Renaissance Stories: A. Lange & Söhne

A. Lange & Söhne’s new Lange 1 Time Zone is an impressive watch. Its simple masculine case houses an original mechanism that practically and efficiently executes its world time function, indicating all 24 time zones, while also tracking a second time zone with a subdial at 5 o’clock. However, the watch’s superior finishing and the streamlined engineering of its functions seem even more extraordinary when you consider that only 15 years ago, the company (along with the German watchmaking industry as a whole) was virtually nonexistent.
 
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, A. Lange & Söhne was the preeminent watch company in Glashütte, Germany’s watchmaking center. But economic upheaval, world wars, and communist nationalization eventually shut down all the Glashütte firms, including Lange. The East German government then replaced individual companies with a collective mass-production facility that supplied cheap watches to the entire Eastern bloc.
 
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 enabled Walter Lange, the enterprising descendant of the company’s founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, to secure financial backing from the Swiss-German watch company IWC and resurrect the Lange brand and restore its former luster. Lange challenged the Glashütte craftspeople to compete against Switzerland’s premier manufactures, just as their forefathers had done, instead of continuing to produce mass-market watches.
 
When Lange reestablished the company in 1990, most watchmakers were using supplied movements. But Lange, helped immeasurably by his association with IWC, chose to make his own. The partnership enabled the fledgling firm to draw on the latest technology and to train its watchmakers in state-of-the-art techniques. Finding qualified watchmakers in a town that had labored under communism for a half century was a daunting task, but Lange discovered that a surprisingly high degree of talent remained in Glashütte. By recruiting the best watchmakers from the collective factory, he quickly staffed his manufacture.
 
Lange introduced his debut collection, including the brand’s hallmark Lange 1 with its large date window and off-center dial, in 1994. Many of Lange’s movements feature the three-quarter plate and engraved balance cock found in vintage Glashütte pocket watches. The sober, contemporary lines of the cases and the watches’ emphasis on functionalism recall the characteristics of Germany’s finest performance automobiles.
 
A. Lange & Söhne’s rapid ascension prompted luxury conglomerate Richemont to acquire the company (along with partner IWC) in 2000. The new ownership, however, has not altered the company’s character or its home base. Today, thanks to Walter Lange, who delivered a new variety of watchmaking for collectors to savor, Glashütte is as thriving a watchmaking center as any town in the Vallée de Joux.

A. Lange & Söhne, www.langewatches.com

Photo by Piccinini Roberto
The already impressive Huracán has been given an array of race-friendly upgrades…
The new GTS, unveiled 50 years after the original Targa debuted, will hit U.S. dealerships in April…
Photo by Jim Fets
The successful trip puts Audi on track to release its first autonomous car in 2017…
Jaguar’s design director discloses that the F-Pace is the production version of the C-X17 concept…
This year’s show saw debuts from Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, and other top carmakers…
The racecar set off a Ford winning streak at Le Mans that lasted four years…
Photo by Mercedes-Benz
Armored versions of the limousine-like vehicle will also be available…
Photo by Mark Bramley
The new sedan features numerous stylistic references to the world’s great metropolises…
Photo by Drew Phillips
The original car became famous in the 1968 Steve McQueen film Bullitt…
The new Turbo S completed a lap on the famous Nürburgring circuit in under 8 minutes…