Although quite a few watch manufacturers can claim to have withstood the test of time — some with even centuries of uninterrupted production— I can say with conviction that there aren’t many that can offer a history as compelling as A. Lange & Söhne. The origins of the company date back to 1845, when Ferdinand Adolph Lange established the manufacture with 15 people in the hopes of turning Glashütte into the epicentre of watchmaking in Germany. He couldn’t have known it at the time but, centuries later, it would be his great-grandson Walter Lange who would finally realise his dreams.
Since its establishment, A Lange & Söhne has always remained a family-owned institution, passed down from one generation to the next. However, during the time Walter Lange’s father, Rudolf, ran the company, World War II and the subsequent division of Germany dealt a crippling blow to the brand, ending the production of Lange watches.
During his youth, Walter Lange was drafted into the army during World War II. He recounts the worst moment in his life when he was shot in the leg but had to lay completely still on the battlefield, before crawling out of the danger zone hours later after night had fallen. He was then transported back to a field hospital near Glashütte for treatment but, on morning of 8 May 1945, he witnessed A Lange & Söhne’s main production building being destroyed during a bombing raid. An even harder blow came in April 1948 when the company was expropriated and the Lange family was no longer allowed to step inside the manufactory. A Lange & Söhne was dissolved into a publicly owned operation and was subsequently merged with other watchmaking businesses in Glashütte.
Fast forward to 1990, Walter Lange was then 66 years old. Instead of enjoying a comfortable retirement, he took the reunification of Germany as the impetus to finally realise his dream of seeing A Lange & Söhne watches made once again. With his partner Günter Blümlein and a small but committed team of ingenious engineers and watchmakers, A Lange & Söhne was resurrected and, in 1994, presented four stunning watches to about 50 journalists, local celebrities and even Saxony’s Prime Minister. In Walter Lange’s own words: “It was a risk, but the only way for me to go. When the Berlin Wall fell, I had already retired. But I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to revive the heritage of my ancestors.”
Unfortunately, in January 2017, Walter Lange passed away; he was 92 years of age. But, as testament to what he has accomplished, A Lange & Söhne was exhibiting at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, unveiling the Turbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite” just as news of his passing broke. This marvel of watchmaking combined five traditional mechanisms in one timepiece: fuséeand- chain transmission, tourbillon, chronograph, rattrapante function and perpetual calendar. The watch joins the 54 manufacture calibres developed since 1994, and it joins the numerous new collections like the Lange 1, Lange 31, Zeitwerk, 1815 and more. More than that, at the time of Walter Lange’s passing, A Lange & Söhne has become a company that employs 770 people and inspires more than 1,400 watchmaking jobs within the region. Thus, in the end, Walter Lange did manage to fulfil his great grandfather’s dream of turning the town of Glashütte into the centre of watchmaking of Germany.
1815 “HOMAGE TO WALTER LANGE” IN STEEL
How do you honour a man who practically rebuilt a company from the ground up? The 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange” in steel is part of a small series of watches that aim to pay tribute to the man himself. The jumping seconds complication was one of Walter Lange’s favourites as it embodies the purist notion of precision watchmaking. This 1815 comes with a jumping sweep seconds hand that can be started or stopped via a pusher at 2 o’clock. The “Homage to Walter Lange” is available in a variety of dial and case combinations, but this one with a black enamel dial and steel case quite likely lives up to Walter Lange’s vision of a perfect watch and will only be produced once.