When people talk about fine watchmaking, they usually think about Switzerland and the Western region of this beautiful country. But connoisseurs, like us at The Collectors Circle, cross borders. One of the best watchmakers in the business - hands down – is a German brand, called A. Lange & Söhne.
The company has a unique history which can be traced back to 1845 when the brand was founded by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in Glashütte, a small town in the Free State of Saxony, with only 7,000 inhabitants. ALS, as the brand is abbreviated among collectors, is now among one of the oldest watchmakers and has a brief history of stunning timepieces which were worn by notable owners like German Emperor Wilhelm II, the President of Russian Vladimir Putin and English singer Ed Sheeran.
After years of success, A. Lange & Söhne start struggling during World War II. In fact, on the 8th of May 1945 (the last day of the war) the headquarters and main production building was almost completely destroyed in a Soviet air raid. The original A. Lange & Söhne was nationalized and ceased to exist in 1948 following the victory and occupation by the Soviet Union after World War II.
But 52 years later the grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, Walter Lange, re-launched the brand exactly 145 years after his great-grandfather founded the original company. And ever since, ALS has been a success story.
With only 5,000 units a year, the A. Lange & Söhne timepieces are very limited and only available to the most passionate watch collectors around the globe. Among their most well-known pieces is the A. Lange & Söhne ZEITWERK which was introduced in 2009 and is the first mechanical watch that displays the time from left to right in a digital looking format.
It seems that the ALS designers were commissioned by the management for one specific task – to challenge the display of traditional watch design and to reveal something new that the watch industry has never seen before. And that is exactly what they did. The ALS designers challenged everything to come up with a patented mechanism that drove three precisely switching hour and minute discs. What a great innovation within an old-fashioned industry! This groundbreaking concept has received multiple awards.
Ten years later, the ZEITWERK has still one of the most distinctive designs in the watch industry. Following its great reception among watch enthusiasts and ALS clients, the watch was turned into a collection featuring a range including several watches with striking complications.
The specific model showed below is the rose gold version with solid silver, argenté dial (reference: 140.032). The watch is quite large at 41.9 mm diameter and 12.6 mm thick case, which is home of the L043.1 caliber. When fully wound, the power reserve of the caliber is good for 36 hours.
The result of challenging traditional watchmaking is a digital-display watch with a jumping numerals mechanism. I am sure Ferdinand Adolph Lange would be proud of ALS’ achievements as the ZEITWERK is one of the most advanced watches of the contemporary era. I am sure you now understand why we crossed the border and that it is also worthwhile to explore haute horology outside the Swiss watch industry.
Photography: A Collected Man IG @a_collected_man
A. Lange & Söhne
ZEITWERK (solid silver, argenté dial, rose gold case), ref. 140.032
retail price CHF 78,500 but on the market, this watch can be found in used but good condition for around CHF 65,000
No official limitation but very low amount as A. Lange & Söhne only produces 5,000 units a year
diameter: 41.9 mm; height: 12.6 mm
The piece is an eye-catcher and a perfect conversation starter among watch enthusiasts. So even if you for a drink with friends, I am sure you will have a nice chat with other watch lovers.
The innovative way to display the time in such a traditional industry. Great job by ALS to challenge watch making!