I’ve been doing watch writing for just about ten years now and before that I was in sports writing. One very clear difference between the two from a journalist’s point of view is the lack communal passion. You don’t hear watch events getting violent, there are no police officers in riot gear, and everyone tends to keep their clothes on while looking at watches; sports fans do go partially or fully naked! And when I miss those crazy days of following tifosi in Monza, or scousers in Liverpool, even USA vs Europe in the Ryder Cup, I ask watch fans about A. Lange & Sohne. Then I just step back and watch the fireworks go off!
The language of Lange
Let’s face it, the weirdness you can encounter when it comes to this brand is simply unique. I would compare Rolex hardcore fans to Catholic Monks. They work in defence of their cause and yet there is no requirement for the cause to recognise them. Everything is on a macro scale and you these fans as being one of many. And then there are the Patek Philippe fans who are cut from a different cloth altogether. Cultured and above everyone else, they remind of the beatniks and their cliques. If you’re not in, then you’re out and worse, you don’t understand. Most recently, I came across Bell & Ross fans who are sort of in between the Rolex and Patek crowd. These folks are almost like activists who simply believe in their watches. But then, there is the A. Lange & Sohne crowd.
By virtue of the price point, Lange should be for the wealthy but most fans I know wear, are not. By virtue of their technical complications, the brand should appeal to aficionados but most of those that I know are just regular watch fans. Indeed, this is brand that takes a little from several different watch groups and turns it into a following that is nigh on religious. If you don’t know, a grail watch is the watch you’d choose to have if money and availability weren’t issues, like the Holy Grail which Jesus Christ allegedly used during the Last Supper. Watch fans from different demographics, classes and walks of life make owning a Lange as their grail watch.
Why oh Why a Lange?
So here’s where I earn my salary and ask Anne Schaal, Managing Director South East Asia & Australia at A. Lange & Sohne about the fuss around the brand? “I would agree that it is a remarkable story and we are very fortunate that it turns out that way,” she said. Miss Schaal explains that the brand only came back to life in 1994 and it went back to work in its native area of Glasshute, Germany. And one of the first things decided was that the brand should work to re-embrace the technical superiority it once had. “The other thing was that, it is a German brand, a German watchmaker. And as you know (At this point, I actually said “uh-oh”) that most luxury watch brands come from Switzerland (phew!) and that already makes us different.”
So in a nutshell, Lange is wildly popular because it is a very technically astute brand that is NOT Swiss. Of course, it helps that all of their pieces are made from precious metals. So platinum, rose gold, white gold etc get the run out in not just cases but also movement parts. So here’s a tip if you want a Lange – ask about what material is the movement parts made from. I’d say ignore the decorations as that is par for the course once you hit US50,000 and above. It’s a proper finish as you’d expect from Germany but hardly the point in getting a Lange.
These are a few of my favourite things
For the newbie who wants in on the Lange action, here are some very simple points:
There are five main collections from A. Lange & Sohne, namely – Zeitwerk, Lange 1, 1815, Saxonia and Richard Lange. I’ve linked these collections back to the Lange website for you to get a proper look and acquire real knowledge about the brand. As I mentioned before, these days everyone I meet seems to be a fan of Lange and a goodly number seem to be experts on the brand. Don’t be fooled and go straight to the source if you want some deep knowledge.
The Zeitwerk is mechanical watch that resembles a quartz wrist watch. It has large windows to display the time in numerals. Now, I want you to think about how mechanical watches work and think about these windows with numbers in them. In regular mechanical movements, the numbers would slowly slide like how the seconds hand sweeps around a regular clock face. So the engineers and watchmakers worked very hard to make it a ‘Jumping Number’.
The Lange 1 is the watch the brand wants to talk about all the time and with good reason. It was the watch the brand first rolled out in 1994 and gave notice that all is well in Glasshute. The typical Lange 1 has one large dial, a smaller dial and windows for the date. Again, you see the jumping numbers.
The 1815 is a legacy piece but full of modern surprises. It is the collection you want to look at if you want a more conventional looking watch. The year commemorates the birth of brand founder Ferdinand A. Lange. The inspiration for the collection is based on the accurate pocket watches he built at a time when Germany was industrialising and railways needed proper time.
The Saxonia is thus named after the region of Germany that Lange is from which is Saxony. This collection is all about discrete technical improvements. As the owner of the watch, you’re likely to be the only one who knows whats going on in the case.
And finally, you have the Richard Lange collection is named after Ferdinand’s son (the Sohne). This collection is built on being accurate to a scientific standard. Richard went on expeditions during his day and many German explorers depended on his watches for life and death decisions. The collection is recognisable by its tri-dial on the face.
Of course, aside from the collections, there are the novelties which are the fun stuff that has built on the Lange name and to a great extent is the reason behind the hype. So consider the above as a guide only as you will likely encounter many Lange pieces that look like they should be in another collection. Which is another reason to acquire your own knowledge on this brand. I’ll leave the Datograph here for you to look at. It’s the piece that I would like one day to have. Which one is yours?