Obituary: Walter Lange (1924-2017)

Co-founder of the modern firm of A. Lange & Söhne, and the great-grandson of Adolph Lange.
Walter Lange 1

Walter Lange, whose great-grandfather was clockmaker to the kings of Saxony and founded A. Lange & Söhne, passed away in Germany on January 17, 2017 at age 93.

Born in Glashütte before the Great Depression, Lange’s life spanned the most significant events in 20th century Germany: the Second World War, the Cold War and East Germany, and the reunification of his homeland.

Lange was always destined for the watch business, but his birthright was interrupted by history. His family’s watchmaking enterprise was taken over by the Communist authorities in East Germany in 1948, forcing him to flee to the West. He settled in Pforzheim near the Black Forest, the traditional home of German jewellery and clockmaking, where he built a successful business as a watch and clock distributor.

Walter Lange 2

But it was only when Lange and Gunter Blumlein, who was then running IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre, established A. Lange & Söhne in 1990 did Lange finally reclaim his inheritance.

The pair acquired the A. Lange & Söhne trademark from the state and established Lange Uhren GmbH in Glashütte once again, with the backing of Blumlein’s employer, the German conglomerate Mannesman. With the aim of making the best watches in the world, the revived brand unveiled its first watches to the world on October 24, 1994. It was, as the early A. Lange & Söhne advertising put it, “When time came home”.

With Blumlein running the business, Lange’s role was more of a figurehead, a tangible connection to the storied history of his family’s business. Eventually A. Lange & Söhne, along with its sister companies IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre, were taken over by Swiss luxury conglomerate Richemont, but Lange remained involved with the brand’s corporate events as a honoured guest, including attending SIHH 2016.

Lange had no children of his own, but adopted his nephew, Benjamin, who took the Lange last name.

Lange published his memoirs, The Revival of Time, in 2005.


 

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Lange Zeitwerk Decimal Strike honey gold 2

The opening day of SIHH 2017 saw A. Lange & Söhne take the covers off a varied offering of watches, ranging from the top of the line Tourbograph Perpetual “Pour le Mérite”, one of the most complicated watches ever introduced by the German watchmaker, to the crisply functional 1815 Annual Calendar. Here’s a rundown of the rest of the new launches, including prices in Euros (that include 19% German tax).


Zeitwerk Decimal Strike in honey gold

The other significant complication of the year is the Zeitwerk Decimal Strike. Like the new Tourbograph, the Decimal Strike is derived from existing Zeitwerk models, with a bit of Handwerkskunst decor thrown in.

While the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater strikes the time on demand, and the Zeitwerk Striking Time strikes single chimes to mark the quarters, the Decimal Strike sounds every 10 minutes. A low-pitched chime sounds at the top of each hour, while a high-pitched chime happens every 10 minutes – the chimes don’t tell the time, rather they indicate time is passing.

Lange Zeitwerk Decimal Strike honey gold

Visible at six o’clock on the dial, the hammers and striking bridge are finished with tremblage, a finely grained surface engraving that Lange previously used only on its Handwerkskunst limited editions.

Lange Zeitwerk Decimal Strike honey gold 1

With a case in honey gold, the frequently encountered pinkish-yellow gold alloy exclusive to Lange (for now), the Decimal Strike is 44.2mm in diameter. The hand-wound L043.7 movement has a 36 hours power reserve.

Available starting fall 2017, the Zeitwerk Decimal Strike (ref. 143.050) is limited to 100 pieces, with a price of €120,000.


Lange 31 in white gold

Next up is the monumental Lange 31, now in white gold with a grey dial in a 100-piece limited edition. Previously it was available in platinum and pink gold, both as part of the regular collection.

While the grey dial is a new addition, it has been in the works for several years. Your correspondent once spotted the former chief executive of Lange, Fabian Krone, wearing a prototype in the same livery.

