A. Lange & Söhne, Platinum Grand Lange 1, Ref. 115.206. Diameter 42 mm. Estimate                    $30,000-40,000. Offered in Christie’s Watches Online, 6-20 September 2018

Collecting guide: A. Lange & Söhne watches

An expert introduction to one of the most important names in German watchmaking history — illustrated with previously sold pieces and standout offerings from the 6-20 September Christie’s Watches Online sale

In the world of modern haute horology, A. Lange & Söhne — manufacturer of some the world’s most exciting timepieces — is today regarded as one of the finest names in watchmaking.

The origins of A. Lange & Söhne

In 1845, A. Lange & Söhne’s founder Ferdinand Adolph Lange opened a watchmaking facility in the town of Glashütte, in Saxony, Germany. There he produced meticulously crafted pocket watches that could easily hold their own against any similar Swiss timepiece. Thanks in part to Lange’s innovations, watchmaking is now an integral part of Glashütte’s culture and economy.

During the Second World War Lange & Söhne, like other German watch manufacturers, focused on producing readily legible designs intended for military use, putting the production of ornate, high-end timepieces on hold. But the house fell on hard times at war’s end when, on the final night of the war, a bomb destroyed A. Lange & Söhne’s main production building.

A. Lange & Sohne, Platinum Grand Lange 1, Ref. 115.206. Diameter 42 mm. Estimate                    $30,000-40,000. Offered in Christie’s Watches Online, 6-20 September 2018

A. Lange & Sohne, Platinum Grand Lange 1, Ref. 115.206. Diameter: 42 mm. Estimate: $30,000-40,000. Offered in Christie’s Watches Online, 6-20 September 2018

The launch of the iconic Lange 1

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Glashütte family business was revived by Walter Lange, Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s great-grandson. Under Walter’s leadership, A. Lange & Söhne released the iconic Lange 1 in 1994. It is the timepiece for which the house is now best known and marked the beginning of a new era for the company.

Incorporating the time, seconds, power reserve, and a digital date display, the Lange 1 clearly demonstrated the watchmaker’s prowess while maintaining a subdued aesthetic. This horological ethos can be seen in every detail of the watch, down to the stately 38 mm case size.

A. Lange & Söhne. Stainless steel Lange 1, Ref. 101.026. Diameter 38.5 mm. Sold for $233,000 on 7 June 2016 at Christie’s in New York

A. Lange & Söhne. Stainless steel Lange 1, Ref. 101.026. Diameter 38.5 mm. Sold for $233,000 on 7 June 2016 at Christie’s in New York

A. Lange & Söhne: famed for its chronographs

Aside from the Lange 1 collection, the German watchmaker is perhaps best known for its chronographs, namely those featuring the Cal. L951.1, which have been described by top watchmakers as true works of art. Most notably incorporated into the Datograph, and 1815 Chronograph, this calibre is widely revered for its aesthetic and mechanics. 

A. Lange & Söhne has also started making ultra-complicated versions of its flagship chronograph, such as the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, which nevertheless adhere to Lange’s clean and elegant design language.

A. Lange & Sohne, 18k Saxonia big date. Diameter 34 mm. Estimate                    $5,000-8,000. Offered in Christie’s Watches Online, 6-20 September 2018

A. Lange & Sohne, 18k Saxonia big date. Diameter: 34 mm. Estimate: $5,000-8,000. Offered in Christie’s Watches Online, 6-20 September 2018

An experimental approach to horology: the Terraluna and Zeitwerk collection

Lange’s experimental philosophy is evidenced by some of its uniquely complicated timepieces. With pieces like the Terraluna, Lange reinvented the moonphase complication altogether, developing an ‘orbital moonphase indicator’ that enabled wearers to track the alignment of the earth, moon and sun. 

This innovative spirit can also be seen in the brand’s Zeitwerk collection, which combines a digital-style display with an impressively finished, manually wound calibre at its heart. In November 2014, the 2011 Zeitwerk below sold for the equivalent of approximately US$220,000 in Hong Kong. 

Elegant solutions for those looking for larger timepieces

Much of Lange’s recent success can be attributed to the fact that while the company has always been deeply focused on the perfection of an age-old craft, it has also kept up with modern tastes. Of all the watchmakers in business today, few have handled the shift to larger timepieces more successfully than A. Lange & Söhne, which has provided elegant solutions for those in search of a slightly more substantial watch without abandoning the house’s classic aesthetic.

The Grande Lange 1 perfectly exemplifies this successful navigation of trends. First released in 2003 and updated in 2012, the Grande Lange 1 features the same sophisticated mechanical calibre, essential striking design and pleasing proportions that made the original Lange 1 so celebrated, in a slightly larger, 41 mm case.

Today, A. Lange & Söhne timepieces are more sought-after than ever. In just over two decades, the firm’s mechanical innovations and already-iconic design language have pushed the envelope, defining what a modern high-end timepiece ought to be.