20 years can be a long time or a mere fraction of eternity. In Dresden, a city floored by World War II bombings before stagnation during 45 years of stern communism, the past two decades have witnessed an exponential growth – and the capital of Saxony has rightfully regained its previous reputation as the Florence of the Elbe. With a little help from A. Lange & Söhne.
The first time I visited Dresden, in the late 1990s, the city was still licking its wounds and contemplating its ruins. It was a city full of Angst, but already slowly rising from the ashes. Right now, it is a prosperous metropolis proud of its illustrious heritage in arts, science and culture; each time I go back, there are historical landmarks newly rebuilt or in the process of being renovated. It was in one of them, the Royal Palace, that A. Lange & Söhne chose to host 140 guests from around the world and celebrate the 20th anniversary of its new era. Exactly in the same place where the first collection was introduced 20 years earlier.
Many high-end manufactures can boast a longer history. But the resurrection of Lange & Söhne, founded in 1845, has an unparalleled epic proportion; as a History graduate and having studied closely the Second World War, I was particularly moved by the movie shown on a giant screen – most of us were. Photos of the Lange premises bombed in the very last day of the conflict, pictures of the German reunification at the Brandenburg Gate, images of Walter Lange coming back to Glashütte after the Berlin Wall came down. And then the presentation of the Inaugural Four, the quartet that re-launched Lange & Söhne to the stratosphere of watchmaking: the Lange 1, the Arkade, the Saxonia and the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite.
Of those four, the Lange 1 instantaneously became Lange & Söhne’s flagship model. Twenty years later, it remains a timeless classic whose original asymmetric dial inspired several acclaimed renditions and variations; the latest interpretation is the most precious one and was introduced precisely at the Jubilee Gala in Dresden: the Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst, an artistic limited edition of 20 masterpieces highlighted by a patented stop-seconds tourbillon combining a black enamel dial and an open-worked movement.
Wilhelm Schmid was a happy man indeed. Under his leadership, Lange & Söhne has collected awards everywhere and been considered consecutively Germany’s best luxury brand. He’s been feeding the Phoenix well. “20 years mean a lot; not just because it’s 20 years but also because of what we have achieved in that period and still have so many people working for us since the beginning – that’s the real asset and value of these 20 years”, the brand CEO told Worldtempus. “The first four timepieces took four years to be developed and the design language they created is still the foundation of every watch we’ve came up with”. Including, of course, the jubilee masterpiece: “we wanted to surprise with a Handwerkskunst that didn’t come with an engraving on the dial but that epitomizes all the values of Lange & Söhne”.
Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development, also insisted on the element of surprise. “We wanted to do something special with the Lange 1. Actually, the Lange 1 Tourbillon from 2000 was the second edition of the Lange 1 and we thought, let’s take this watch and make a Handwerkskunst out of it. We needed a couple of years and created a small team of specialists to develop a specific enamel dial; it’s a new terrain for us that also stands for craftsmanship. It also stimulates and develops in-house know-how. Plus, not many people understand the word ‘doppelfederhaus’ on the dial, so for them to see the twin barrel for extended power reserve we opened the back on a very delicate finish with 15 inner angles”. It will be sold at a price around €175,000; it will certainly be worth much more in twenty-years time.