Designing the Lange 1 dial was an exercise in the pursuit of excellence. It involved some of the most elevated minds of the industry in recent memory. And what they came up with is a masterfully elegant and legible watch face that is all at once precariously balanced on the edge of madness.
Lange has of course, always been very much aware of the delicate balance that holds all of the elements of the Lange 1’s dial in place. Therein, the team at the Glashütte manufactory really took their time before deciding to add extra complications and features to the Lange 1, in order to build a complete collection around the watch.
Creating the Lange 1 Tourbillon
The Lange 1 was first formally announced to the world on 24 October 1994 – read 25 October 1994 because it was the next day by the time all the news outlets were able to put the word out.
It was four whole years before the first variation of the Lange 1 was announced, the Little Lange 1 and yet another two years before the next, more significant variant of the 1994 launch Lange 1 was announced.
This was no ordinary variant. The timepiece introduced a regulating organ into its movement that can easily be counted as one of the pinnacles every watchmaker tries to reach. And in the process of realising this watch, Lange did something which, when considered without having the full backstory at hand, could be regarded as sacrilege.
The watch in question is of course the Lange 1 Tourbillon, for which the team at Lange cut a hole onto the dial face – a death-defying feat, when you consider how delicate the Lange 1’s dial design is.
Speaking with Revolution, to set the story straight, Director of Product Development, Anthony de Haas (Tony) shared with us saying, “The year 2000 provided the unique opportunity to connect the history of A. Lange & Söhne with a new message. Presented at the Baselworld watch fair, Lange’s most iconic model kicked off the year 2000 as the ‘centennial tourbillon’ of the new era.
“The idea to crown the turn of the century with a special horological accomplishment is a tradition at Lange. On the occasion of the Paris Exposition in 1900, Emil Lange, who ran the company in the second generation, brought with him a gold hunter-case pocket watch with a one-minute tourbillon and a fusée-and-chain transmission in a decorated gold case.
“The Lange 1 Tourbillon took up this tradition. As the world’s first wristwatch with tourbillon, outsize date, twin mainspring barrel for three days’ power reserve and progressive power-reserve indicator, it was a contemporary and worthy successor to the historic masterpiece.”
The 25th Anniversary Collection
But what of this business of the cutaway on the dial? Tony explains, “Whether the tourbillon should be visible on the dial side is a decision of general principle that Lange had already taken six years before when the Tourbillon ‘Pour le Mérite’ was launched. In the Lange 1 Tourbillon, this configuration had the additional advantage that the calibre designers could keep the integrity of the three-quarter plate.
“The only remaining question was where to place the recess. When you take a closer look at the decentralised dial layout, it becomes quite clear that the position of the small seconds subsidiary dial is predestined for the opening.”
Today on the occasion of the Lange 1’s 25th anniversary, in summing up ten months and ten special editions’ worth of a celebration, Lange is announcing the Lange 1 Tourbillon “25th Anniversary”. So, before it’s all over, and we move on to the next big thing that Lange has planned, it’s important to ask what was it that tied together all of the Lange 1 pieces chosen to form the 25th anniversary collection.
On this note, it is Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, who offered us some insight, “With a dial design as strong as that of the Lange 1, it has proved to be a challenge beyond measure for my team to develop and design other Lange 1 watches in a way that would keep the original design DNA intact. And in wanting to showcase this very fact, we took a Lange 1 from nearly all its various lines and gave it a common theme — the colour blue and of course that hand-engraved balance cock with the engraving of the outsize date.”
But why the colour blue? Explains Mr Schmid, “We’ve had a large number of our collectors tell us over the years that they would like to see this blue used on the Lange 1. And while it’s not a colour we use on a regular basis, the 25th anniversary of the Lange 1 gave us the perfect opportunity to create something unusual for those very collectors.
“You’ll also notice that the dials of the 25th anniversary pieces are all printed. This is meant to be a nod to all the earliest Lange 1 watches that had printed dials, before we moved to using applied markers.”
Lastly, it’s important to know who it was at the Lange manufactory who came up with the idea to engrave the signature LANGE 1 balance cock with the number 25 and have it filled in blue. Again, it is Mr Schmid who explained saying, “You know, I have to give it to Tony and his team, who suggested that for the 25th anniversary watches we had to do something special for the movements. It was this team of extraordinary Lange designers who came up with the idea for the engraved number 25 on the balance cock.”
Never Stand Still
25 years is a great milestone to celebrate, no matter what the subject matter at hand. Particularly for the Lange 1 — for the success and triumph it represents for watchmaking — it is absolutely a timepiece that deserved a celebration. But nostalgia isn’t always a good thing for those who want to move ahead and create the next icon, and not simply keep recounting past glories.
“‘Never stand still’. These are not my words; they are the immortal words of Walter Lange. And they have been a guiding principle for Lange, today more than ever before,” says Mr Schmid. “We know how to honour our past and we are appreciative of the fortunes it has brought us, but never for a moment have we lost sight of our future. While I can’t tell you too much, just yet, about what is in the very near future for Lange – I can tell you that the next big thing for Lange is very close at hand. Stay tuned.”