January 17, 2017, the second day of SIHH, began as any other, with journalists waking up to attend one of the most important watch fairs of the industry. Yet as the day wore on, it became evident that a somber mood was infiltrating the halls, as each member of the press became aware, by word of mouth, of the sad news — in the early morning, Walter Lange, the esteemed patriarch of A. Lange & Söhne, had passed away at the age of 92.
For many in the watch community, it was the realization that the end of an era had come. Walter Lange had, in his lifetime, given his heart and soul to a brand that many have come to respect and love, and in doing so, he had attained a place as one of the great figures of horological history. It is, of course, impossible for us to meet Ferdinand Adolph Lange or any other founder of the great brands that lived in a distant century. But we, at Revolution, were very lucky to have met Walter Lange, who, as a bridge to the past traditions of Glashütte, the birthplace of German watchmaking, animated all that we could not have experienced ourselves, revitalizing German horological traditions in the process and making them relevant to our modern era.
How lucky we were to have witnessed the inspirational story of Glashütte’s rebirth and today, to be able to continue enjoying the peerless watches from its revival!
This was a man who held on to a watchmaking dream and carried the seeds of A. Lange & Söhne for a good two-thirds of his life. A man who, as fate would have it, began the third and most productive phase of his life at the age of 64, embarking on the rigorous and risky adventure of rebuilding a company, at a time when he could have retired.
Yet he felt compelled to do what he did, because he had seen the traditions of watchmaking that had been inculcated into him from birth unjustly snatched away at the end of the Second World War with the division of Germany. The heartbreak that followed, where Lange and his family were forced to leave the company started by his forefathers, led to him fleeing from East to West Germany for survival and to build some semblance of a life in war-torn Europe.
The story might have ended there, and we can easily see how he could have chosen to abandon his dream even when Germany was officially reunified in 1990. But he did not. He saw an opportunity to bring his great-grandfather’s legacy back, and he seized it with great energy, going back to his hometown of Glashütte and beginning the journey of the revival of A. Lange & Söhne.