The new Lange 1 looks almost exactly like the old one. There’s a big difference, though: a new movement. Good move? In this in-depth watch test, the cover feature of WatchTime’s November-December issue, we find out.
A. Lange & Söhne is widely regarded as Germany’s most prestigious watch company. This is due partly to the brand’s historical significance: Ferdinand Adolph Lange, who founded the company, settled in the little town of Glashütte in Saxony and encouraged his apprentices to set up their own watchmaking firms. This transformed the impoverished village into a center of fine German watchmaking with an enviable reputation that stretched – and continues to stretch – far beyond Germany’s borders.
During the postwar era, when Germany was divided into East and West, watchmaking businesses in Glashütte, in East Germany, were merged into a state-run operation called the GUB (Glashütter Uhrenbetrieb). It designed and made simple watches for the mass market. After reunification, the GUB was privatized and began making its own mechanical watches under the name Glashütte Original, and the firms of Nomos, Mühle-Glashütte and A. Lange & Söhne were newly founded in Glashütte. Lange was clearly the leader in terms of the complexity of its movements and the elaborateness of its finishing and decoration.
When Lange unveiled its first four models in 1994, the Lange 1 was among them. It became the brand’s signature model because, notwithstanding its classic styling, the watch’s asymmetric dial gives the watch character and distinctiveness. The face has a harmonious look because the centers of each subdial form the corners of an imagined isosceles triangle. No display overlaps or eclipses any other. The scale for the power-reserve display and the lettering above and below follow the curvature of the dial’s periphery so the case’s round shape is accentuated and the dial looks neither too empty nor too full. The outsize date, which was an unconventional feature when it first appeared, started a trend that continues to this day.
Over time, Lange created a collection around the original Lange 1. There are now 15 different Lange 1 models. They include, among others, versions with a moon-phase display, with a world-time indicator, and with a tourbillon and perpetual calendar.
More than 20 years after its debut, the original Lange 1 remains nearly unchanged in appearance. But earlier this year it was given a new movement, Caliber L121.1. Until then, the watch contained Caliber L901.0, which was Lange’s first movement. But plenty has happened in the meantime: the new Caliber L121.1 is Lange’s 50th. (The first two digits in its alphanumeric designation specify the year when development began, i.e., 2012.)
The first Lange 1 had an opaque back, but it was replaced a year later by a transparent one, which enabled aficionados to admire all of the special features associated with traditional watchmaking in Glashütte. These include a three-quarter plate, Glashütte waves, screwed gold chatons for the jewels, blued screws, a swan’s-neck fine adjustment mechanism and a hand-engraved balance cock.