In the first three instalments of our “History of A. Lange & Söhne” series, we learned more about the key players involved in the creation of this fascinating brand. From visionary founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange (link to part 1), to his sons Richard and Emil (link to part 2), who would propel the business into the 20th-century. Only for it to be forcefully nationalized during the Soviet occupation of Germany. And of course, the courageous Walter Lange (link to part 3), who’s “never stand still” attitude enabled him to resurrect his family’s business in the early 1990’s.
To announce the company’s return from the dead in 1994, A. Lange & Söhne launched four foundational models. Among them was a watch that has become a symbol of the brand, its design synonymous with German watchmaking. The Lange 1. Perfectly proportioned, well-balanced and intuitively easy to read, it has become an icon of modern watchmaking. Here we take a closer look at its origins and highlight some of our favourite pieces from this collection.
When Walter Lange and Günter Blümlein set out to revive A. Lange & Söhne – and put German watchmaking firmly back on the map – they knew they would need to present something unique and memorable. A watch that instantly resonated with collectors and aficionados, with a classic look that reflected the values and design codes of the modern brand. Whilst also providing subtle references to its rich past.
To find inspiration for such a timepiece, they asked themselves: what would a modern watch from A. Lange & Söhne look like, if the brand had not disappeared during the Soviet Occupation?
Their thoughts immediately turned to the Five-Minute Clock of the Semper Opera House in Dresden. The creation of which Ferdinand Adolph Lange had been involved with in the mid-19th century (see Part. 1). Adapting the design, the company crafted a distinctive and highly functional date complication, which was patented in 1992. The first patent to be awarded to Lange Uhren GmbH in the new era (but certainly not the last!). It was this Outsize Date complication that would form the basis of the design of the Lange 1.
Positioned at the top right of the dial, the other indications have been carefully placed at various points to create a sense of balance. None of this is by chance, of course. Instead, the layout is guided by the golden ratio, an ancient mathematical formula thought to yield aesthetically pleasing proportions. For example, the centres of the subsidiary seconds dial, the main dial and the outsize-date display are all positioned at the corners of an isosceles triangle. Other notable features include the applied hour indexes, the sword-shaped hands and the beautifully sculpted lugs.
Such was the success of the Lange 1, that the design has remained largely unchanged since it’s unveiling 25 years ago. Today it remains coveted by collectors and continues to be the most recognisable watch ever created by A. Lange & Söhne, serving as an unofficial symbol of the Saxon brand.
In the ensuing years, A. Lange & Söhne has created several tasteful variations of the Lange 1, being careful to always remain true to the design and ethos of the original model. Here are three of our favourites.
Stunning in its apparent simplicity, the Lange 1 Moon Phase combines an eye-catching moonphase display with an ingenious day/night background seamlessly integrated into the sub-dial of the small seconds display. During the day, its 18kt gold moon moves in front of the bright-blue celestial section of the disc without stars, reminding us of its of its independence of the sun’s position, even if we can’t always see it in the sky.
At night, the section of backdrop changes to a dramatic dark-blue sky studded with 383 crisply contrasting stars. Tracking the lunar cycle with an accuracy of 99.998 per cent, this poetic complication requires adjustment only once every 122.5 years (assuming the watch runs without interruption).
Designed with the traveller in mind, the Lange 1 Timezone offers the convenience of a second time-zone display, without compromising on legibility.
Nor the aesthetic beauty of the dial. Home time is shown on the large time display at 9 o’clock. Incorporated within this dial is a day/night indicator and a second, smaller sub-dial showing running seconds.
The second timezone is indicated on the subsidiary dial at the bottom right of the dial. A separate day/night indicator appears next to it, while an applied arrow marker at 5 o’clock points at the name on the city ring, which represents the time zone that is being displayed. A time-zone correction pusher allows the city ring and the zone time to be simultaneously advanced by increments of one hour, corresponding to an eastbound trip around the world.
You might notice there’s something a little different about this variation of the Lange 1. That’s because its dial is a mirror image of the original model. But while the position of everything has been flipped, the perfect proportions have been maintained. The other key difference is that there is no power reserve indicator. That’s because the Lange 1 Daymatic was (and still is) the first Lange 1 to be powered by an automatic movement. Manufactured in-house, of course.
Instead that space on the dial is dedicated to a retrograde day-of-week indication. Just after midnight, the hand advances forward to point to the coming day, offering a visual reminder that the weekend is on the way. When said weekend is over, however, and it’s time to start the work week again, the hand jumps back smoothly to Monday. Ready to face a new week. Even if you’re not.
There’s no doubt that the Lange 1 is an impressive timepiece, both aesthetically and technically. In the last 25 years, this model has played an outsized role in re-establishing A. Lange & Söhne as one of the world’s premiere high-end watchmakers. But this collection is only the tip of the iceberg. Be sure to keep tuned for Part. 5 when we highlight the remainder of the collections in the A. Lange & Söhne family. We’re pretty confident you’re going to love them too.