A. Lange & Söhne 1815 “200th Anniversary F. A. Lange”


A. Lange & Söhne 1815 “200th Anniversary F. A. Lange”

1815 “200th Anniversary F. A. Lange”

A. Lange & Söhne salutes the founder of Saxon precision watchmaking who was born 200 years ago.
La Cote des Montres - February 24th, 2015

The new 1815 “200th Anniversary F. A. Lange” in a limited edition of 200 watches stands out with purity and perfection. It is a horological monument created by A. Lange & Söhne to commemorate the anniversary of an eminent and charismatic founding father.

Each detail of the timeless design and artisanal immaculacy of the L051.1 manufacture calibre pays tribute to the great Saxon watchmaking pioneer. Apart from the three- quarter plate made of untreated German silver, key hallmarks include the hand-engraved balance cock, the classic screw balance, the whiplash spring, the gold chatons that secure the bearing jewels, and the thermally blued screws. The serial number engravings on the case from 001/200 to 200/200 identify each watch as a proud exemplar of the anniversary edition.

The 40-millimetre platinum case and the black solid-silver dial emphasise the sleek elegance of this timepiece. With its three levels and the subsidiary seconds at six o’clock, the face is reminiscent of the legendary pocket watches crafted by Ferdinand Adolph Lange.

His objective, he wrote in 1843 to the Saxon government when he was 28, was “to imbue the watch itself with the great and important flawlessness and simplicity that originate from my considerations and diligence”. In the letter, he expounded on his plan to produce pocket watches in Saxony. This vision began to materialise two years later in his newly established manufactory. The former mining town of Glashütte had become a hub of fine watchmaking.

But before Lange laid the foundation for the global fame of A. Lange & Söhne with trailblazing chronographs and pocket watches with jumping seconds, remontoirs and quarter repeaters, he initially focused on the simple pocket watch. With continual design improvements, he achieved a superb degree of precision and reliability that buoyed his fledgling business. One good example is the three-quarter plate which evolved over several stages until its final form was developed in 1864. It was responsible for the stability of Lange’s movements and defined the style of Saxon watchmaking.

The latest-generation A. Lange & Söhne wristwatches are also endowed with this prominent component, an inimitable style and design element that can be admired.

A. Lange & Söhne 1815 “200th Anniversary F. A. Lange”

Ref.: 236.049

Movement:Lange manufacture calibre L051.1; manually wound, crafted to the most exacting Lange quality standards
Decorated and assembled by hand
Precision-adjusted in five positions; plates and bridges made of untreated German silver; balance cock engraved by hand
Movement parts :188
Jewels :23
Screwed gold chatons :5
Escapement :Lever escapement
Oscillator :Shock-resistant screw balance; Nivarox® balance spring* with a frequency 21,600 semi-oscillations per hour
Precision beat-adjustment system with lateral setscrew and whiplash spring
Power reserve :55 hours when fully wound
Functions :Time indicated in hours, minutes and subsidiary seconds with stop seconds
Operating elements :Crown for winding the watch and setting the time
Case dimensions :Diameter: 40.0 millimetres; height: 8.8 millimetres
Movement dimensions :Diameter: 30.6 millimetres; height: 4.6 millimetres
Crystal and back :Sapphire crystal (Mohs hardness 9)
Case :Platinum
Dial :Solid silver, black
Hands :Rhodiumed gold
:Hand-stitched alligator leather strap, black
Buckle :Platinum prong buckle
Limited edition :200 watches, engraved 001/200…200/200

Who was Ferdinand Adolph Lange?

Portrait of the Dresden-born watchmaker who in 1845 inaugurated the first manufactory in Glashütte 

Bust of F. A. Lange in Glashütte
18 February 2015 marks his 200th birthday. The gifted watchmaker, whose pocket timepieces are still highly coveted today, dedicated his life to the establishment of a watchmaking business in a structurally weak region and thus laid the foundation for Saxon fine watchmaking.

In May 1844, Ferdinand Adolph Lange wrote a letter to the Saxon Ministry of the Interior saying that his ambition was to perfect timekeeping instruments. The Dresden-born watchmaker planned the establishment of a modern manu- factory along the lines of what he had seen during his travels to the watchmaking centres in France, England and Switzerland. His main motivation was to create a branch of industry that would “subsequently provide thousands with sustenance and prosperity”. Ferdinand Adolph Lange was not only a well- educated individual but also a deeply religious man with a social conscience.

