The A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst: Happy 20th Birthday To The Lange 1
October 24, 1994 was an historic day in A. Lange & Söhne’s history.
On October 24, 1994 A. Lange & Söhne officially introduced its very first modern collection. Though launched on the 24th, the Lange 1’s large date shows October 25 on historical photos: because the story would only be carried the next day in the newspapers, it was decided that the current date (the next day) should be shown.
The first public appearance of the new watches by A. Lange & Söhne back in 1994 sent out a global signal that something special had been created from the East German remains that very much resembled a phoenix rising from the ashes. And this phoenix was soon to turn into a soaring eagle, which would have the ability to captivate even dyed-in-the wool Swiss watch enthusiasts and collectors.
One of the biggest reasons that A. Lange & Söhne was so successful right from the start is thanks to one of the four wristwatches that appeared within the founding collection of 1994.
While the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite, the Saxonia and the Arkade models were all also visually and technically interesting, it was the Lange 1 that formed the backbone of the brand’s collection and captivated a new audience.
Lange 1: a visual treat
Contrary to a “normal” watch with a centralized layout, the Lange 1 – which was about as exotic as they come in 1994 – possesses a very confident off-center display for hours and minutes. A separate subdial placed at about 5 o’clock indicates passing seconds, which naturally emphasizes the timepiece’s accuracy. Then there is the power reserve indication, which, according to German tradition, is called the Auf/Ab, or “up and down.” The hand makes its way from “auf” (“up”) to “ab” (“down”) over the three days of power.
The Lange 1 is the timepiece that also kicked off an industry-wide trend for large date displays, yet another way in which A. Lange & Söhne influenced the industry as a whole.
This date display, modelled after the famous Five-Minute Clock found above the stage within the Semper opera house in Dresden, is conspicuously positioned above the power reserve hand at the 2 o’clock position. The date is easily adjusted by pushing the button located at 10 o’clock on the case.
Surprisingly – at least to me – A. Lange & Söhne chose not to make a special edition of the classic Lange 1 in honor of its anniversary, but rather to introduce a 20-piece limited Handwerkskunst edition of the Lange 1 Tourbillon. “Handwerkskunst” is German for hand craftsmanship.
This version of the Lange 1 Tourbillon however has something the others don’t: it includes the patented stop-seconds tourbillon mechanism first seen in 2008’s Cabaret Tourbillon (a timepiece that is now discontinued).
The Handwerkskunst editions include extra embellishment, which can mean engraving, enameling or any other decorative art.
The Handwerkskunst addition is most visible in the jet-black enamel dial, which perfectly offsets the rhodium-plated gold markers, highly visible tourbillon cock, and other applied elements. The in-house-accomplished enameling is even apparent on the background of the large date numerals.
The extraordinary finishing of the Lange 1 Tourbillon’s hand-wound movement also conforms to the ideal of the Handwerkskunst models: first and foremost is the three-quarter plate in untreated German silver with a sunray finish that is uncommon for this brand.
Because the three-quarter plate has been slightly skeletonized to reveal a little more of the mechanics below, there are a full 15 perfectly beveled and polished inner angles visible.
We also find elaborate hand-engraving on the tourbillon bridge, crown-wheel and intermediate-wheel cocks. The technique in use here actually sculpts motifs out of the material, which makes for a completely different look.
The Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst is housed in a perfectly sized 38.5 mm platinum case. Meaning it will remain a classic forever, just like the incredible timepiece that inspired it.
For more, please visit www.alange-soehne.com.
Movement: hand-wound Caliber L961.3 with patented hacking tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, power reserve indication
Case: platinum, 38.5 x 10.2 mm
Dial: solid white gold with black enamel and rhodium-plated gold applied elements and hands
Limitation: 20 pieces
Price: approx. $220,000