You have seen Swiss, you have seen Japanese, now see German watches by A Lange & Sohne - arguably the best in the business till now!
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: November 10, 2010
When I had entered the luxury industry and started writing about luxury watches, I had no idea what was so fascinating about them. I just knew it was something very prestigious to own and difficult to understand! But recently, I saw a video, where A Lange & Söhne caliber-makers, watchmakers, and engravers were explaining their job profiles. The common thread in all their words was passion. And I understood what was so great about watchmaking or about Lange for that matter. Watchmaking is simply a job done passionately.
A tumultuous, exciting history and precision watchmaking defines the prestigious timekeeping brand A Lange & Söhne. The watchmaker is expert in its craft and knows that too! No wonder they have been slightly subtle with their marketing, since it’s their expertise in mechanics that pulls customers and watch connoisseurs to them like a magnet.
A glorious history
Launched in 1845 in Glashütte, Germany, by Ferdinand Adolph Lange, they started making innovations in the watchmaking industry from the start of the company. In 1846, Lange introduced the metric system into watchmaking, which enabled the exact calculation and manufacture of movement components.
The journey of A Lange & Söhne has been glorious. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the brand, the town of Glashütte erected a monument dedicated to the founder Ferdinand Adolph Lange, who had died in 1875. On a state visit to Constantinople in 1898, Kaiser William II presented his host with a lavish pocket watch created by A. Lange & Söhne. This was probably the best celebrity moment a brand could get in those times! Emil Lange, the youngest son of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, received the Knight’s Cross from the French Legion of Honour in 1902 in recognition of his contribution to watchmaking.
But after a century of success, World War II spelled doom for this watchmaking brand. In 1945, Lange’s main production building was almost completely destroyed in an aerial bombing raid. And in 1948, the company was seized by the communist regime. Walter Lange, the great grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, was forced to flee from Germany. However, not the one to lose spirit, Walter Lange, along with partner Günter Blümlein, restarted A Lange & Söhne in 1990.
A Lange & Söhne creates exceptional mechanical watches. Usually, individual parts in the movement are made of untreated German silver, and they are all hand finished to a great degree of passion and precision. All movements are set in precious metals only such as platinum or gold cases. In the special case of the Homage Collection, they have used exclusive honey gold, a special alloy patented by A. Lange & Söhne, which has beneficial properties in terms of resistance and hardness.
The brand has marvelously managed to find the perfect balance between traditional elegance, contemporary style and the zenith of German precision watch-making. You get a glimpse of the real beauty of these watches when you flip them over. Many tiny, incredible wheels and gears will be instantly visible whirring and ticking in perpetual motion. All movements inside A. Lange & Söhne watches are crafted and finished in-house manually at the manufactory. Lange believes that the human hand is still much more sensitive and versatile than a tool can ever be. Only a few micro or nanometers suffice for a movement to be off, therefore, precision is key.
In another unique step, after the mechanism of the watch has been assembled, watchmakers then proceed to dismantle it part by part. Each part is polished and engraved again to guarantee the best standards of horlogerie.
The balance cock of an A. Lange & Söhne watch is also engraved by hand. So even though the motif of the engraving has remained unchanged across generations, it is the personal signature of each artist, the depth of the cut and the curl of the lines that makes each balance cock distinctive and unique. Even the tools are custom-made for each engraver according to their hands! It is hardly surprising then that Lange’s master engravers look at a balance cock and can tell which of their artists has decorated it!
The journey to India
A. Lange & Söhne entered the Indian market in 2008 in Mumbai. After that, the brand selectively entered Delhi and Chennai in 2009 through exclusive partners. So how has the response been till now? Matthieu Dupont, Brand Manager - Middle East and India, A. Lange & Söhne, said, “The response is fabulous so far, and we feel we still have a lot to offer our clients and connoisseurs. We’re fortunate that most of the iconic timepieces sell fast, if not pre-sold, due to their exclusivity, short supply, and a deep client understanding of the product. Certain product lines such as the Lange 1, Turbograph, or even Zeitwerk, have many months or even a year of waitlist.”
The brand is now expanding in India fuelled by more demand for their timepieces and to create more visibility. Dupont enumerates, “In India, we had launched with just one point of sale in Mumbai. Now, we are selectively spreading our network to New Delhi with Jonhnson & Co., Mumbai with Time Avenue, and Chennai and soon Hyderabad with The Helvetica.” However, Dupont doesn’t rule out chances of erecting a stand-alone store of A Lange & Söhne in India in the near future. “Currently, we are more than happy to be associated with the right partners. A plan for an A. Lange & Söhne boutique is definitely in the pipeline, yet we do not wish to over rush things. The location and the moment have to be at par with the brand.”
The watch brand is not looking at customizing for the Indian market currently, but rather wants to focus on its already exclusive collection in India as well. But Dupont has chartered a good route to increase brand awareness in India, which is very important for any luxury brand entering India currently. He says, “We communicate our values through all media channels we deem can create an added value to the end consumer, such as yours. We are also hosting a series of events within the month in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad, where a select few will be invited to witness Lange’s creations and familiarize themselves with and learn about the features of few important timepieces from the brand.”
Though Indians are appreciative of watches, the maximum they have learnt to care about is how the watch looks, instead of how it’s made. But Dupont has a positive stance. “I have to say that India hosts very interesting collectors that are very knowledgeable about ‘haute horlogerie’ and our products. Never the less, and to answer your question, yes we will continue to teach about real watchmaking. Through regular communication and special events, we will invoke interest and curiosity among our audience to create continuous awareness about our products and the techniques used,” he explained.
A Lange & Söhne has a number of watches to present to the Indian watch connoisseur market. The 1815 Chronograph belongs to the ‘1815 Collection’ of A. Lange & Söhne which pays tribute to Ferdinand Adolph Lange, being named after the year he was born. It is available in pink and white gold case. The sapphire-crystal caseback reveals one of the most technical and the most beautiful chronograph mechanisms ever made.
Lange 1 Daymatic has a discreet distinguishing feature, a mirrored dial layout. A retrograde day-of-week indication forms the perfect counterpoint to the outsize date display. The case of the watch is available in yellow gold, pink gold or platinum. It houses the self-winding calibre L021.1 which was developed from the ground up.
But the place of honour is for the Homage Collection, which commemorates the legacy of the founder of the brand and Germany’s precision watchmaking industry. Presented in a novel gold alloy of unmatched hardness, the special collection includes three watches: Tourbograph “Pour le Mérite”, the Lange 1 Tourbillon, and the 1815 Moonphase.
Dupont best summarises the brand’s philosophy which will definitely appeal to Indian consumers – “State-of-the-art tradition, constant research and new developments, engineering and precision, quality workmanship and striving to make the best timepieces in the world are the values followed at A. Lange & Söhne. Our reputation precedes us as being hardworking craftsmen and engineers who tirelessly work on every single piece of Lange, giving it their heart and soul, the essence of which needs to be felt by the Indian target audience.”