The first workshop in Glashütte
The destitution in the structurally weak region of the Ore Mountains, which the Saxon government failed to mitigate, prompted him to act in 1844. With letters, petitions and negotiations, he lobbied for his project of developing a watchmaking company in Glashütte with such fervour that the Royal Saxon Ministry of the Interior in Dresden finally agreed to draft a contract. It obliged Lange to train 15 youngsters from Glashütte as watchmakers within three years. In return, the government granted him a loan of 6700 thalers, including 1120 thalers for the procurement of tools. The apprentices were expected to continue working for Lange for five years and repay the cost of their training in weekly instalments. The first personnel journal listed “one assistant painter, twelve straw weavers, four domestic servants, one farmhand, one quarry worker, and one vineyard worker” as those picked to become watchmakers.

Due to a lack of aptitude, some of the young men had to be dismissed after a short trial period, but the others persevered and constituted the core of Lange’s original crew; soon thereafter, the team consisted of 30 novices. Initially, he hardly had qualified personnel, except for Adolf Schneider, who later became his brother-in-law.

Born in Dresden on 18 February 1815, the son of gunsmith Samuel Lange, Ferdinand Adolph Lange did not have his career laid out for him. His mother and father, described as a “coarsely hewn man”, separated early on. Another family gave the intelligent youngster a new home, encouraged him, and arranged to have him trained by acclaimed court clockmaker Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes. This would soon prove to have been a wise decision. It did not take Gutkaes long to recognise not only the above-average manual skills, but also his protégé’s eagerness to excel, with a far stronger urge than was commonplace for a clockmaker in Dresden in those days.

Excerpt from correspondence with the Saxon government
During his apprenticeship, Lange attended the up-and-coming technical college and learned English and French in the evening hours. He quickly came to the conclusion that he would hone his skills only in the highly evolved hubs of horology: in France, Switzerland and England. Creative watchmaking, practised mainly in the German- speaking centres in Nuremberg, Augsburg, Schaffhausen and Strasbourg during the Renaissance era, had meanwhile migrated to London and Paris. Embedded in the illustrious lifestyles of royal courts, but also spurred on by the demand for evermore-precise timekeeping instruments aboard naval and merchant ships, horology was actively supported by the sovereigns there.

The journeyman period


In 1837, three years after having completed his apprenticeship in Dresden, Ferdinand Adolph Lange packed his belongings, including his journey- and workbook with a recommendation by his mentor Gutkaes, and signed up in Paris with famous chronometer maker Joseph Thaddäus Winnerl, once among Abraham Louis Breguet’s finest students. In brief: the planned study trip ended up being a three-year tenure during which Lange was promoted to foreman. Ultimately, he even had to turn down Winnerl’s request to stay on, because his itinerary still included England and Switzerland.

Pendant tout ce temps, le fameux carnet d’esquisses et de voyage se remplit peu à peu de dessins de mouvements horlogers, de croquis de détails, et de tables de calculs relatives aux rapports d’engrenage. Ferdinand Adolph Lange n’était pas un adepte du principe «trial and error», consistant à faire des essais, à se tromper puis à corriger les erreurs; un principe heuristique qui prédomina alors en horlogerie et qui lui paraissait incompatible avec la recherche d’obtenir une qualité constante et reproductible à l’infini. Avec la ferme intention de changer cette pratique, il retourna à la manufacture horlogère de Gutkaes, épousa en1842 la fille de son employeur, Charlotte Amalie Antonia, et devint copropriétaire et moteur de l’entreprise de son beau-père. À cette époque, l’atelier était réputé pour ses régulateurs de précision qui y étaient fabriqués à la demande de divers observatoires d’astronomie. L’un d’eux, le régulateur numéro32 qui est toujours exposé au Musée d’Histoire des Sciences de Genève, indiquera l’heure officielle de la Suisse, pays horloger par excellence, pendant pas moins de soixante ans.

