A few months ago German watchmaker A. Lange & Sohne celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the launch of its first collection; the Lange 1. As you might have expected they did it in style, unveiling the stunning Lange 1 Special Edition 20th Anniversary collection at the Watches & Wonders Fair held in Hong Kong. Comprised of five limited-edition watch pairs consisting of the Lange 1 and the Little Lange 1 – literally a “his and hers” set to die for – the new collection was an instant hit, with the blue dial/white gold variant in particular striking a chord with collectors.
Now as I am sure you will agree, 20 years is a remarkable achievement for any company and so it is only fitting that a special collection was created to honour the occasion. I think it’s fair to say though that this particular milestone carries extra significance because it reflects the indomitable spirit of the brand and its founder, Walter Lange, who resurrected the Lange name in 1990 after it had languished in the shadow of the Berlin Wall for almost 50 years.
I won’t go into the details here (although if you are curious about the history of the Lange 1 you can read more about it in this article here) but briefly, during World War II and the subsequent Soviet occupation of Eastern Germany, many companies were summarily taken over and shut down. Lange, founded in 1845 by Ferdinand Adolph Lange, was unfortunately one of them and so in 1948 operations ceased.
This extended period of forced inactivity persisted all the way up to 1990, until the collapse of the East German government finally paved the way for Adolph’s great-grandson, Walter Lange, together with watch industry veteran Günter Blümlein, to finally begin the process of restoring the company to its former glory (with a little help from their friends, such as IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre). It wasn’t until 1994 however, when the company launched its first collections, comprising the Lange 1 (obviously), the Saxonia, the Arkade and the Tourbillon “Pour le Merite” that it truly considered itself a fully-fledged brand, hence the reason the 20th Anniversary is being celebrated this year with the limited edition collection.
Still, as stunning as these pieces are however there was another celebratory timepiece that caught my eye even more and I’m sure you can probably guess what it was; the Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst. Also created as a limited edition of just 20 pieces – all of which have already been sold so don’t even bother asking – the Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst is a nothing short of a masterpiece of modern watchmaking.
The Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst
The term Handwerkskunst translates to ‘craftsmanship’ in English and is a designation that Lange reserves for only its most elaborately decorated pieces. Presented in a discrete, 38.5-millimetre platinum case with a polished bezel the watch feels perfectly balanced both in the hand and on the wrist. Admittedly I don’t normally go for watches of this size and so the slightly smaller diameter threw me a bit at first but all it took was me wearing the Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst for a minute or two to appreciate just how perfect the dimensions were. The platinum gives it a nice weight on the wrist however its relatively slim profile (it’s only 10.2 millimeters high) makes sure its presence on your wrist is felt rather than seen, in typical understated Lange style.
Up close though it’s a different story. There are so many fine details on the dial to appreciate that you are definitely going to want to stare. Don’t worry about being rude, this is a piece whose beauty has been made to be appreciated. To begin with the Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst features a stunning black enamel dial whose unique characteristics are just about impossible to capture on camera. What is clear to see though, even in photos, is how beautifully the hour markers and hands in rhodium gold contrast against this black as night backdrop, guaranteeing a high level of legibility without the need for contrasting colors, which in my opinion would only detract from the highly attractive yet sombre style of the piece. The same goes for the Lange 1’s trademark outsize date display, which features grey numerals on a black background.
Further down the dial at 5 o’clock a small aperture reveals the superbly finished tourbillon mechanism, with the tourbillon cock in particular demanding you attention due to the challenging black polishing technique that has been applied to it. Meanwhile the contours of the aperture feature meticulously polished chamfers that capture the light as you move your wrist around. Of course, if you really want to high quality finishing you need to turn the watch over.
A sapphire exhibition caseback reveals the inner workings of Lange’s L961.3 manufacture movement, including a beautiful three-quarter plate hewn from untreated German silver which has been refined with very subtle solarisations. Your attention quickly shifts though to the elaborate relief engraving that adorns the tourbillon bridge, crown wheel and intermediate wheel cocks. Although not as extravagant as some other German-made movements we’ve seen, there is a level of intricate detail that only becomes apparent upon closer inspection. Like the dial, the finishing of the movement is not overwhelming and yet I found myself unable to stop staring at it.
Unfortunately my brief experience with the A. Lange & Sohne Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst was all too fleeting. I’m sure however that the twenty proud new owners will be getting not only hours but years of enjoyment from their new acquisitions, which seems fair enough given the $221,700 per piece each one has paid for the privilege.