History of A. Lange and Sohne

Lange &Söhne

A. Lange & Söhne (German pronunciation: ah LANG-eh unt ZURN-neh) is the earliest and one of the most important, precision German watchmakers. Long before they contributed to modern horology with perpetual calendars, split-second chronographs, and tourbillon complications, this fascinating dynastic family made the premier pocket watches in Europe for discerning royalty. Their story encompasses half of the 19th century, all of the 20th, and is helping to dominate the 21st and no doubt, will still be making premier timepieces far into the future.

The Lange Family History

This fascinating journey started in Saxony, and its capital Dresden, which was a center of European culture, renowned for its technicians, inventors, art collections, and monumental architecture. Elector Frederick Augustus I (called Augustus the Strong) was a staunch booster of scientific measuring, outstanding craftsmanship, and especially clocks. Two generations of the Saxon Court Clockmaker’s Guild led to the genesis of the Lange watchmaking family tree.

Dresden, SaxonyPatriarch Ferdinand Adolph Lange – preferring to be called Adolph – began his life with a most unfortunate family situation and a dubious future. He was born in Dresden on February 18, 1815, to an uncouth gunsmith, Samuel Lange, who physically abused his wife until she ran from him when Adolph was a small child. The lad was frail but quite intelligent, and was given over to foster parents who raised him. Recognizing his potential, they apprenticed him as a fifteen-year-old teenager to the most famous clockmaker to the royal Saxon court, Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes. From this master, Adolph, learned that the most important innovations in timekeeping were being developed in France and England. He studied the languages of both countries in night classes at the Dresden technical college, enabling him to take an assistantship in Paris with renowned watchmaker, Josef Thaddäus Winnerl, who had been the brightest student of Abraham-Louis Breguet. Adolph earned the grade of werkemeister in three years and then returned to Dresden and married his mentor’s daughter, Charlotte Gutkaes in 1842. He soon became the partner and principal force in his father-in-law’s workshop.

Adolph was a brilliant visionary, and hadn’t been satisfied with French technology; there was too much trial and error, lacking consistent quality. He had also visited Switzerland and England, where he learned metric conversions and higher standards; he initiated his "Glashütte Project," named after his town in Saxony that was the center of German watchmaking. He mated the Swiss cylinder watch with the more durable and precise English lever movement, an important but relatively expensive innovation that made German watchmaking leap ahead. He opened his own workshop on December 7, 1845, calling it a "manufactory." In an act of entrepreneurial charity, he reinvigorated the poverty-stricken Ore Mountain area South of Dresden by outsourcing the talents of their casemakers, gilders, and engravers for his watches, providing them with educations and jobs. Later, he also promoted them to three other studios, owned by people he had trained. For the next thirty years, Adolph grew his company and gained tremendous prominence in the Glashütte community of clock and watchmakers.

Ferdinard Adolph LangeAdolph suddenly died of heart failure in 1875, at the age of 60. He had been mayor of Glashütte for 18 years; a black marble monument was erected to honor his long list of merits. He and Charlotte had two sons – Richard and Emil – both of whom had learned watchmaking from their father. In 1868, before his death, they had become the commercial and technical managers of the company, which Adolph named A. Lange & Sohne. After the United German Empire was formed in 1871, there was an economic boom. During the ensuing affluence, beautifully ornamented and complicated timepieces were in high demand, producing forty years of epic prosperity for the Lange manufactory. Eldest son, Richard, was a technological genius like his father, and spent his life in scientific Horology research, working into his dotage. He designed 27 patents and utility models, creating innovations such as his groundbreaking metal alloy watch balance spring, the first watchmaking company to make their own. Kaiser Wilhelm commissioned Richard’s crowning glory, one of the most magnificent pocket watches of the 19th century, in 1898. It was presented to the Ottoman Sultan during a state visit to Germany. World War I destroyed the luxury watch market, but the company still survived, making precision marine chronometers for sailors and the German navy. Afterwards, the third generation of the Lange dynasty, brothers Gerhard, Otto, and Rudolf, assumed control of the company up to World War II, keeping alive their reputation for horology excellence. Walter Lange, Adolph’s great-grandson, was born on July 29, 1924, and of course, studied watchmaking until the war began. He was drafted into the army and was severely wounded, returning home in time to see his family’s manufactory nearly destroyed in an Allied bombing raid, just as the ensuing firestorms decimated most of nearby Dresden. The post-war Socialist government expropriated what was left. Escaping to the Western sector to avoid certain brutal labor under the Russians, Walter finally returned to Glashütte forty years later, in 1989, after the German reunification and the end of the Socialist regime.

Walter, the fourth generation of Lange horologists, reinitiated the family business for the second time on December 7, 1990 – exactly (to the day) 145 years after his great-grandfather founded it. Several years later, with a small group of new employees, he introduced a line of four, brilliant new wristwatches. They were immediately successful and created new jobs in Glashütte, reanimating the industry there and making it once again the center of precision German watchmaking, as it remains today.