Two pages of the journey and workbook
During this period, his famous journey- and workbook was filled with movement sketches and detailed drawings as well as mathematically sound ratio calculations for wheels and pinions. Ferdinand Adolph Lange was not an adherent of the trial-and-error principle which at the time still governed much of a watchmaker’s work, making it impossible to assure consistently reproducible quality levels. Determined to change this, he returned to Gutkaes’ workshop for fancy clocks, married the owner’s daughter Charlotte Amalie Antonia in 1842, and became co- proprietor and horological architect in his father-in-law’s business. Precision regulators for observatories were crafted there during this era. For some 60 years, one of them – No. 32 – delivered the precise time for Switzerland, the quintessential watchmaking country, from a Swiss observatory. Today, it is on display at the Musée d’histoire des sciences in Geneva.

Dixième gauge developed by Lange
In 1851, Ferdinand Adolph Lange wrote a letter to the government describing his accomplishments so far: “My first and decisive step was to design a gauge for executing with the greatest accuracy any calculated ratio in the smallest of scales. This was followed by my work on the ratios of pinions and pieces as well as the respective machines, and I finally established the principles to be observed when building watches and designing escapements in accordance with scientific fundamentals, and introduced methodologies and reliable processes where previously arbitrariness, prejudice and disaccord had reigned. These are the fruits of twenty years of painstaking deliberation and labour, parts of which have found practical application in our factory and make our watches good, but many others, whose time has come, remain unexecuted.”

Upswing in Glashütte


Family photograph of Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s children
Glashütte, the impoverished town in the Ore Mountains that in 1845 had merely faint memories left of its erstwhile prosperity as a silver-mining village, was connected to the world only via a dilapidated roadway on which a postal coach travelled once a week. When the illiterate coachman arrived, he would empty the bag and let the people find out for themselves to whom the letters were addressed. The townscape was accentuated with muddy goose ponds and manure heaps. This is where Lange set up a workshop, taught his apprentices and initiated the production of watches while at the same time designing better machines for manufacturing precision parts. He also handled the correspondence and took care of the bookkeeping. His daughter Emma pointed out that Lange, who worked day and night, would occasionally collapse, and that he sacrificed his entire savings, those of his wife, and even prize money from horological awards, to keep the jeopardised enterprise alive.

Early pocket watch dated 1861,
signed “A. Lange, Dresden”
But his ambitious concept began to take shape: besides his own company, Glashütte – whose infrastructure he had decisively improved during his 18-year tenure as its mayor – now counted many small specialised workshops that produced jewels, screws, wheels, spring barrels, balance wheels and hands. Case makers, gilders, guillocheurs and three additional manufactories, with which Lange sometimes collaborated, were able to establish themselves thanks to his encouragement. They were often founded by people who had previously apprenticed with and worked for him. So gradually, hundreds of safe and well-paid jobs changed the hardship into modest affluence. Lange’s company, which rarely had more than 100 employees, remained the nucleus of German precision watchmaking that grew in and around Glashütte. With the German school of watchmaking (DUS) initiated by his friend Karl Moritz Großmann in 1878, Glashütte completely detached itself from Switzerland and France as regards the practical and theoretical training of specialists, and consolidated its reputation as the German hub of fine watchmaking.

When Ferdinand Adolph Lange suddenly passed away at the age of only 60 on 3 December 1875, he left behind not only a flourishing business and an impressive repertoire of international awards to his sons and grandchildren but also – to the Glashütte region – secure economic perspectives. For these accomplishments, the city honoured him with a monument in 1895. Ferdinand Adolph Lange repatriated precision watchmaking to Germany, enhanced with sweeping reforms. His designs, with wheel train parts exactly calculated for the first time, a new frame configuration with three-quarter plates, the special Glashütte lever escapement and compensation balance, precision adjustment devices and hairsprings with special terminal curves represented the highest standards in watchmaking. At auctions today, precision timepieces signed “A. Lange & Söhne”, among them highly complicated watches, fetch exceptionally high prices. For connoisseurs of mechanical timekeeping, they preserve the philosophy of a man who wrote many chapters of horological history and significant parts of Saxony’s history. The new watches from Glashütte signed “A. Lange & Söhne” carry this proud legacy forward into the future.