While it may seem to the uninitiated like just another high-end watchmaker with a funny name, A. Lange & Söhne has a reputation as one of the world’s best brands for good reason. First off, they are based in Germany, not Switzerland, and are justifiably referred to as that country’s answer to Patek Philippe. Secondly, functional details like their trademark big “digital” numeral windows, sets their watches apart from most others in their range.
Founded in 1868, A Lange & Söhne’s name is neither memorable nor easy to pronounce (if you’re curious, it’s ah LAHNG-eh unt ZURN-neh, (or just “Lange” for the fanboys). What they lack in marketing savvy, however, this brand more than makes up for in watchmaking heritage, production skill and commitment to mechanical innovation. Make no mistake: Lange is the farthest thing from a mass-market brand, and their watches make few allowances for modern tastes and trends. Don’t look here for sports endorsements, design collabs or space-age materials; this is a brand whose ethos and craft have remained more or less unchanged for the last 150 years, and that’s exactly why people love them. Here are a few examples of what they do best.
1815 Rattrapante Honeygold “Homage to F. A. Lange”
In true form, the name of this watch isn’t going to mean anything to most people, but if you know, then you know. 1815 is the year in which the brand’s forefather and namesake, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, was born, and this is one of several tributes A. Lange & Söhne created to honour his 175th birthday in 2020. A rattrapante is a fancy name for a split-seconds chronograph (which, thanks to some mechanical feats beneath the dial, is capable of timing two separate events simultaneously – like two runners in a race, for example). Honeygold, meanwhile, is the name for A. Lange & Söhne’s proprietary alloy (so-called for its golden honey hue). Taken together, you’ve got one extremely sophisticated timepiece.
126,700 €; Limited to 100 pieces
Zeitwerk Minute Repeater
There’s no direct English translation for “zeitwerk,” but in this case it denotes a very special watch, both on the surface and underneath. This watch combines the exclusivity of a minute-repeater (an extremely complex movement that audibly chimes the time via a set of tiny hammers and gongs) with a pair of “digital” date apertures that have become a hallmark of A. Lange & Söhne’s design. Hours are displayed on the left, and minutes on the right, with a small-seconds dial flanked by those aforementioned tiny hammers at 6 o’clock.
437,700 €; Limited to 30 pieces.
Lange 1 Timezone
Every great watch brand has its own take on the travel watch, and Lange’s is both a highly advanced mechanical watch and great example of their approach to dial design. Here you have a relatively conservative 42mm case containing three subdials, a cities ring, a power reserve indicator and a big date window. Set your home time in the larger of the main subdials (complete with mini-me small seconds dial at 6) and then use the pusher at 8 to set the cities ring to your foreign timezone of choice. With each click of the pusher, the cities ring advances one timezone, and the subdial advances an hour, making it a snap both to set and to read.
Lange’s recently-introduced Odysseus is their answer to the beloved steel sports watches made by the other big brands. It is a departure for a brand known for its conservative dress watches and tends to divide opinion as a result. With its large day and date windows, big seconds subdial and integrated rubber strap, plus the addition of a white gold case and grey dial this year, there’s a lot to like here. Like everything made by this brand, it really doesn’t look like anything else, and you’re either going to be into that or you aren’t. 38,500 €
Turbograph Perpetual Honeygold
At its highest echelons, watchmaking is a competition to see who can do the most complicated things within a mechanical movement, and the Turbograph is very much A. Lange & Söhne’s kick at this extremely lofty can. Priced at a cool half-million euros (about three quarters of a million CAD) this watch earns its exorbitant worth by means of an exceptional combination of complications, including a tourbillon, a chronograph, a rattrapante and a perpetual calendar. One or two of these things on their own would be impressive. Four together? Executed with this degree of refinement and finishing? That’s the stuff that separates the elite watchmakers from the rest.