It’s impossible to list every watchmaking feat that A. Lange & Söhne has performed, but there are several highlights that must be mentioned. The Lange 1 is obviously the place to start. This watch is an instantly recognisable classic with its offset dial layout, which includes an outsized date display, and it’s been a cornerstone of the brand since its launch. According to Schmid, A. Lange & Söhne owners typically begin their relationship with the brand via one of two watches. One of them is the entry-level Saxonia Thin – there’s no prize for guessing what the other watch is.
The Lange 1 was the opening number after which other hits soon followed. In 1999, A. Lange & Söhne unveiled the Datograph. It was a revelation, to put it mildly. Before the Datograph’s arrival, the industry was dependent on a few major players for chronograph modules and ébauches (unfinished and incomplete movements “kits”). In contrast, the Datograph’s calibre was developed and produced in-house, with an architecture that showed off its exquisite finishing. These qualities immediately propelled the Datograph into the watchmaking hall of fame, and it is regarded as one of the world’s finest contemporary chronographs today.
True to Walter Lange’s creed to “Never stand still”, the Datograph has been further iterated. The Datograph Up/Down came with a longer power reserve that was displayed on the dial, while a separate “development” track created the Datograph Perpetual that sported a perpetual calendar module. The latter, in turn, led to the creation of the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon.
Yet another icon from the house of Lange is the Zeitwerk (main image above), a relative latecomer that was only introduced in 2009. The watch is unique for being mechanical, yet displaying the time digitally like a digital quartz watch. This was a marvel for several reasons, not least because using three jumping discs for the time was a drain on the mainspring given their weight. In time, the original Zeitwerk went on to spawn striking versions – including a decimal minute repeater – as well as one with a date display.
Despite being less than three decades old, A. Lange & Söhne has already created an impressive list of technical wonders too long for a story of this length. There’s the Richard Lange Jumping Seconds, a regulator-style watch with its eponymous complication powered by the remontoir d’egalité constant force mechanism. There’s the Grand Complication with a grande sonnerie minute repeater, rattrapante chronograph, and perpetual calendar. There’s even an entire series of luminous timepieces.
The consistency of A. Lange & Söhne’s development as a brand and its creation of new timepieces hasn’t been an accident. Rather, these are the results of a conscious decision to focus on watchmaking, with little attention on anything else. It’s worked marvellously, and the industry is all the better for it.