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Lange & Söhne Pour le Mérite – An interview about Honouring Fine Watchmaking

| By Frank Geelen | 7 min read |

The Lange & Söhne Pour le Mérite Collection is a pinnacle in fine watchmaking. Our friend Peter Chong, who featured here on Monochrome on many ocassions, wrote a book about the very best watches coming from Saxony, Germany.

Friend of Monochrome, Peter Nievaart, interviewed Peter Chong about his passion for A. Lange & Söhne and the book he wrote in honor of the Pour le Mérite Collection. Peter Nievaart in conversation with Peter Chong….

Pour le Mérite book - photo by Edwin Heusinkveld

Last Christmas I received a truly remarkable book about the Pour le Mérite collection of A. Lange & Söhne, written by Peter Chong. It is not just a book about watches. It a tribute to fine watchmaking in Glashütte with a monumental size of 42 by 30 centimeters. The book contains many A3 and A2 sized photos of various details, including finishing and the servicing of a Tourbillon Pour le Mérite. The size and the quality of the photos provide a unique view on the fine parts of a watch movement. The book also contains a lot useful information about hallmarks, calibre numbering, the Pour le Mérite order, calibres with in-house springs, and awards and prizes won by. The interviews with collectors and Günter Blümlein are entertaining and informative. It is the ultimate treat for a watch aficionado! I had the chance to talk with Peter about his passion for Lange and his book.

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Pour le Mérite book - photo by Edwin Heusinkveld

Why a book about Lange’s Pour le Mérite collection?

PC: I have done pre and post Basel/SIHH reports, first hand accounts and photographs of the novelties since 1999. And did the world’s first review of the Datograph right when it was announced in 1999. And I harbored the ambition to be a published author on my own right. And of course, the natural subject was on Lange. To do a book on all of Lange’s offering would take me too long, so I elected to write about the flagship line.

In your book you write about your history with Lange. What makes Lange special?

PC: Perhaps it is a combination of things. The history of the brand, the importance of Lange in modern horology, the people working for Lange, the close working relationships I developed, the quality of the watches and the combination of craftmanship and tradition. The watches also have a very unique presence. The movements used in every Lange are exclusive to the brand. Everything is meticulously conceived and crafted to achieve a consistent design language and signature. From a distance you immediately recognize a Lange. I believe Walter Lange can be very proud of what has been achieved since the resurrection of the brand.

A Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk

Why does Lange not work with a base movement?

PC: that is part of the guiding principles introduced by by Günter Blümlein: innovation, technique, technology, craftsmanship, exclusivity, and tradition. Each watch is unique and exclusive. Movement and case must be in full harmony. Yet, there are common denominators such as the three-quarter plate, the blued screwed chatons, the superb finishing of all components, including the invisible ones, and the individually engraved swan neck balance cocks.

Hand engraved balance cock and swan neck fine adjustment

What differentiates the Pour le Mérite collection from other Langes?

PC: The Pour le Mérite is the flagship line, and the fusée-and-chain system to ensure constant force, which makes the watch highly exclusive.

In the book you will find an extensive description how the system works, documented with detailed photographs. The chain consists of 650 pieces and is derived from miniaturizing the chains used in bicycles and pocket watches. The links overlap and are held together by a pin. A key challenge is to allow for sufficient end-shake (libre sans jeux or “free without play”) between each set of links to enable them to move freely relative to each other but without any play between them.

Lange & Söhne Pour le Mérite fusee chain

If there would be only one watch to own, which one would it be?

PC: The Lange Datograph in platinum due to its purity of the design, case, dial, hands and the gorgeous movement. The watch is excellently finished, but also beautifully laid out. There are, however, some other watches I highly appreciate:

  • Dufour Simplicity – the best finished watch I have ever come across. Beautifully designed and executed. You cannot get better finish than this.
  • Credor Sonnerie – wonderful craftsmanship. I admire the folks at the Micro Artisan Studio in Shiojiri, Japan. Totally focussed, obsessed with quality and finish. They chose not to mimic the traditional Swiss repeating systems and created a Sonnerie in their own fashion, where the strikes model after the calming rhythm, tones and decay of a traditional Japanese temple bell.
  • Parmigiani Toric Westminster – magnificent finish. I love the movement design, the flow of the bridges. The strikes are also masterfully tuned. Lower in tone than most repeaters, it is decisive, clear, clean and decays beautifully. Each strike resonates beautifully within the case.
  • Laurent Ferrier Galet Tourbillon – Beautiful design and finish. Absolutely and totally classic in design and execution.
  • Girard Perregaux Tourbillon with three golden bridges The President – this is a special execution where the magnificent 3 golden bridges are not shown on the dial side. The dial is a beautiful enamel dial, totally classical and discrete.
  • Harry Winston Opus V by Urwerk – totally imaginative way to tell time using rotating cubes, and retrograde pointers.
Parmigiani Toric Westminster Repeater

Günter Blümlein has been pivotal for Lange. He also plays an important role in your book. Many people in the industry speak highly about Mr. Blümlein, including Walter Lange. What made him so special?

PC: Blümlein was the genius behind rebuilding of the Lange brand. His clarity of vision in the late 1980s was remarkable. He gave all he had and all he knew to the Lange project, as it was known then, and pulled off the remarkable return of the brand.

He was a true visionary. It seemed as if he could see the future and how to get there. You should know that in 1990 Glashütte had just come out of 40 years of communism. Luxury was an alien concept. But yet, he saw that, from these ashes, the old name of Lange & Söhne could rise, and rival with the best brands of Switzerland.

He was a great leader. He handpicked the team with Walter Lange, and inspired them to greatness. He gave room to experiment. The Langematik was one such result. While the management team was focused on other products, distribution system, press and public relationships, Helmut Geyer worked, in a little corner-office in Glashütte, on his own to design the movement of a new automatic. He showed it to Blümlein who was moved by the beauty of the design and decided to build a watch based on this movement. The Langematik was introduced in 1997 and is still a great success.

He was a good friend.

Peter Chong and Günter Blümlein

The Lange family and Walter Lange do earn their place in the history of A. Lange & Söhne and Glashütte. How do you see Herr Lange’s role in the rebuilding process?

Walter Lange was absolutely instrumental in the re-founding of the company. He is the guiding light, the reference standard so to speak. Walter was the able partner of Blumlein and provides the historical grounding essential to building the brand.

Photos: courtesy of Peter Chong

In my previous post about the book about the Pour le Mérite Collection you can find more details about the different versions. To order a copy, you can sent an email to Peter Chong -> [email protected]

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