A Lange & Söhne, out of all the high-end watch companies, perhaps has one of the most inspiring background stories on the formation of their brand. Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the company founder, was born into poverty in 1815 in Dresden. Through hard work he was accepted into the Technical college in Dresden, and at the same time undertook an apprenticeship with a watchmaker in the city. The internship provided him with access to the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments, where he helped his boss service the precious collection of “precision timepieces and astronomical instruments” stored there.
Driven by his impressive passion, he travelled to Paris in 1837 to learn from the best watchmakers. When he returned to his base in Dresden in 1841, he had gained the skills necessary to attract international clientele who held his pocket watches with high regard, among whom was the Russian Tsar, Alexander II. The aforementioned was so pleased with the extraordinary A Lange & Söhne timepiece he purchased, that he sent Lange a diamond scarf pin. This is visually documented in a photographic portrait Lange had commissioned of himself wearing the scarf pin, specifically for the purpose of sending it to the Tsar, as a thank you.
With Lange’s past personal experience of economic poverty, he was distressed and concerned for the citizens of the Ore Mountains, an area just south of Dresden, when he heard of the prevalent hunger and poverty that had spread there. In an admirable act, he moved the company’s manufacturing centre there in 1844, so that he could offer the people of the town employment, and an end to their suffering.
Then in 1845, having come a long way from his previous status as an intern, he was the boss training 15 apprentices in his company. Around this time, Lange revolutionized the world of horology, introducing the metric system into watches and vastly improving their precision. The ¾ plate he invented for the mechanism became a trademark of the company’s watches.
When Lange travelled to London in 1851 for the Great Exhibition, it was here that his presentation of his watches gained him global approval. When Lange’s son, Richard, joined the company in 1868, the name was changed to “A. Lange & Söhne” – Söhne being the German word for son. Soon after his youngest son Emil joined the family business, and the two sons eventually ran the company after Ferdinand handed it over to them in 1873, two years before his death.
In a stroke of unfortunate luck, the company’s main production site was destroyed by a bomb on the last night of WWII. Though Emil’s grandson, Walter Lange, had studied watchmaking and was ready to revive his great-grandfather’s company, the post-war consequences in Germany prevented him. Indeed, in 1948 the company was dispossessed by the Soviets who occupied eastern Germany at the time, in accordance with their communist beliefs. Though this was a disappointment, in 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, having realized he was now free to reestablish the family business, Walter Lange reopened A. Lange & Söhne from scratch, with watch manager Günter Blümlein.
In 1994, the new collection was released and proved a success, affirming the persevering ingenuity of the Lange family throughout generations, despite the setbacks they faced. Walter’s passion and belief in the brand, and Ferdinand’s masterpiece mechanisms, which continue to be reimagined and improved to this day by the company, encapsulates the awe-inspiring spirit of A. Lange & Söhne. Moreover, the “Söhne” at the end of the company name really carries extensive meaning for the brand, which has truly and impressively passed through generations of ‘sons’ all carrying the Lange name.
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