Lange and the hallmarks of German watchmaking – explaining their background and history

Lange is arguably the flag bearer for high-end German watchmaking. Its movements are a fascinating blend of beauty, engineering and anachronistic details.
Lange-hand-engraved-balance-cock1

Lange has just issued a press release covering the new 1815 Up/Down (which we covered in detail recently), detailing what have now become the signature elements of Lange movements. None of these elements are in themselves particular to German watchmaking or Lange, but combined they are regarded as characteristically Lange because of the shrewd decision to use them when Lange was revived in 1994.

Most of these movement elements hark back to 19th century watchmaking, beginning with the English and then adopted by the Germans, but are now produced with 21st century technology, and finished carefully by hand. The result is a peculiar yet gorgeous movement. Here we explain the those elements which have become Lange hallmarks, illustrated with the beautiful photographs from Lange Uhren.

Three-quarter plate

The three-quarter plate in German silver – Probably the most old fashioned way of constructing a movement, the three-quarter plate evolved from the full plate movement, in which the whole movement was covered and the balance wheel sat on top of it.  This style of construction was copied from English watchmaking, which Ferdinand Adolph Lange took as the template when he founded the watchmaking industry in Glashütte in the 19th century, when English watchmakers were dominant.

Because the going train must be positioned below on the base plate and then the three-quater plate must be fitted perfectly so each pivot rests in the upper bearing, a three quarter plate is harder to assemble than a bridge movement. But because it has one, rather than multiple bridges, it is easier to finish.  Interesting, vintage Lange pocket watches had frosted, gilt movements, instead of the uncoated German silver used today which gives the movements their distinctive hue. German silver, or nickel silver, looks much luxurious than gilt, which has a quiet, plain appearance.

Swan neck and balance cock

The hand-engraved balance cock and swan neck regulator – This detail was inspired by top of the line Lange pocket watches of old, which were labelled “1A”, had hand-engraved balance cocks.

Likewise the swan neck regulator is also taken from vintage pocket watches. But it is more aesthetic than functional, since regulation is largely done by adjusting the length of the hairspring, though the swan neck can be used for minor adjustments of the same. Finer adjustment is done by tweaking the adjustable weights on the balance wheel, or if the balance wheel is the simpler Glucydur balance then a laser will be used to poise it by removing bits from the underside.

Installing the balance assembly

Screwed balance – While on earlier Lange movements the balance screws were purely for aesthetics, to recreate the look of old pocket watches (as described above a laser is used to poise the balance), on the new 1815 Up/Down four of the screws are adjustable and used to regulate the watch.

And the top-end Lange movements now use the in-house balance wheel with adjustable weights on the inside of the balance instead of screws, which allow for a larger balance and more precise adjustment.

A blued steel screw

Blued screws – Blued by a small flame at about 300 degrees Celsius, these screws turn a rich shade of blue.

– SJX

Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Meis Lange book now available in English

Explaining How Hairsprings are Made at A. Lange & Söhne

One of the most interesting processes at the Lange factory in Glashütte is the manufacture of hairsprings, a surprisingly labour intensive process for a small and seemingly simple part. Lange is one of only a handful of brands which are able to manufacture their own hairsprings.

Lange on the rocks

Hands-on with the Hermès Dressage H1925 Chronograph with a new proprietary movement (with live photos and price)

Hermes-Dressage-Chronograph-281291

At Baselworld 2013 Hermès unveiled the Dressage Chronograph, which uses the brand’s first proprietary chronograph movement, the H1925.

In 2012 Hermès took the covers off the Dressage automatic with the H1837 automatic movement, its first proprietary movement. That movement is now the base for the new H1925 calibre of the new Dressage Chronograph, with 1925 being the year Hermès sold its first chronograph wristwatch. The H1837 marked the start of Hermès’ strategy of becoming a vertically integrated watchmaker, whereas previously its watches mostly used ETA movements. Named after the year of the company’s founding, the H1837 movement is made by Vaucher, the sister company of Parmigiani Fleurier and in which Hermès has a 25% stake. Hermès also owns dial manufacturer Natebar and case maker Joseph Erard. Leather straps are naturally made in-house. As far as possible Hermès will move production in-house for a gradually growing proportion of its watch collection. That has paid off – I was impressed by last year’s Dressage automatic. It is elegant, well made on the outside, with a solid movement inside, and fairly priced to boot. The same qualities are present in the new Dressage Chronograph, which does not disappoint.

Visually the watch is elegant and tasteful, as nearly all Hermès watches are. Though it is a modestly simple watch, the Dressage is distinctive – the graceful curve of the stirrup-shaped lugs is instantly recognisable.

No detail was overlooked in terms of the design, even the font of the date numerals matches the Arabic numbers of the hour markers. Overall the Dressage Chronograph possesses a sense of refinement which is characteristic of Hermès products. 

Though both the chronograph and automatic are the same 40.5 mm in diameter, the chronograph seems larger. And the pushers and sub-dials also give it a more sporty feel.

The case is extremely well finished, with expertly polished bevels on the case and even the chronograph pushers.

Also obvious is the quality of the dial and hands. Alternating hour markers are applied, while the rest are stamped from the dial. Though the hour numerals and godron guilloche in the centre are stamped, the dial is quite complex and very well made. The three blued steel hands for the chronograph are particularly beautiful.  

With the Vaucher H1837 below and a Dubois-Dépraz chronograph module on top, the H1925 movement does not reveal the chronograph mechanism through the display back. That modular construction of the movement, which is a less sophisticated solution than an integrated movement, is the biggest weakness of the movement. A repeating “H” motif is embossed on the bridges and rotor, while other surfaces are grained and screw heads are polished. Modular construction side, the H1925 is a well made and attractively finished movement for this price segment. 

The H1837, which is identical to the H1925

In the United States this retails for US$11,600, and in Singapore the price is S$14,720 including GST. In addition to the silver dial pictured here, the Dressage Chronograph is also available with a black dial. – SJX

Back to top.

You may also enjoy these.

Welcome to the new Watches By SJX.

Subscribe to get the latest articles and reviews delivered to your inbox.