In East Germany, and only a matter of kilometers from both the Czech and Polish frontiers, there is a small city near Dresden in the Saxony region, called Glashütte. Something special makes this town, with a population of under 5000, stand out from the hundreds of other industrial towns in the region. You could almost say it has a beating heart, and you wouldn’t be too far from the actual truth! For it is here in Glashütte which is home to a small localized industry whose product is revered by connoisseurs and experts worldwide. Glashütte is seat of the German watchmaking industry.
There are a number of prestigious manufactures in Glashütte. One such manufacture, and indeed the most coveted of all, is the world-renowned A. Lange & Söhne.
Established in 1868 by Richard Lange, son of Ferdinand Adolph Lange who had originally founded A. Lange & Cie (est 1845), this small manufacture began to gain recognition as a watchmaker at least on a par with its’ more illustrious Swiss contemporaries. The meticulous attention to detail beggared belief. Every aspect of these horologic masterpieces was crafted and lavishly decorated by the steady hands of the Lange technicians.
Over the following decades, the quality of the design and build associated with the A. Lange & Söhne name earned a reputation which found it much sought after and cherished by the wealthy industrialists, the noble and indeed monarchs of the time.
An order from Kaiser William ll in 1898 for a magnificent jeweled pocketwatch as a gift to the Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire for a state visit by the German Kaiser was evidence of the esteem in which the Lange timepiece was now held.
Fate would later decree that the fortunes of the A. Lange & Söhne manufacture would not follow those of their Swiss counterparts. Firstly, the coming of war in 1939 and the eventual destruction of their manufacture in the very last day of war would bring an end to production for the A. Lange & Söhne brand for some time.
As the rest of Europe began to struggle to their feet and shake off the dust following the thorough decimation left behind after years of war, further insurmountable difficulties lay in store for the manufacture. For the region was no longer free to recover from the horrors and attempt to tentatively begin to manufacture and commence trading with the rebuilding world as much of the rest of Germany could do. Instead the town of Glashütte was now deep inside Soviet-controlled East Germany, and the manufactory of A. Lange & Söhne became appropriated by the new regime to become a communist collective for the people, seemingly extinguishing forevermore the lifeblood of this creator of masterpieces…
….until the monumental events of late 1989 and 1990, when the iron grip of the party on its subjects began to dissolve, and from the first holes appearing in the wall though to the complete reunification of Germany a year later, made official on October 3 1990, now heralded the opening of an incredible new chapter in the lives of millions of citizens of the now former German Democratic Republic.
A mere six weeks later, on December 7, the sixty-six year-old Walter Lange was registering the revered A. Lange & Söhne brandname, and re-establishing the tooling and properties belonging to the long-defunct production workshops of the great watchmaker began.
And so the A. Lange & Söhne brand was able to commence making up on the fifty years of lost ground (literally and commercially!) to the undisputed and recognized masters of watchmaking – the Swiss.
In 1994, the first creations of the new era A. Lange & Söhne were presented to an expectant watch community, and to the great relief of the informed collectors and of course the manufacture, the new models, the Lange 1, the Saxony, the Arkade and the Tourbillon were received with a wave of enthusiasm. The A. Lange & Söhne name was back!
Since 1994, the brand has enjoyed its re-acceptance into the hierarchy of the watchmaking world, an impressive rate of growth and has passed through a number of milestones. Most notable among these was the acquisition of the brand in 2000 by the luxury Richemont Group.
Remaining true to the Lange tradition, the watches produced are all handcrafted, always in exotic metals such as gold and platinum. Their status as a ‘manufacture’ assures that the movements are entirely created in-house, and even a glance at one of these works of art would catch the breath of even the most cynical eye. Hand-engraved decoration on many of the visible components, the use of precious metals and jewels where others use steel and industrial rubies are a telling indicator of the passion of the watchmakers at A. Lange & Söhne.
On the wrist too, the watches are quite unmistakable. Unique, at least to the Glashutte tradition, in their layout, (the other fabled manufacture Glashütte Original employing a similar concept of face design) featuring individualized function displays, with hours and minutes, the seconds, the date and the gangreserve all enjoying their own island-like display on the dial.
As a manufacture, A. Lange & Söhne, in typical Teutonic ethos, create mythical, mystical, heirloom timepieces. As a brand, they have successfully put behind them decades of enforced exile from the fine watch industry, and to the watch enthusiast a veritable well of craftsmanship, innovation, precision, design and individual singularity.
More information at the A. Lange & Söhne website.
Or educate yourself watch by watch with our extensive Lange archives here.