In 1845, not far from the city of Dresden (the capital of the eastern German state of Saxony), in a town by the name of Glashütte, Ferdinand Adolf Lange opened a pocket watch manufacturer that he decided to call A. Lange & Söhne. Roughly three decades prior to the opening of its German School of Watchmaking, Glashütte had established itself as a competitor to other well-known cities in the 19th century horological world, and A. Lange & Söhne had quickly become the region’s MVP. Today, 174 years after Glashütte’s first watch manufacturer produced its first timepiece, A. Lange & Söhne continues to live up to its superstar status, but not in the way one might think.
Unlike some of the other more recognizable names in the watchmaking industry (noting here that recognition does not necessarily equate to quality), A. Lange & Söhne has no official brand ambassadors; celebrity, sports figure, or otherwise. The only “face” representing the brand is the elegantly enameled or meticulously engraved one behind the markers and hands, telling the wearer the hour of the day. And for the most part, owners of A. Lange & Söhne watches are completely fine with that, because for them it’s not about who has been paid to wear the watch, but rather what has gone into creating it.
Twenty years ago, watch collectors were largely under the radar, but thanks to social media and enthusiasts’ groups such as the worldwide phenomenon known as Red Bar, the modern-day collector can find others in their community much more easily than before. Today, something as simple as a hashtag can help those who show interest in a specific brand to find their “people,” and those people, once recognized, often become unofficial ambassadors for said brands. This is the case with those who’ve invested dollars and their time into collecting A. Lange & Söhne watches.
Professor Michael J. Biercuk, a quantum physicist and Director of the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney in Australia, is both a collector of A. Lange & Söhne timepieces as well as a card-carrying member of what is known on Instagram as the “#LangeNation.” When asked what drew him to the brand in the first place, Biercuk said, “Overall, the brands one loves are defined in part by how those brands connect with one’s own values. Lange, or at least my interpretation of Lange, really spoke to my heart. To me, despite operating in a luxury goods market, they represent an eschewing of conspicuous consumption. Lange watches are relatively stealthy in presentation, with the most extraordinary views generally offered from the case back. That case back reveals a focus on detail and craftsmanship that is unique in a market largely focused on catering to mass consumption.”
Gary Getz, who is not only a well-known collector within the horological community but has also garnered a notable social media following largely due to his watch photography skills, feels similarly. “The watches just scream ‘quality’ in everything from their thoughtfully created complications to their robust construction to the best finishing among the major brands,” states Getz. “For instance, every single Lange watch – not just the high complication pieces in the line – is assembled twice, before and after finishing, to ensure the highest quality of manufacturing.” Case in point, this year’s release of the Zeitwerk Date, a nod to the original Zeitwerk – Lange’s first mechanical wristwatch with a precisely jumping digital display – for that collection’s tenth anniversary.
And while Lange has, for years, been more of an “insider’s brand,” both Getz and Biercuk think that will change. “I believe the brand will become more popular once the next generation of collectors has a chance to see the great work Lange is doing,” said Getz. “I very much like the way Lange has been branching out with recent items that can attract a broader set of buyers. The brand is also making big investments in reaching out to consumers more effectively through its new design and marketing location in Berlin. Plus, let’s not forget that the revived Lange is just now twenty-five years old, and while I think Lange has suffered a bit in the recent fervor for all things vintage, it is now old enough for some of its designs to be seen as true classics that all collectors will prize.”
Biercuk adds, “I see two major dynamics that are likely to shift collectors to Lange in the future. First, we’ve seen Lange rapidly ascending from a largely unknown German brand to the pinnacle of high horology within just twenty-five years. Nevertheless, within the collectors’ market, there is clearly a historical focus on the ‘Holy Trinity’ Swiss brands (Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin), where speculative investment has run rampant. As the luxury asset bubble speculators drive up the cost of steel sports watches to ridiculous heights, we’re already seeing that collectors are choosing deeper value options, including Lange. Second, Lange seems to be offering a greater number of modern designs while maintaining a traditional overall aesthetic. I think expansion of their designs will help capture a newer and more youthful segment of the market that wants something a bit edgier without going over the edge.”
But even with their devotion to the brand for the reasons mentioned above, both collectors have their own internal desires as to what they’d like to see from Lange in the future. For Gary Getz, it would be something along the lines of an everyday piece. “I’d love to see a Lange sports watch in steel, with the quality we expect from Lange in a true daily wear watch that matches today’s active lifestyles.” For Professor Biercuk, it’s more about contemporary design elements within existing product families such as Lange’s Lumen line. “I think ‘stealth’ black numeral disks and bridges would be interesting, or potentially even new case materials like black ceramic. Just having more options in this direction would be very exciting.”
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