Walter Langes New Era Timepieces

Walter Lange's first collection of watches stand out as post-war masterpieces. All four models had superb craftsmanship, innovative movements, and the kind of precision and classic beauty that had always defined the company:


lange sohne

THE LAGNE 1

This was the very first watch of the new era. Manually wound, it contained many of the traditional Lange components, such as the German silver three-quarter plate, the magnificent fan-shaped hand-engraved balance cock with the horseshoe-shaped precision whiplash index adjuster, and screwed 14K gold chatons. (101.021)
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

SAXONIA

This was Walter Lange's manually wound, elegant homage to Saxony and his family's lineal heritage. (216.021)
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

THE TOURBILLON "POUR LE MÉRITE"

The first manually wound Lange tourbillon after nearly fifty years had a novel going train moved by a new fusee-and-chain transmission. There were only 200 made – 50 in platinum and 150 in 18K gold. (701.001)
Image: www.frwatches.com

lange sohne

ARKADE

This is an 18K gold ladies watch with a rectangular face and radius corners, manually wound, with a large date window and has become extremely rare. (103.035)
Image: www.chrono24.com


Contemporary A. Lange & Söhne Watches

These are the watches that are currently being produced. They are known as some of the finest timepieces in the world and are offered in an array of different variations and complications:


lange sohne

LANGE 1

The movement of this 18K yellow (101.021), white (101.039), pink gold (101.032) or platinum (101.035) watch contains the traditional elements found in the Lange pocket watches, using the three-quarter plate fashioned from untreated German silver, the signature screwed gold chatons, the omega-shaped whiplash precision index adjuster, and a hand-engraved, fan-shaped balance cock.
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

SAXONIA

This watch honors the Saxony tradition of craftsmanship inspired by Augustus the Strong, and the technical artistry of Court Clockmaker Johann Gutkaes, mentor, father-in-law, and eventually the partner of Adolph Lange. The dials of this masterwork are legible and clear, and the movements have all the traditional Lange innovations. It's available in 18K white (216.026), pink (216.032), and yellow gold (216.021).
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

DATOGRAPH

The movement of this platinum watch contains an extremely complex chronograph mechanism with an accurately jumping minute counter, a flyback mechanism, a column wheel control, and Lange's patented oversize date window. The watch was introduced in first in a 39mm case in rose gold (403.032) and platinum (403.035) case and was later enlarged to a 41mm with power reserve indicator, named the "Datograph Up & Down" (405.035).
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

1815

This distinctive, manually wound timepiece has stop seconds, a 55 hour power reserve, and is an homage to Adolph Lange, the founder and pioneer of precision German watchmaking, by commemorating his birth year of 1815. Available in 18K white (233.026, 206.029, 206.027), yellow (233.021,206.021, 221.021), or rose gold (303.032, 221.032, 233.032), and platinum (233.025, 221.025).
Image: www.alange-soehne.com


lange sohne

DOUBLE SPLIT

This 18K pink gold rattrapante minute counter is the first mechanical wristwatch to perform comparative time measurements for as long as 30 minutes, making it supremely functional for contemporary uses. Rattrapantes were traditionally limited to 60 seconds. It’s a manually wound, Flyback chronograph with accurately jumping minute counters and a 38 hours power reserve. The watch was Introduced in rose gold (404.032) and in platinum (404.035).
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

THE "HOMAGE TO F. A. LANGE" EDITIONS

2010 was the 165th anniversary of Adolph Lange’s founding of his manufactory in 1845, during the peak of the industrial revolution. To commemorate this, great-grandson Walter brought out three small edition masterpieces, the 1815 MOONPHASE "Homage to F. A. Lange", (Reference 212.050. Edition: 265 watches), the LANGE 1 TOURBILLON "Homage to F. A. Lange," (Reference 722.050. Edition: 150 watches), and the TOURBOGRAPH "Pour le Mérite." (Reference 712.050; Edition of 50 watches). These are all constructed from a novel, honey-toned gold alloy that is extremely hard and beautiful.
Image: www.luxurybazaar.com

lange sohne

CABARET

This is a manually wound, 18K yellow gold (107.021) watch with a gorgeous rectangular case, the patented outsize date display, small seconds hand and stop seconds, and a 42 hour power reserve. The watch was also introduced in rose gold (107.032, 118.032, 107.031), platinum (107.035) and white gold (808.029).
Image: www.watchonista.com

lange sohne

LANGE ZEITWERK

This innovative manually wound watch has an all-mechanical display for hours and minutes, with a new kind of disc design. It has a jumping numbers mechanism, highly legible numerals, and a constant-force escapement to drive the switching steps. The watch was introduced in 18k yellow gold (140.029), white gold (140.029), rose gold (140.032) and platinum (140.025).
Image: www.alange-soehne.com


lange sohne

LANGE 31

This platinum watch has a patented constant-force escapement and an incredibly formidable power reserve of 31 days, with energy brought to the movement by a winding key and contained in a twin mainspring barrel. The watch was made in platinum (130.025) and in rose gold (130.032).
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

RICHARD LANGE

This is an inspiration from the 19th century, an easily legible, precision watch for navigators and purveyors of scientific measurements. The three-complication regulator is reminiscent of the pocket watches by Dresden horologist Johann Heinrich Seyffert, with a stop-seconds indicator, a tourbillon, and a fusée-and-chain transmission for incomparable time measurement, in platinum (232.025), yellow (232.021) or rose gold (232.032).
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

LANGEMATIK PERPETUAL

This elaborate, self-winding perpetual calendar watch with moon-phase display, in platinum (310.025) yellow gold (310.021), or rose gold (310.032) has an outsize date that can be advanced both collectively and manually, making it unusually simple to synchronize through the year 2100 and after. It has a zero-reset mechanism and a bidirectional rotor.
Image: www.alange-soehne.com

lange sohne

JEWELLED WATCHES

These custom orders are lavishly ornamented with mother-of-pearl faces and quality diamonds. The Little Saxonia, the Cabaret, and the Saxonia Automatic are particularly outstanding.
Image: www.padani.co.il