By Rebecca Doulton in Madrid
It would be hard to find a watch company with a more dramatic history than that of A. Lange & Söhne. On the 20th anniversary of one of its most emblematic models, the Lange 1 watch, it is easy to forget that this company was literally rescued from the rubble by Walter Lange in 1990.
Founded in 1845, the Saxon watchmaking company based in Glashütte - just outside the royal city of Dresden - earned a reputation for making watches that could easily rival and often outdid their competitors in Switzerland. The company put Saxony on the watchmaking map until the town of Glashütte was bombed on 8 May 1945. Glashütte in turn became a Soviet occupied zone, the company was conglomerated into the "people's company" and faded into oblivion.
Reduced to rubble by Allied bombing in 1945 and occupied by the Soviets until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, both Dresden and the brand have embarked upon a remarkable renaissance. Descendant Walter Lange - who has just celebrated his 90th birthday - was finally able to return to Glashütte and lost no time in reestablishing his great grandfather's legacy. On 7 December 1990, exactly 145 years to the day after the company was founded, A. Lange & Söhne resurfaced from the ashes. Four years later, the first collection was presented to the public, including the Lange 1 watch.
The award-winning Lange 1 watch is characterised by its off-centred hours and minutes counter, smaller seconds counter and, in pride of place, large double date window at 2 o'clock. The date window is in fact Walter Lange's personal homage to a 19th century clock that still keeps time on the proscenium arch above the stage of the Semper Opera House in Dresden. Made expressly for King Frederick Augustus II, who wanted a clock that could be read clearly from all seats, court clockmaker Christian Gutakaes came up with an ingenious digital solution that separated the hours in one window and five minute intervals in the other.
In this auspicious year for the brand, A. Lange & Söhne is celebrating with the Lange "20th Annniversary" limited-edition watch set, which contains the Lange 1 and a Little Lange 1 and launches at Watches&Wonders in Hong Kong, Asia's premier show of haute horlogerie. A his and hers anniversary set, the solid silver dials of both models - the Lange 1 with a 38.5mm diameter and the Little Lange at 36.1 mm - have been beautifully guillochéd by hand. The Little Lange 1 for women sparkles with a diamond bezel set with 64 brilliant-cut diamonds.
The sets come in five different combinations, with case options in platinum, white gold and pink gold and the solid silver dials with black, blue, silvered and rhodié finishes, with each set limited to 20. The manually wound movement, assembled and decorated by hand, has an extraordinary power reserve of 72 hours and a practical power reserve indicator on the dial just below the large double date window. To commemorate the anniversary, a number "20" has been hand-engraved on the balance cock.