Lange 31 white gold

Offering a remarkable 31 day power reserve thanks to two mainsprings each almost 2m long, the Lange 31 is 45.9mm in diameter and almost half a pound. Its size, weight and price made meant the Lange 31 only sold really modestly, so perhaps this limited edition is its swan song.

The Lange 31 in white gold (ref. 130.039) is priced at €142,300. It will be available around mid 2017.


Little Lange 1 Moon Phase

The final pair of new launches are ladies’ watches, the more complicated of the two being the Little Lange 1 Moon Phase. Powered by the L121.2 movement, the Little Lange 1 Moon Phase is powered by the second generation Lange 1 calibre, but is distinct from the movement inside the recently launched men’s moon phase.

Lange Little Lange 1 Moon Phase

The Little Lange 1 Moon Phase (ref. 182.030) has only a moon display, without the day and night indicator of the men’s model. But the ladies’ version makes up for that with a silver-plated, solid gold dial decorated with fine guilloche – a feature that was historically only found on limited edition models like the Lange 1 20th Anniversary. Available only in pink gold, the case is 36.8mm in diameter. It’s priced at €38,500 and will be available starting summer 2017.


Saxonia with mother of pearl dial

The ladies Saxonia features a mother of pearl dial and a 35mm case. Available in white or pink gold, it has inside the L941.1 movement. That’s one of the earliest movements developed by Lange and now predominantly used in more affordably priced models, like the Saxonia 37mm for men. This is hand-wound with a 45-hour power reserve and a price of €16,500, with deliveries starting summer 2017.

Lange Saxonia mother of pearl


 

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FP Journe Vagabondage III-3

Hinted at in F.P. Journe‘s holiday greeting video in December 2016, the Vagabondage III is finally here.

Originally conceived in the early 2000s, the F.P. Journe Vagabondage was planned as a series of three watches, each showing the time in an unusual manner (legend has it the trio was a project originally developed for Cartier, explaining the tortue case shape). The first Vagabondage of 2006 featured a wandering jump hour, and then in 2010 came the Vagabondage II with a digital jumping hours and minutes.

FP Journe Vagabondage III-2

The Vagabondage I (left) and II

And now the Vagabondage III, the final instalment of the series, is the most technically significant, being the first ever digital jumping seconds, as well as a jumping hours.

The Vagabondage III (or “VIII” for short) has a single disc showing the hours in a window at 11 o’clock, while the minutes are indicated by a conventional hand in the centre.

Most notable are the twin discs at six o’clock showing the seconds as they pass, from “01” to “00”. This requires deft energy management – the constant jumping of the seconds discs saps enough power from the barrel to affect timekeeping – which is why F.P. Journe installed a remontoir d’égalité, or constant force mechanism. This stores and releases tiny amounts of energy every second to run the jumping seconds display without affecting the timekeeping portion of the movement.

While the VIII is the first ever digital jumping seconds that spans a full minute, the Harry Winston Opus 3 was first with a digital jumping seconds countdown that indicated the final four seconds of each minute. That, however, was a fraught project that took over a decade, and several watchmakers, to deliver.

FP Journe Vagabondage III-1

The dial of the VIII is grey tinted sapphire crystal, through which the mechanics of the movement are visible. It’s surrounded by a wide, brushed bezel that traces the tortue, or tortoise, shape of the case. The case measures 37.6mm wide and 45.2mm long, standing a slim 7.84mm high.

FP Journe Vagabondage III-4

Like all F.P. Journe movements (even the quartz ones), the calibre 1514 inside the VIII has its bridges and base plate made of 18k red gold.

FP Journe Vagabondage III-6

Price and availability 

The Vagabondage III is a limited edition of 69 pieces in platinum and 68 pieces in red gold.

FP Journe Vagabondage III-5

Prices are SFr56,000 for the platinum and SFr54,000 for the red gold. It will be available from F.P. Journe boutiques and retailers starting sometime in the second quarter of 2017.


 

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