The sad news of Walter Lange’s death on the morning of the second SIHH day in 2017 shocked the world of watchmaking. Asked at the time how he intended to salute Walter Lange, Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid replied: “The best way to honour Walter Lange is to assure the continuity and the ongoing development of the company that he founded – in the way that he would have envisioned it.” Now, with the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange”, A. Lange & Söhne is proving that a watch is capable of reflecting the in-tention and personality of a founder. The 1815 « Homage to Walter Lange » model comes in four different versions. One of them has a black enamel dial and a steel case and will be produced only once.
The 1815 « Homage to Walter Lange » timepiece has a stoppable jumping seconds hand that dates back to a 150-year-old invention by Ferdinand Adolph Lange.
The Grande Complication is now on loan to the Mathematics and Physics Salon, a museum in Dresden dedicated to historic timepieces and scientific instruments.In 1990, directly after German reunification, the German automotive firm VDO purchased the title “A. Lange & Söhne” and founded a fresh A. Lange & Söhne, established, like the original company, in Glashütte. (In 2000, the Richemont Group acquired A. Lange & Söhne.) One of the new company’s first watches, the Lange 1, established in 1994, became Lange’s trademark style, what the company describes as its “face.” The Lange 1, that looks exactly the same as it did 20 years ago, has a distinctive, conversational dial with a big-date display and “Auf/Ab” power-reserve index. It contained the hand-wound Caliber L901.0, with 2 barrels, a three-day power book, nine screwed gold chatons, Glashütte three-quarter plate, a hand-engraved equilibrium penis and elegant swan’s-neck fine adjustment mechanism. (Before this year, the company replaced that caliber with a new one, also hand-wound.)
1815 « Homage to Walter Lange », stainless steel case and black enamel dial © A. Lange & Söhne
The jumping seconds was one of Walter Lange’s favourite complications because it embodies the puristic notion of precision watchmaking, while at the same time being a piece of family history. It does not divide the second into a number of steps depending on the balance frequency, but instead treats it as a coherent unit of time. A pusher at 2 o’clock starts and stops the sweep seconds hand. The idea dates back to an invention by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in 1867; in an advanced configuration developed by his son Richard, it was granted one of Germany’s first patents in 1877. Lange’s “one-second movement with a jumping hand” was implemented for the first time in a masterpiece built by his second son, Emil, Walter Lange’s grandfather.
Overall, more than 300 pocket watches with this function were crafted. Just like the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange”, they were endowed with a separate seconds subdial. Buyers included the Leipzig Observatory, Grand Duke Adolph of Luxem-bourg, Ernst Abbe, the owner of Carl Zeiss in Jena, and the eccentric English watchmaker Sir John Bennett.
As a tribute to a very unusual individual who was dedicated to craftsmanship his entire life, the one-off piece is stainless steel is endowed with a black enamel dial that, with the traditional railway-track minute scale and the polished hands, is inspired by the design of historic pocket watches. The newly developed movement has a special calibre designation: L1924. It refers to Walter Lange’s birth year. Additionally, the first three digits of the reference num-ber 297.078 recall his date of birth, 29 July.
The 40.5-millimetre case of the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange” is made of stainless steel, a material that at A. Lange & Söhne has been reserved for only a very few exclusive and special timepieces. As well as this one-off watch, limited editions in yellow gold (27 pieces), white gold (145 pieces) and pink gold (90 pieces). These uncommon numbers are derived from important milestones of the Lange family’s history. From 7 December 1845, when Ferdinand Adolph Lange originally established the company, exactly 145 years elapsed until 7 December 1990, the date on which Walter Lange registered Lange Uhren GmbH. Precisely 27 years will have passed between this date and 7 December 2017, the day on which the new model that pays tribute to Walter Lange is being unveiled.
The steel version will be auctioned off for a charitable purpose in 2018. Walter Lange, always noted for his philanthropy, would have approved.
1815 « Homage to Walter Lange » in yellow, white and pink gold. © A. Lange & Söhne