A. Lange & Sohne is a watchmaker that has dedicated its focus entirely towards creating technical masterpieces. It lay dormant for years and was revived during the 1990s where it has remained at the forefront of exquisite watchmaking ever since. Every A. Lange & Sohne watch is meticulously handcrafted, retaining a strong sense of traditional craftsmanship. Highly complex models have become key collectors’ pieces. The Glashutte manufacturer restored its time-honoured watchmaking techniques and revived the company, achieving its first patent in 1992. This was followed by its first new collection just a couple of years later, consisting of four important designs. Emperors, kings, and czars are amongst A. Lange & Sohne’s clientele. The German watchmaker now has over 170 years of watchmaking to look back on – some of its most exceptional timepieces having been created in recent years.
A few of A. Lange & Sohne’s trademark designs include the outsize date, tempered blue screws, Glashutte sunburst finishes, and the swan-neck fine adjustment. There are also very few watch manufacturers in the industry that put as many hours into handcrafting their watches to such a degree of detail and painstaking effort. This is yet another reason why A. Lange & Sohne watches have become so collectable and respected amongst luxury watch enthusiasts.
A. Lange & Sohne is renowned for its Zeitwerk watch, the 1815 model, the Datograph, Grand Lange 1, and Richard Lange watch. More recently the manufacturer celebrated the 25th anniversary of its rebirth with the release of the Odysseus watch. With more than 50 in-house developed calibres to its name, along with limited-edition anniversary watches, famous outsize date displays and richly decorated movements – there are so many reasons to invest in an A. Lange & Sohne watch. This article details a brief history of the brand along with some important models from the company’s past, as well as models from its current catalogue.
In 1990, the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, Walter Lange dared to reimagine his family watch business after it had folded just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He partnered up with a man named Günter Blümlein who had already had success in reviving IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. They wanted to restore the meaning of the “Made in Germany” stamp and did so with the release of the company’s first collection just four years later comprising four key watches comprising the Saxonia, the Arkade, the Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” and the Lange 1. Some of these models showcased the outside date which was patented in 1992. The Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” was a complex and technical-looking masterpiece that featured a tourbillon regulator and a fusée-and-chain transmission.
Towards the end of the 1990s, A. Lange & Sohne released the Datograph. Showcasing the watchmaking expertise of Blumlein and Walter’s experience, it featured an in-house-developed chronograph movement succeeding the company’s mission to create something truly exceptional. The A. Lange & Sohne Datograph ref. 403.035 launched in 1999 and featured a platinum case and a black dial. Inside the 39mm model’s three-layered case was a spectacular movement – the manual-winding Caliber L951.1, developed by Reinhard Meis. It comes equipped with a flyback chronograph function for effortless facilitation over timings, operates at 18,000vph, and has 40 jewels with a 36hour power reserve to offer. Its 405 individual hand-assembled components were unmatched in the industry at his time. The watch costs around $85k today.
Just two years before this, the company released the second generation to the Saxonia line. The Saxonia ref. 125.025 is an important model to note when detailing the history of the company. It was crafted from platinum and held a new and improved movement inside it. The three-step case structure was 33.9mm in diameter and displayed the outside date at 12 o’clock, balanced by a small second at 6 o’clock. The newer Calibre L941.3 was a hand-wound movement that operated at 21,600vph, had 30 jewels, and had a power reserve of 42 hours. Finding this model on the pre-owned market today is not easy. It is an understated and monochromatic model, making it a great entry-level watch to the series, and it can be purchased for around $25k.
The A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 ref. 101.001 is a very early model. It marked the beginning of the Lange 1 watch series in 1994 and soon became a flagship watch for the brand. Its 38.5mm 18ct yellow gold case looked incredibly luxurious on the wrist and boasted matching yellow gold hands. Its design represented what the “new” generation of A. Lange & Sohne watches stood for. Its design was based on the rule of thirds, creating a balanced display despite its off-centre sub-dials. The outside date resides at 1 o’clock, the power reserve just underneath this at 3 o’clock, followed by the small seconds at 5 o’clock. The other side of the dial is occupied by the main timekeeping dial, finished with the A. Lange & Sohne lettering at 12 o’clock. As the years went by, A. Lange & Sohne phased out their solid gold casebacks and offered sapphire crystal glass backs. These offered a unique glimpse into the performance of the manual-winding Calibre L901.0, which operated at 21,600bph, had 53 jewels, and boasted a 72-hour power reserve courtesy of its “doppelfederhaus,” or double barrel. Today, prices for this model start anywhere between $30-$35k and reach up to $50k.
A total of 149 versions of the first A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite” ref. 701.001 in gold were created, as well as 50 in platinum and 1 in stainless steel. Its name derives from the merit of creating watches with a fusée and chain, which features inside the mechanism of the tourbillon. It ensures the movement receives a constant amount of energy and, for its time, was incredibly complex. The 38.5mm model is remarkably simple despite the intricacy of the mechanism inside – the beautiful L902.0 movement. The watch features central hours and minutes, a small second sub-counter at 9 o’clock, a power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock, and a large dial cut-put at the southern hemisphere of the dial, showcasing the tourbillon. When it comes to purchasing one of these unique timepieces, the more common gold versions sell for around $140k, whilst rarer timepieces have gone for around $400k.
The sophisticated calendar mechanism that sits inside this Lange 1 watch demonstrates just how far the timepiece has evolved since the Lange 1 was first released. Its solid silver gold dial is finished in a grey colour and accompanied by solid gold appliques and hour markers that match the 18ct white gold case. The watch features an outsize date, day of the week, month, leap year, moon phase and a day/night indicator and until the year 2100 will display the months with 28 to 31 days correctly without needing amendment. The main timekeeping dial is positioned between 2 and 4 o’clock, whilst a leap year indicator sits at 6 o’clock, followed by a moonphase, day, and date travelling up respectively from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock. The months of the year are displayed around the edge of the dial. A classic black alligator leather strap completes the traditional style of this A. Lange & Sohne watch, making it a particularly appealing watch from the brand’s current catalogue.
The A. Lange & Sohne Odysseus watch ref. 363.068
Lastly, the Odysseus had to make it to our list in this introductory guide to A, Lange & Sohne watches. Designed for sporty and active individuals, the Odysseus watch by A. Lange & Sohne is characterised by its robust case design and impressive water resistance. It is also powered by a completely new self-winding movement. With a day and date display, the watch belongs to the steel sports watch category but also comes in 18ct white gold with a grey dial like this Odysseus watch ref. 363.068 which features a main timekeeping dial, an outsize date at 3 o’clock, small seconds, at 6 o’clock and a date indicator balancing the features out at 9 o’clock. A bevelled argenté-coloured flange ring with the printed minute scale adds further details to the display and for the first time, an A. Lange & Sohne watch is fitted on a black rubber strap to enhance its sporty undertones.
A. Lange & Sohne’s reputation has only grown since the brand was reinvented back in the 1990s. It is now the proud creator of a huge array of meticulously crafted and highly complex timepieces, sports watches and perpetual calendars among many other complications. There are so many A. Lange & Sohne watches worth mentioning, as each timepiece offers a little something different to the next. But whether you are purchasing new or from the pre-owned market, one thing is consistent - every A. Lange & Sohne watch is packed with innovative features, intricate details and traditional German craftsmanship.