This year’s new watches include many important developments, but we began by talking about the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, introduced in 2012 and now available in pink gold. Unlike most tourbillon watches in which this complication is prominently displayed on the dial, this watch has the tourbillon on the back.
“That’s very A. Lange & Söhne,” said Matthieu Dupont, “we think that our watches shouldn’t shout wealth, but should be very discreet. Our watches aren’t just about the visual rendering, they are also about the engineering and the technicality, which goes beyond fashion. Technically, the tourbillon is part of the movement, a complication that improves precision, and so there is no real reason why it should be visible. It is surprising that over the course of 200 years, no-one had the idea of making a tourbillon that you could set to the second.” In fact, in A. Lange & Söhne’s latest tourbillon models, the zero-reset mechanism enables the watch to be set with great precision. When the crown is pulled, the second hand stops and jumps to the zero position, ready to be restarted to the instant.
The same sort of discreet brilliance can be seen in the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna, in which the time and calendar functions are displayed on the front, while the superb orbital moon-phase display can be seen through the sapphire caseback. “When we talk about precision, we don’t refer just to the accuracy of the watch, but also its construction. We use a lasering technique to create the display, with 2,116 carefully-positioned stars.” This beautiful complication provides much more than just the moon phase: the disc containing the moonphase window rotates around the earth in just over 29.5 days, to such a high degree of accuracy that a one-day correction will be necessary only in 1,058 years’ time. The earth disc at the centre also rotates, so that a day/night indication can be read by comparing it to the position of the sun, which corresponds to the balance.
Matthieu Dupont also described the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase, in which this classic complication has been improved far beyond industry standards. “The average synodic month lasts 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds. For the sake of simplicity, most classic moon-phase displays round this cycle down to 29.5 days. The resulting deviation of 44 minutes and 3 seconds per lunation adds up to one day in just two and a half years. The seven-gear transmission of the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase reduces the deviation per cycle to less than one minute, so that the display would only have to be corrected by one day every 122.6 years: an accuracy of 99.9978 per cent.”
We asked Matthieu whether these astronomically-themed pieces were developed as a result of marketing input.
“A. Lange & Söhne is a very creative company. At any one moment, you will find many projects in development. Our evolution is not dictated by market demand, but purely by technical innovation. Of course, a piece such as the Moon Phase will meet a certain demand, but to an extent it also creates demand. We work on a very long product development plan, so we are driven by a long-term vision that suggests the development of certain complications.”
Another very special, and unusual, complication is the Lange Zeitwerk Striking Time, this year now available in pink gold. “The Zeitwerk put A. Lange & Söhne into a new era: it astonished a lot of people, and it has become an icon for us. It is the world’s first mechanical watch with a jumping numerals display and a visible striking mechanism, and no-one has equalled it. The question of metals is interesting: we do not make any watches in steel, but only in precious metals, and the sound of a striking timepiece is different when the case is in white gold, pink gold or platinum.”
We asked Matthieu about the people who purchase A. Lange & Söhne watches, with particular regard to the U.A.E. market. “Of course, we are very much a collector’s brand, but there are new collectors all the time, who would probably begin with a Lange 1 or a Saxonia, which have different price points, and with more familiar complications such as dual time. Overall, we are looking at people who have a fair knowledge of the realm of watchmaking, and who arrive at A. Lange & Söhne because they have risen to certain levels of expectation. In the U.A.E., the market is more locally-driven, though Dubai is an exception, because of the large numbers of tourists who come to visit the city. For all of them, A. Lange & Söhne is perceived as a different brand: it is German, and our roots are deeply rooted in Saxon crafts. This explains our constant aspiration for excellence. If the Swiss were to make a car, it would have to be very special to compete with the German auto industry! So A. Lange & Söhne has to continuously make something very special – watches which always go the extra mile.”
We asked Matthieu about news on new A. Lange & Söhne boutiques.
“New York has been confirmed as the location for a new boutique in the near future. In the U.A.E., we are looking at expanding our presence. At present we have two internally-run boutiques, The Dubai Mall and Etihad Towers. We have only one problem: production. We just don’t have enough watches. So we’re not in a hurry, and we can afford to wait until we have found the correct location. There would be nothing worse than going into a Lange boutique and not finding the watch you want. Waiting is part of the brand dynamic, but there is a difference between waiting for a product, and not being able to get it. At present we are looking at three or four countries in which we hope to have a boutique in the next two or three years, particularly in the Middle East and Gulf territories.”
One last question: does the F.A. Lange Award help you find new watchmaking talent?
“Since 2010, the annual F. A. Lange Scholarship & Watchmaking Excellence Award project has offered a further training programme for young watchmakers from all over the world. After a project week spent in the manufactory, they take part in a competition offering 10,000 euros in prize money. It is of course a good chance for Lange to get in touch with talented and motivated watchmaking students. A few former participants are indeed working today in the Lange manufactory.”