When the Lange 1 was designed, there were four significant gentlemen seated around a computer screen moving the several off-centre components of the dial about until they could all agree on what they had in front of them.
These individuals were Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s great-grandson Walter Lange, master watchmaker Kurt Klaus, watchmaker and historian Reinhard Meis, and last but not least the visionary, Günter Blümlein.
Now, to the average individual the story might come off sounding like these were four gents who just got very lucky with what they were trying to design. But let’s remember that we’re talking about two of the most celebrated technical watchmakers of our time, a renowned horological historian, and one of the greatest leaders that our industry has seen in modern times.
They were fully aware that they were working with the most delicate of ratios, trying to balance the familiar elements of a watch dial and present it in a way that the world could never expect — completely functional and logical, yet absolutely ravishing.
From there it’s well known that with the dial finalised, only then was the movement for the watch developed, the first-generation L901.1 calibre. The 24th of October 1994 then became the historic day when the Lange 1 was given to the world.
Stretching it both ways
Today, 25 years on, those who have come to fall in love with the Lange 1 are often dumbfounded by how the face of the icon is so aesthetically pleasing while every detail on it is balanced precariously on the edge of sanity. Of course, among these individuals, those who delve deeper recognise that what should otherwise be chaos is brought into harmony on the Lange 1’s dial with the golden ratio.
So, holding this thought in our minds now – the delicate nature of balance on the Lange 1’s dial – imagine having to create variations of the watch to cater to differing case size preferences out there. When the idea to create the Little Lange 1 (1998) and later the Grand Lange 1 (2003) was put on the table, it must have presented the design team at A. Lange & Söhne with quite a daunting task.
The challenge is that this isn’t simply a matter of shrinking, or blowing up, the Lange 1 dial to fit a smaller or larger case. We’ll keep the story of the Little Lange 1 in this regard for another day. For now, we’ll focus on the Grand Lange 1.
See, the challenge would’ve been solely up to the design team. Developing a completely new calibre in those early days for the Saxon watchmaker would’ve presented a significant financial hurdle. Which is why we see that while the Lange 1 family slowly grew, these timepieces were all powered by variations of the L901.X base.
Tino Bobe, Director of the Lange manufacture, recalls: “The Grand Lange 1 from 2003 was based on the same movement that we had for the regular sized Lange 1. It is what, therefore, determined for us how the dial on the Grand Lange 1 could be imagined.”
The movement that the first generation of the Grand Lange 1 had was the L901.2. But it’s clear to see that this incarnation, 3.4 mm larger than the 38.5 mm Lange 1, was a more pronounced version of the German icon.
An Identity of Its Own
There is a definite sense of prominence on the dial of the 2003 Grand Lange 1 with the decisions that the design team made concerning the various elements of the Lange 1 dial. Take for instance the treatment made to the offset subdials — how these overlapped — the applied minute markers and even the hands.
At launch, the watch was made available in yellow and rose gold, as well as platinum. Particularly the version in yellow gold, which had champagne and off-white subdials (ref. 115.021), was a very striking piece from Lange.
Within the same year, Lange introduced the Grand Lange 1 “Luna Mundi” – a limited edition set of two watches, the “Luna Mundi/Ursa Major” in white gold and the “Luna Mundi/Southern Cross” in pink gold, paying homage to the two dominant constellations in the northern and southern sky, the Great Bear and Southern Cross, respectively. The Saxon watchmaker really outdid itself with these, as moon-phase watches that pay attention to the southern hemisphere are surprisingly uncommon. You can read more about these here.
Keeping the case material options the same, the Grand Lange 1 next got an update in 2008 with a fresh set of dials. But the real evolution of the Grand Lange 1 came in 2012. After nearly a decade of its existence, the watch was given its own dedicated movement and, as a result, a complete facelift.
“In due time, it became necessary for us to create a completely new movement for the Grand Lange 1,” explains Mr Bobe. “In doing so, we knew that it would be an injustice if we chose to simply scale the Lange 1’s movement up for the Grand Lange 1. A difference you can consider when you compare the movements of the Lange 1 versus the new Grand Lange 1 is that the former has double barrels, whereas the latter has one large barrel, which accounts for the 72-hour power reserve.”
The Grand Leap
The L095.1 calibre gave the Grand Lange 1 a new lease of life. Retaining all of the Lange 1’s expected functions, Lange’s designers were now able to give the timepiece a touch of subtlety, resulting in a dial that feels lighter and has a sense of room to breathe. Most importantly, the centre of attention on the watch dial – the outsize date – now looked like it was intentionally designed with the largess that the Grand Lange 1 is intended to convey. What’s funny is that at the same time, the Grand Lange 1 shaved off a few millimetres, now measuring in at a diameter of 40.5 mm and a height of 8.8 mm (a reduction in height of a whole 2.2 mm).
With the new movement came the possibility to give the Grand Lange 1 its own complications. Enter the 2014 Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase, the watch which for the first time in the Lange 1 family placed the moon-phase display under the larger hour and minute subdial. This made for a larger, more dramatic moon-phase indication for the larger canvas that the Grand Lange 1 dial presents.
This is the Grand Lange 1 that we are familiar with today, a milestone timepiece in the Lange 1 family that has, no doubt, garnered its own unique following. Twenty-five years on from the birth of the original Lange 1, it is therefore appropriate that a special edition of the Grand Lange 1 is issued to mark the icon’s lineage.
The Grand Lange 1 “25th Anniversary” is a 40.5 mm white gold rendition. As has been the running theme with the 25th anniversary Lange 1 watches thus far, this special Grand Lange 1 has a recessed argenté dial with blued steel hands and blue print. Turning the timepiece over, we have the grandeur of the L095.1 calibre. But this being a 25th anniversary version, we’re treated to the engraved balance cock for the movement bearing a blue “25” in the typeface of the Lange outsize date.
Manually wound Lange manufacture calibre L095.1; balance cock engraved by hand and filled with blue; engraving of the Lange outsize date on the balance cock; hours, minutes, and subsidiary seconds with stop seconds; power-reserve indicator; Lange outsize date; 72-hour power reserve
40.5 mm; white gold
Hand-stitched alligator leather, blue, grey seam with white-gold prong buckle
Limited edition of 25 pieces