We spoke to Luca Dondi, brand director for central, west and south Europe, and Russia, at the watch fair SIHH in Geneva in January 2014. We started by asking about the sort of people who look for watches by A. Lange & Söhne.
“A. Lange & Söhne is very much a collector’s brand. Collectors and connoisseurs were the main target when the brand was relaunched in the 1990s, and, thirty years on, they are still the main client category. A. Lange & Söhne is always searching for something new. You just have to consider that 49 new calibres have been introduced over the last 20 years, a remarkable figure.”
An example of the new ideas that are introduced is provided by the 1815 Tourbillon, a beautiful piece designed for perfect legibility. Surprisingly, in the space of 200 years no-one had thought of applying a stop-seconds mechanism to a tourbillon. A. Lange & Söhne did so, and added the zero-reset mechanism. This 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.
“Collectors are asking for more content and more solutions, and our research and development efforts enable us to grow in the future. There are differences according to geographical area: for example, Chinese clients have a preference for simpler movements, while European customers are probably the most experienced when it comes to complications, and so Europe remains our major market. In recent years, we have seen increasing interest in moonphase and calendar watches, and so we provided our answer to this demand.”
The Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna displays time and calendar functions on the front, while the superb orbital moon-phase display, with 2,116 carefully-positioned stars, can be seen through the sapphire caseback. “We wanted to approach the calendar complication in a new way, and so the four perpetual calendar displays are jumping, which requires a large torque from the mainspring. ” There are three patents on this watch, for which everything was developed in-house, including the constant force escapement and the twin mainspring barrels that provide a torque that is much higher than that of normal watches, because at certain moments in the year, several of the indications have to jump simultaneously.
The Grand Lange 1 Moonphase is another watch in which a classic complication has been improved far beyond industry standards. The average synodic month lasts 29.53 days, but most classic moon-phase displays round this cycle down to 29.5 days. This adds up to one day in just two and a half years. The seven-gear transmission of the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase is far more accurate: the display would only have to be corrected by one day every 122.6 years: an accuracy of 99.9978 per cent.
We asked Luca Dondi about trends in the market for A. Lange & Söhne watches, and the impact of the economic crisis.
“No crisis for A. Lange & Söhne! There is no crisis for watches with real content. Our watches are a good investment for the future, and so demand is increasing constantly, in Italy as in Paris, in Switzerland as in Russia. There is a good balance between local clients and visiting tourists, and there is a large potential in London, India and other markets. It is important for us to create occasions on which collectors can talk to our watchmakers: this provides us with indications as regards future developments. The only thing that we have to accept is that we can only make a limited number of watches. We can’t open new boutiques if we don’t have the products to put in them!”