Pre-SIHH 2014 with A.Lange & Söhne
Between 4th and 6th of December we spent three days in Dresden and Glashütte, accompanying Lange & Söhne in the unveil of the first new watch for 2014 SIHH.
The premier in question was Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase. I’ll get back to the watch at the end of this story, but first let’s have a look at the whole „Pre-SIHH Presentation & F.A.Lange Watchmaking Excellence Award” event and my 3 days in Saxony (and I do apologize for a low pictures quality).
It is already an annual tradition that the Lange & Söhne Pre Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie meeting of collector and journalists takes place in the capital city of the free state of Saxony – Dresden – and the lovely 5 stars hotel Bulow Palais. Located by the river Elbe, the city of Dresden has its reach history, from the rain of Augustus II Strong (who also happened to be the king of Poland, from 1697 to 1733, with 3 years break) all the way through the infamous WWII “carpet bombings” by the Allied bombers in mid February 1945 (with approximately 25.000 lives lost). Although most parts of the city nowadays are just as same as any bigger European agglomeration, the historical part just next to the river looks just stunning. The Zwinger architectural complex, Semperoper house (with the famous digital clock that inspired Lange’s outsize date), the Frauenkirche, the monumental Furstenzug – the Procession of Princes – mural painting outside the Lange Gang and many more antique or carefully restored locations are worth visiting, either with a guide, or just walking down the cobbled streets of the Alt and Neustadt.
It is in the Zwinger complex where the special Mathematisch-Physikalischen Salon Dresden is located – another place well worth visiting.
Mathematisch-Physikalischen Salon Dresden
Although the name might sound a bit misleading, recently restored Mathematisch-Physikalischen Salon houses a substantial collection of scientific instruments, maps, globes and all kind old clocks and timepieces, including Lange very own 42500 Grande Complication pocket watch. The Glashütte manufacture helped to restore the museum, which today showcases vast variety of old objects from the era of Augustus the Strong and before. Just like the Old Town it is a must see stop on the visit to Dresden, especially that I can’t simply write on what I saw in details – it would take ages.
The home of A.Lange & Söhne is the cradle of German watchmaking – the small but charming town just 20km from Dresden – Glashütte – the name well familiar to every watch aficionado. It is here, in the quite modest space of the city, where most of today’s German made watches come to life. It was here where Ferdinand-Adolf Lange created the German school of watchmaking, and it is here today that the manufacture bearing his name resides, working hardly on the new premises (a few stories high modern building) just next to the current location. If all goes well (and it seems so for now) the scheduled opening of the new building should take place in the first half of 2015 – which does not mean, that it wasn’t swiftly incorporated into this year’s event. But first let’s have a look at the manufacture.
It is no secret that A.Lange & Söhne is today one of the top watchmaking brands in the world, I would however go a step farther. In my perspective, based on the experience and knowledge gained by visiting a number of most prestigious companies existing, Lange is at the very top as one of the greatest (if not the greatest) watchmakers nowadays. Why, you will ask? The level of mechanical and esthetical craft made is just simply breathtaking. What really counts in a mechanical watch, what most of the devoted collectors look for is the hand-made craftsmanship in the old-school manner. Craftsmanship that puts equal attention to every smallest detail of every single watch made, from the simple automatic all the way through to Grand Complication. And this is exactly what Lange watches are.
4 years ago, just as we started CH24.PL, I had an opportunity and pleasure to visit the welcoming steps of A.Lange & Söhne, and to be perfectly honest, not much has changed since (but do you need to change something that works perfectly fine?). Of course there were some smaller ones – which is inevitable in a growing, thriving brand – but the big picture is pretty much the same. During our brief visitation we saw only a fraction of the manufacturing process, but just with the stops at the finishing, engraving and high complication departments you easily get the bigger picture. Most of the work is done by hand. Hand engraved balance cocks are made by each individual artist in a special way, that allows it to be recognized in the future (as it was the case with my friend journaslist’s Lange Cabaret watch, as you can see below).
And I don’t even dare to mention the high complication – the Zeitwerk Striking Time (with a special dedicated room), the Datograph Double Split, the Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” or the Grand Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon are just pure pleasure to look at.
And a few watches…
The whole Lange manufacture is of course a complex subject (bear in mind that they make their own balance springs), therefore we will leave the full report for the future, perhaps already with the new building opened. And speaking of it…
Pre-SIHH Presentation & …
The venue for this year’s Pre-SIHH presentation was held in secret to the very end, although we kind of expected the location somewhere in Glashütte. What we certainly didn’t think of was the “under-construction” facility of the new manufacture. Still Lange pulled it off with two rooms adopted for a bar room, presentation hall and the dinner lounge for the evening. As it was rightly noticed by one of the guests, it was quite an honour to be among the first guests in the new building, and will be actually funny to see in the future, what is located in the rooms in which we celebrated the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase launch some 2 years before.
The presentation itself run very smoothly, conducted by Mr Wilhelm Schmid (CEO A.Lange & Söhne)…
and Anthony de Haas (Director Product Development).
Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase
We knew form the start of our visit – judging by the banners at the hotel lobby – that the new secret timepiece has something to do with the Moon Phase complication. There were already 12 timepieces equipped with it in Lange history, but none in the Grand Lange 1… until now. The main future of the new Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase is a large, very detailed moon disc (with over 300 laser cut stars and two polished moons) incorporated into the hour-minutes subdial at 9 o’clock. The project not only makes the entire dial layout very clear and stylish (I can’t think of a better place for a moon indication) but also incorporates a clever mechanism of constantly drive moon disc, that guarantees precision of one day off in 122.6 years.
The movement behind all this is hand-wound L095.3 (72h power reserve) housed in a gold (yellow or red) or platinum case measuring 41mm in diameter and alligator leather strap with buckle.
The price tag for the gold piece was set at 38.900Euro, the platinum at 50.900Euro.
… F.A.Lange Watchmaking Excellence Award
In appreciation for young watchmaking talents Lange founded a special award. This time it went to Austrian Paul Wudy for his second time-zone complication. The winner was selected from among number of contestants from around Europe, and given a special grant of 10.000Euros for further development of his watchmaking career.
A.Lange & Söhne also supports the needy. Check for the sum of 5.000Euro went to Luba e.V. foundation, fulfilling dreams of disadvantaged children from Dresden region.
Although Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase is just a teaser of what we’ll see in Geneva in January, you can clearly see the consistency in the brand’s image since the re-birth in 1994. You can credit it to the people behind the brand, to the wise choice of the management team, to Walter Lange himself still overlooking the manufacture, but most of all to the high respect for tradition and rules, which are a guarantor of success. A.Lange & Söhne watches express perfectly what is usually (and sometimes to easily) called „timelessness”. Let’s put it this way – once you buy a Lange, it will please you long after you’ll switch number of other timepieces in your collection. It is a traditional watchmaking at its best (enriched with bold statements like the digital Zeitwerk) that simply never fades. I certainly look forward to my next time in Glashütte.