With A. Lange & Söhne original box no. 28218 containing two spare crystals and a spare spring, Uhrenmuseum Glashütte Certificate dated 4 August 2011 and copies of the registers, confirming the sale of the present watch on 18 December 1909 to Adolf Lüttge in Einbeck. The Certificate also confirms the engraving on the case which was added on 15 April 1910. Furthermore delivered with the original letter of A. Lange & Söhne, dated 13 November 1934, addressed to Mrs Hertha Stukenbrock, Hannover-Kirchrode.
This extraordinary example of one of A. Lange & Söhne's ultra-complicated timepieces combines a variety of features bound to make the blood of any thoroughbred collector stir: made in 1889 as the second example of an exceedingly small series of so-called "Doppelchronograph" or "double chronograph" watches, it impresses with no less than 8 complications (in addition to the essential timekeeping functions such as hours, minutes and seconds), an remarkable net gold weight of around 145 grams, a most certainly unique dial with a never seen before Arabic 13 - 24 calibration, unique case engraving, the original box, excellent overall condition and last but not least the highly interesting provenance.
The Archives of A. Lange & Söhne confirm that this pinnacle of 19th century watchmaking was sold for the first time on 30 November 1889 to their agent Dürrstein & Co. in Dresden for the amount of 2,535 Marks. On 18 December 1909 it was bought back by A. Lange & Söhne from Conrad Felsing & Co. Berlin (a watch manufacture founded by the Royal watchmaker Johann Conrad Felsing) and sold on the same day to Mr Adolf Lüttge (misspelled as "Lütge" in the firm's records) in Einbeck for 3,187 Marks. The engraved decoration, including the initials AS for August Stukenbrok. was added on 15 April 1910, cost 100 Marks, the total amount of 3,287 Marks was wired by Mr Lüttge on 24 May 1910 via the Allgemeine Deutsche Creditanstalt.
At the time, A. Lange & Söhne supplied their watches exclusively to appointed watchmakers, notably Dürrstein, who then sold them to the final consumers. It is therefore to no surprise that the present watch was sold to Adolf Lüttge, master watchmaker of August Stukenbrok, the ingenious founder of Germany's pioneering mail-order firm August Stukenbrok Einbeck or ASTE, and owner of the watch since 1909 - it has remained in the family ever since and is now consigned by his descendants.
According to family tradition, the present watch was a special order of August Stukenbrok who wished to acquire an exceptional watch impossible to find elsewhere in order to publish it in his catalogues. Most notably is unquestionably the dial, a variant until to date never published and unknown not only to collectors but also in the house of A. Lange & Söhne, featuring a highly unusual enlarged outer scale calibrated for red Arabic hours 13 to 24 and an inner 1 to 12 scale as opposed to the better known "standard" 1 to 12 hour indication with inner 1 - 24 calibration. This dial was most likely added in the late 1910s, based on the out of the common design undoubtedly upon special request of the watch's bustling owner August Stukenbrok. One can only speculate about the meaning of a time display emphasizing the afternoon and evening hours - possibly August Stukenbrok's most fruitful and effective working hours or his preferred day and night times.
The finely engraved decoration on the case, also made upon special request by August Stukenbrok and including his initials AS, was executed by Glashütte's most prominent and talented engraver Gustav Gessner (1853-1926). Gessner was renowned for the skilful execution of the most complex engravings, notably those designed by the celebrated Professor Ludwig Graff.
The entrepreneurial genius August Stukenbrok was doubtlessly amongst the world's first if not the first one to offer high precision watches per mail-order: a section comprising 6 pages in his 1912 main catalogue features a variety of pocketwatches and accessories, including "Echte Glashütter Präzisionsuhren", "authentic Glashütte precision watches". Most notably is catalogue no. 6534, a "genuine gold Glashütte minute repeater made by A. Lange & Söhne, with double chronograph" with a weight of 145 grams, in elegant leather case, offered for the amount of 3,750 Marks - possibly the present watch featuring the standard dial version with which it was originally delivered and used to add a touch of luxury to the range of watches on offer. This division of Stukenbrok's business must have been very successful as his firm even included a large watchmaking workshop.
