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25 years of the Lange 1
Watch Stories

25 years of the Lange 1

Tuesday, 03 September 2019
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Marie Le Berre
Freelance writer and journalist

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It all began (again) on October 24th 1994 when Walter Lange and Günter Blümlein, the men behind the revival of A. Lange & Söhne, presented the first watches of a new era. Foremost among them: the Lange 1 and its revolutionary outsize date which commands the dial, whatever the other complications.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Lange 1 collection, A. Lange & Söhne has selected ten models for release as limited editions — 250 pieces for the original, 25 for the others — throughout 2019. All these commemorative watches are recognisable by an elegant grey-blue livery, a white gold case, an argenté-coloured dial in solid silver, deep blue printed numerals and indexes, an outsize date in blue on a white background, and a blue alligator strap with grey stitching. The movements are personalised with an engraved balance cock (or tourbillon bridge, depending on the model) featuring a special floral design with blue accents, and the number “25” in the same style as the outsize date display. As well as the 25th anniversary, this is also a nod to the visuals shown at the press conference on October 24th, 1994, all of which indicated the date for the following day when the watches would be released.

Revolutionary outsize date

Three times larger than standard, the outsize date display dwarfed anything ever seen before on a classically-sized wristwatch (38.5mm diameter). Its ingenious mechanism was the first in a long line, and a foretaste of the extraordinary inventiveness that would become a part of the Saxon firm’s very being. Symbolically, it refers to the famous clock which Christian Friedrich Gutkaes made for the Semper opera house in Dresden in 1841, when he was the apprenticeship master of the young man who would go on to found A. Lange & Söhne, Ferdinand A. Lange. The contemporary outsize date display with its two apertures clearly replicates the two juxtaposed dials, one for hours, the other for minutes. Like the clock itself, which Friedrich August II of Saxony insisted must be “read easily from all seats”, it is immediately visible.

Ultra-functional dial

On the Lange 1, the outsize date is not just generously proportioned; it also inhabits its own space on the dial, out of reach of hands that might detract, even for a second, from its legibility. This legibility was further enhanced by the introduction of the instantaneous (as opposed to gradual) date change at midnight, made possible by the second-generation movement in 2015. Master of the game, it presides over the dial’s configuration. Each indication is also clearly separated from the others and positioned off-centre. On one side, the hours and minutes dial; on the other, one above the other, the outsize date, the power-reserve indicator and subsidiary seconds. Perfect equilibrium and a rare degree of functionality combined. For its 25th anniversary, the Lange 1 has been released as a 250-piece limited edition with, engraved on the cuvette caseback, a representation of the A. Lange & Söhne building that opened in 1873 in Glashütte, the names of the two men who engineered its revival, Walter Lange and Günter Blümlein, and the words “25 JAHRE LANGE 1”.

The concept that underpins the Lange 1 is so perfect, new functions appear seamlessly on the dial.
An unchanging concept

The concept that underpins the Lange 1 is so perfect, new functions appear seamlessly on the dial. Additions are so judicious or discreet that nothing detracts from its allure. In 2002, the moon phase complication fitted naturally into the subsidiary seconds dial, before accommodating the more generous proportions of the Grand Lange 1 and transferring to the hours and minutes dial in 2013. In the 25th anniversary model, the moon-phase display is crafted from white gold. Earth’s companion appears against an engraved starry sky.

Lange 1
Lange 1 "25th Anniversary", 38.5mm diameter, limited edition of 250 © A. Lange & Söhne

On the dial of the Lange 1 Time Zone, introduced in 2005, the second (local) time zone takes the place of subsidiary seconds, which discreetly relocate to the 6 o’clock position on the main hours and minutes dial. This model has the advantage that local time – the one we are more likely to want to know – can be swapped from the subsidiary dial to the main dial. In either case, two minimalistic day/night indications ensure ease of reading. Nec plus ultra, A. Lange & Söhne has added a refinement of its own, namely a rotating city ring that simplifies adjustment – the kind usually found on a worldtimer, not on a dual time zone watch. Located on the periphery of the dial and combined with a small fixed arrow, it perfectly respects the concept behind the collection.

Lange 1 Time Zone
Lange 1 Time Zone "25th Anniversary", 41.9mm diameter, limited edition of 25 © A. Lange & Söhne

The most conclusive evidence comes courtesy of the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, first made available in 2012 and the most complicated Lange 1 to date. For the calendar functions, the outsize date and moon phases are true to form. Days of the week replace the power-reserve indication while months make their debut on a rotating peripheral disc. The leap year indication peeps out from an aperture at 6 o’clock. Turn it over to contemplate the tourbillon. The complexity and sophistication of this watch could almost go unnoticed: like the original Lange 1, it has just four hands!

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