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Like a Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

20 Years since Lange & Söhne’s First Collection

No other event has spurred the renaissance of fine watchmaking in Saxony like the presentation of Lange & Söhne’s first four timepieces 20 years ago. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, what must be Germany’s most famous watch brand took the stage of time. The beating heart of a flourishing region, it has long since regained its place among the world’s best watch brands.

After the presentation of the quartet of new watches from A. Lange & Söhne on 24 October 1994 in the residential palace in Dresden, the world of fine watchmaking would never be the same. Suddenly, exclusive mechanical timepieces no longer came from Switzerland alone, but also from Saxony once more. Indeed, with their new technical ideas, individual signature construction and supreme perfection of craftsmanship, the four watches on exhibition set a new standard. This historic moment was the culmination of four years of intensive development work.

After the reunification of Germany had opened the door for new beginnings, Walter Lange founded Lange Uhren GmbH on 7 December 1990 in Glashütte, and registered the A. Lange & Söhne brand worldwide. Together with his business partner, Günter Blümlein, he set to work to taking up the interrupted task of his forebears. At first sight, it looked a completely unrealistic objective: seeing that the best watches in the world were crafted once again in Saxony, under the name of A. Lange & Söhne.

The greatest challenge was to find an appropriate answer to the all-important question: what would a modern watch from A. Lange & Söhne look like, if the brand had not ceased to exist with the political upheavals following the Second World War? The answer emerged from a concept that carried conviction, an infallible feeling for the market and passionate commitment. The team led by Lange and Blümlein submitted a collection that won critical acclaim from the public at its initial launch and in a very short time enthralled watch enthusiasts the world over.

The greatest sensation was caused by the original LANGE 1. With its asymmetric dial and the first outsize date on a series-produced wristwatch, it quickly became the face of the brand. And as the foundation model of A. Lange & Söhne’s most successful product family, it still is today. The Lange outsize date also characterised the classic ladies’ and men’s ARKADE and SAXONIA models. In the “Pour le Mérite” tourbillon, with the first fusee-and-chain mechanism to be used in a wristwatch, Lange provided conclusive proof that it had regained its ancestral position in the supreme discipline of fine watchmaking.

The first four Lange watches of the new era formed the cornerstones of a collection that now consists of five watch families with strong personalities, comprising more than 70 references. The firm's own first four movements have been followed by 45 more manufactory calibres, more than half of which are still in production. These masterpieces, developed in-house and made to the highest levels of craftsmanship, are used exclusively by Lange. This guarantees the greatest possible freedom of action to the product developers to incorporate exciting new ideas.

The creative curve extending from the first four models to the 2014 new collection is impressive. A. Lange & Söhne very soon started to interpret the classic complications in its own way: this has led to numerous world firsts. One of these is the DOUBLE SPLIT, the world's first – and still unique – double split-seconds chronograph. It was in this movement that the in-house balance spring was used for the first time. It now beats in about two thirds of all Lange’s calibres. With a full one-month power reserve at constant power transmission, the LANGE 31 sets another world record. Overcoming this extreme technical challenge was made possible by a torque-regulating mechanism developed in-house. A similar principle of construction enabled the LANGE ZEITWERK to incorporate the first precisely jumping digital time display in a mechanical wristwatch. More than 200 years after the invention of the tourbillon, Lange developed the first stop-seconds mechanism for the balance inside the rotating cage.

For the moment, the culmination of this development is found in the GRAND COMPLICATION, presented in 2013. The most complex Lange wristwatch ever made embodies seven classic watchmaking complications. It has a striking mechanism with grande sonnerie and petite sonnerie, minute repetition, a split-seconds chronograph with jumping seconds and a perpetual calendar. This exceptional watch implies a promise: A. Lange & Söhne is determined to meet the challenge of ceaselessly moving forward, through continual exciting new developments in the future. The RICHARD LANGE PERPETUAL CALENDAR “Terraluna” has already kept that promise for this year: its patented orbital moon-phase display is one more innovation in the realm of fine watchmaking. On the movement side, it shows with the highest precision, not only the current phase of the moon, but also the corresponding position of the moon with respect to the earth and the sun.