When Günter Blümlein and Walter Lange undertook the monumental task of reviving A. Lange & Söhne after Germany’s reunification, they had to come up with a model that would represent the spirit, past and present, of a legendary Saxon watchmaking brand. Accordingly, the watch would have to embody some of the finest historical traditions associated with Glashütte’s high-end German watchmaking, but it would also have to flaunt a combination of design and mechanics that would signal the way forward. And as everyone familiar with the brand knows, the Lange 1 appeared in the line-up of A. Lange & Söhne’s four inaugural watches in 1994. With its intrepid asymmetric layout and outsize date display, the Lange 1 was singled out as the star of the quartet. Interpreted with different complications over the decades, the Lange 1 is considered the quintessential face of the brand. Following the introduction of the larger Grosse Lange 1 (Grand Lange 1) in 2003 and its various evolutions, A. Lange & Söhne unveils the third-generation Grand Lange 1 with a slimmer case height and new dial textures. Let’s look at this handsome pair of white and pink gold watches and determine whether the slimmer case profile and new textured dial can make an already grand design even better.
personality traits of the Lange 1
As co-founder and first CEO of the revived brand, Günter Blümlein subscribed to the vision that “our watches must be classic and understated in looks, sleek, useful and German in nature.” What he didn’t mention here is the word “personality,” something that the Lange 1 has in abundance and which makes it so genuinely distinctive.
Immediately identifiable thanks to its unusual layout of functions on the dial, the Lange 1 might come across as a random arrangement of functions with an outsize date window at 1 o’clock, a power reserve indicator running from 2 to 4 o’clock, an hours and minutes sub-dial on the left of the dial and running seconds at 5 o’clock. Nothing could be further from the truth. The asymmetry on the dial, which is so pleasing to the eye, relies on the mathematics of the golden ratio and, as you can see in this photo, the central points of all four indications create the corners of an isosceles triangle.
Perhaps the second strongest identity trait of the Lange 1 dynasty is the outsize date inspired by the famous five-minute clock in Dresden’s Semper Opera House. Not only are the numerals three times larger than most date displays, but they can also be advanced with a much simpler rapid correction pusher in the caseband. To produce the compact arrangement of the numerals, the two discs bearing the units and tens revolve above one another with a clearance of just 0.15mm. And I love the way that both windows are framed in gold, and the inky black Arabic numerals set at a lower level to increase the sensation of depth.
Oddly enough, the Grand Lange 1 has not been the recipient of many complications and currently only features the classic time-and-date model and a moon phase with or without Lumen. To get a real feel for the life and times of the Lange 1 over the decades, don’t miss Brice’s extensive coverage and our exclusive video.
The Grand Lange 1
The Grand Lange 1 is the big brother of the Lange 1. Produced as a response to the growing trend for oversized watches, the Grand Lange 1 appeared in 2003 in a large 41.9mm case with a thickness of 11mm. As Brice points out, the first-generation Grand Lange 1 was characterised by larger overlapping sub-dials and an outsize date that invaded the minutes track. These overlapping displays were because the Grand Lange 1 was still using the smaller, hand-wound Lange base movement L901.2.
Above: the three generations of Grand Lange 1
The second generation of Grand Lange 1 appeared in 2012 with a revisited and smaller case size of 40.9mm and a slimmer movement (L-095.1) built specifically for the Grand Lange 1. The new movement not only allowed for a reduction in height (8.8mm), but it also ensured a more balanced – non-overlapping – display of functions on the dial in line with the original Lange 1.
Third-generation Grand Lange 1
The big novelty of this third-generation Grand Lange 1 is the reduction in case thickness from 8.8mm to 8.2mm, which is all the more surprising since it still uses the calibre L095.1 developed in 2012. A reduction of 0.6mm might not sound like earth-shattering news, but boy, does it contribute to the increased elegance of the 41mm watch and its comfort on the wrist. Available in 18k white or pink gold, the case design is faithful to the original with stylish tapered lugs, a slim domed bezel and a sleek rectangular pusher on the left caseband to advance the date.
The second novelty is the new granular texture featured on the solid silver dial. It’s worth comparing the effect this dial produces with the dial of the Grand Lange 1 “25th Anniversary” edition of 2019. It is, you will admit, almost like looking at two different watches. Granulated/sandblasted/textured dials are a hot trend these days and have even been adopted by heavyweights like Patek Philippe. Not only do they revitalise the dial with a more contemporary flair, but their matte surface absorbs the light and highlights the other elements on the dial. For the two new Grand Lange 1 models, the sandy texture of the dial is a grey/taupe colour – and believe it or not, but both editions have exactly the same dial colour, but the way the white or pink gold elements reflect on the grey surface result in two rather different tones, either cold or warm.
All the gleaming white or pink gold elements on the dial – hands, date window frame, applied numerals and lozenge markers – stand out with even more verve against the muted sandy background. The slightly recessed counters for the hours and minutes, and small seconds are decorated with snailing that gently plays with the light, creating wavy optical illusions. If you look closely, you can appreciate the gently bevelled chamfers of the off-centred time indications and the ever so slight encroachment of the small seconds counter into the minutes track between 4 and 5 o’clock as the markings between 20 and 23 shrink to accommodate the counter.
Like the markings on the time counters, the inscriptions on the periphery of the dial are white, except for the presence of two small red triangles in the signature AB/AUF power reserve indicator to indicate the dwindling energy of the movement.
Calibre L095.1 is the same slim, manual-winding movement that has been powering the Grand Lange 1 since 2012. Equipped with just one mainspring barrel delivering a maximum power reserve of 72 hours, the increased diameter of the movement (34.1mm x 4.7mm) fills the caseback nicely. The enlarged proportions also mean that the hand arbors are shifted outward, freeing up space on the dial and respecting the original off-centred arrangement of the functions on the dial.
Although the signature untreated German silver three-quarter plate hides most of the 397-part movement, the decorations are superlative. The Glashütte ribbing on the plates, the ruby-red bearing jewels in mirror-polished gold chatons secured with blued screws and the hand-engraved balance cock are just some of the refined hand-finishings that identify it as a Lange movement.
A reduction in case height is always a positive factor and gives this larger version of the Lange 1 a more compact dress watch appeal. Combined with the contemporary granulated dial, the Lange 1 retains its wonderful asymmetry but sheds some of its classicism. At the end of the day, what’s not like about a slimmer profile and a younger face?
Availability & Price
These two new editions of the A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 will be released as part of the permanent collection. The retail price is EUR 45,900 either in white or pink gold.
For more details, please visit www.alange-soehne.com.