Following August Stukenbrok's death in 1930 and the insolvency of his firm caused by the Great Depression in 1932, his daughter Hertha Stukenbrok contacted A. Lange & Söhne in 1934, obviously in an attempt to sell the watch. In the letter from A. Lange & Söhne dated 13 November 1934, she was informed that the actual gold value of the watch, based on a gold weight of approx. 150 grams, would be in the region of 300 Reichsmark as opposed to the original selling price of approx. 3,500 Reichsmark. The writer furthermore states that "it is very difficult to find a market for this old watch as the understanding for such complicated watches has become very scarce and the general preference now is for plain and simple watches. It is of course from time to time possible to find a potential buyer for such a piece. We assume that a price of approximately 600 to 700 Reichsmark could be achievable. Should we be interested in selling this watch for you this could only be done on a commission base. One must however be aware that it may take a long time, possibly even years, before a potential buyer can be located. For these reasons we cannot make a direct purchase". To say it with the famous proverb "one man's joy is another man's sorrow": thanks to A. Lange & Söhne's refusal to buy the watch from Mrs Stukenbrok it has remained in the family for over 100 years before making its first public appearance in this auction, hence presenting a unique possibility to the international watch community to add an exceptional timepiece to any veritable collection.
Doppelchronograph - double chronograph
According to literature, A. Lange & Söhne manufactured only some 18 minute repeating perpetual calendar "double chronographs" between 1888 and 1928, 15 are listed in Martin Huber's Die Lange Liste, pp. 160 & 161. These highly complex chronographs were made in two series, hence further limiting the numbers of watches of each variant produced. The exact number of the two versions is unfortunately unknown but most likely an equivalent quantity of 8 examples of each. Only a handful of these ultra-rare timepieces have appeared in public or are known from literature, further enhancing their exclusivity.
The present watch is from the "Doppelchronograph" or double chronograph series, the four chronograph functions (1. Start of both hands, 2. Stop of 1st chronograph hand, 3. Stop of 2nd chronograph hand, 4. Reset of both hands to 0 or 12 - or in the case of this watch to 24) activated by one single button and over one single column wheel. The second series, called "Chronograph-Rattrapante", was fitted with two chronograph buttons and two column wheels, the second chronograph hand allowing the measurement of individual interim times.
Five examples of these "Doppelchronograph" watches, nos. 25'703 (the first of the series), 28'634, 43'060, 80'003 and 99'903 (the last of the series), are described and illustrated in A. Lange & Söhne - eine Uhrmacher-Dynastie aus Dresden by Reinhard Meis, pp. 264 & 265, no. 40'266 in Die Uhren von A. Lange & Söhne Glashütte Sachsen by Martin Huber, 1982 edition pp. 68 & 69. No. 28'634 is also illustrated in Martin Huber's Die Lange Liste, p. 218. Nos. 25'703, 28'364 and 40'266 are from the single button version such as the present watch.
The designation "Doppelchronograph" or "Double Split" is still in use in the firm's modern production - for a platinum double split chronograph wristwatch signed A. Lange & Söhne see lot 277 in this auction.
A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte bei Dresden
For over 150 years, watches made by A. Lange & Söhne were and still are among the most coveted timepieces in the world. The success story of the celebrated dynasty started with Ferdinand Adolph Lange, born in Dresden on 18 February 1815. After the divorce of his parents, he found a new home with a merchant family that gave the intelligent young man a good education. At the age of 15, while he was still attending the polytechnic school in Dresden, he began training as an apprentice with the celebrated master watchmaker J. C. Friedrich Gutkäs.
In 1835, Adolph Lange completed his apprenticeship with honours and continued as Gutkäs' employee for two more years before deepening his skills as a journeyman, working with Europe's most respected chronometer makers, notably Winnerl in Paris. After his return to Dresden in 1841, Lange became a co-owner of and the driving force behind Gutkäs' manufactory, constructing amongst others the celebrated five-minute clock in Dresden's Semper Opera.
Besides his dedication to horological perfection, Adolph Lange was a person of uncommon social sensitivity. The growing level of destitution in the Ore Mountains ultimately urged him to leave his privileged position in Dresden; in 1845, armed with numerous visions and his journey and workbook, he set out for the poverty-stricken town of Glashütte in order to establish the Saxon precision watchmaking industry. In December 1845, with the financial help of the Saxon government, Lange started his own manufacture with his friend Adolf Schneider and fifteen apprentices, followed by 'A. Lange & Söhne' in association with his sons Richard and Friedrich Emil in 1868.
Lange possessed an extended range of knowledge in different directions; his eminent talents did not remain unnoticed, and he was very early elected mayor in his little town. His life was one of activity and he introduced many essential innovations in the manufacturing of watches and chronometry. The horological school at Glashütte, though opened only two years after his dead, was a natural sequence of his thirty years' endeavour to resuscitate watch making in Germany. His shop had been a training school from the first day.
Lange watches are renowned for their variety of rare technical constructions and quality and offer everything from an early pin lever watch handmade by Adolph Lange up to tourbillons and highly complicated astronomical repeating watches, such as the present lot.