the press conference, „I have to tell Tony and his team ‚Stop coming with better solutions every day, otherwise we shall never have the new watches ready on time’.”
This permanent quest for perfection, mixed with a very special sense of humour is, I think, the key to Lange’s success. They are obsessed with finding „the better solutions, they come every day with better solutions”, as Mr. Schmid says, but they never seem to take themselves too seriously. And, what is very important, the watches never look as though they are the result of a marketing brief to the watchmaking team.
We will get to the three watches in a minute. Until then, I am happy to share some of the things that were said in the very friendly discussion.
From Mr Schmid’s being happy and impressed that one person’s vision still shapes the brand (referring to Mr F. A. Lange) to Mr De Haas’ confession that honeygold is very difficult to machine („We keep it for special occasions because it is even more delicate than platinum and we have a lot of wear for our tools”), the discussion was, at the same time, very informative and very honest. Also very relaxed. For instance, answering the question „Why would you introduce an ultrathin model in the Homage series?” Mr De Haas said „Because we like to surprise you.”
We learned that the Rattrapante model is very wearable, with just 12.6mm in thickness, that proportions are always extremely important for Lange, a brand that is always trying to unite what has been done in the past with what is beeing done now, without giving in to the retro trend and just resuscitating old watches.
„We treat our watches with respect, without destroying the elements that have made people regard these pieces as legends,” said the brand’s officials in what could be construed as the mission of the company, their unofficial motto.
„The challenge is to find a new face for a watch, but keep it a Lange”, said Mr. De Haas, while Mr. Schmid, as I have said before, confessed that the technical team „drive me nuts” with their inventivity and resourcefulness.
And now we move on to the three watches, but not before acknowledging that the discussion ended with my very own question – How does a luxury brand stay relevant during these times?
Please read below a startingly candid and refreshing answer from A. Lange & Soehne CEO Wilhelm Schmid:
„Basically, we are a hobby. Nobody needs a mechanical watch at all. We are a very expensive, nice-to-have product. But these nice-to-have things help us not to go completely bananas. We will stay relevant by making products that specifically the young generation understands. It is very important that we stay connected with them the right way and hopefully this way our young watchmakers will still have a job in 20 years.
In these times, people need their hobbies even more than before. Brands must be authentic, they must stick to their values and grow without repeating or diluting themselves.”
Coming from Lange, I believe them.
The three watches honouring Mr. F. A. Lange are the following:
1815 THIN HONEYGOLD
With a diameter of only 38 millimetres, this very simple and elegant two-hand watch is just 6.3 millimetres thick. Arabic numerals, a railway-track minute scale, intricately hand-made enamel dial which emphasises the design inspired by Lange pocket watches. The model is limited to 175 pieces.
1815 RATTRAPANTE HONEYGOLD
This is the first watch from A. Lange & Söhne which places the classic complications of timekeeping – chronograph and rattrapante – in the spotlight in their pure forms. Additionally, for this watch – which is limited to 100 pieces – the exclusive case material honey gold was used for the first time in combination with a black dial made from solid silver.
TOURBOGRAPH PERPETUAL HONEYGOLD
The TOURBOGRAPH PERPETUAL HONEYGOLD – 0nly 50 pieces of the most complex timepiece of the new anniversary edition will be made. Two of its five complications – tourbillon and fusée-and- chain transmission – have the single purpose of further increasing the accuracy of the watch. Orchestrating the perfect interaction between chronograph, rattrapante and perpetual calendar is a major watchmaking challenge. For the dial arrangement, A. Lange & Söhne took a completely new approach: it is made of black-rhodiumed honey gold with raised numerals and scales that stand out from the dark background as a ground relief.