There are many secrets still waiting to be revealed at the new A. Lange & Söhne factory in Glashütte. As the company CEO Wilhelm Schmid recently told us, one of the factors taken into account in the construction of this new building was the very possibility of hiding away certain departments from prying eyes. For the same reason, visitors to the new building are politely asked to surrender their mobile phones for the duration of their visit. (The team of professional photographers that accompanied me on my visit also produced a much better photographic record than I could hope to achieve using my own camera – see above for a link to the photo gallery). It’s a policy that other brands might do well to consider, since Mr Schmid also confessed that his team regularly pores over the minutiae of photos from visits to other watch factories on the Internet and social media platforms to see what the competition is up to.
A special quality of Caliber L921, also called the Sax-0-Mat, is a zero-reset role for those seconds — hence the “0” at “Sax-0-Mat.” The tiny seconds hand automatically contributes to the zero position when the crown is pulled out, for to-the-second period setting. “Sax-0-Mat” seems on the Cable and dial. The equilibrium oscillates at 21,600 vph. The caliber, that was hand-wound, 30.6 mm in diameter and 7.5 mm thick, was four years in development, and comprised a flyback function.Its unconventional characteristics include another bridge for its fourth wheel, a chronograph operating lever mounted between two bearings, an adjustable coupling lever positioned at the center of the fourth wheel, plus a minute-counter-operating lever mounted between jewels. There is also a stepped pinion for true minute-counter advances, an escape wheel with four jewels, a massive Glucydur screw balance along with a Breguet balance spring. The equilibrium oscillates in the classic frequency of 18,000 vph. The caliber additionally supports Lange’s recognizable outsize date, where the prefix “Dato” alludes.
Lange & Söhne were, however, only too happy to show off an unassuming little workshop in the new building, and with good reason. For those who own a watch with a precious metal case or who are thinking of buying one, there is an important question to consider: What happens if the case gets damaged? Can it be repaired and how much would it cost? If, for example, you had inadvertently left your rose-gold Lange 1 in a wood-fired stove (yes, it happened!) or if it had picked up a few scratches and dents over the years, then the standard procedure would be to grind out these scratches and dents and polish the case like new. But each time this is done, some of the precious metal is lost and the case gets progressively thinner. Not only does this mean you are effectively paying to see your watch lose value as far as its precious metal content is concerned, after several such procedures the watch case actually loses its structural integrity.
The goldsmiths at A. Lange & Söhne (for this department is staffed exclusively either by goldsmiths or experienced professionals from the dental industry, not watchmakers) have a high-tech solution to this problem that turns things on its head. Rather than removing material by grinding and polishing, the team actually adds material to the case, in infinitesimally small quantities, by hand using a laser and a 0.1mm diameter thread of the precious metal. With the help of a magnifier, the operator can pinpoint the exact areas to be treated and apply the metal as required. The case can then be polished (also by hand).
The standard charge for this service at A. Lange & Söhne is 430 euros for a gold case and 490 euros for a platinum case. This covers usual wear and tear, but the unfortunate individual who had dropped his watch only to see one of the lugs shear clean off the case (which we saw on our visit) would need a more detailed quote for some comprehensive repair work.