A. Lange & Söhne ‘s resurrection in 1990 harmonized squarely with the watch world’s purported mechanical renaissance, an era that brought traditional wristwatches into a brilliant age of high mechanical complications.
One of the complicated elements that accomplished an incredible uptick underway because of the mechanical renaissance is the tourbillon, which presently appreciates a popularity any semblance of which was never possible in earlier years of extravagance watchmaking.
This is because of a couple of various factors: the rarity of tourbillons to that point ( Abraham-Louis Breguet , the tourbillon’s innovator, just created 26 examples in the course of his life); the trouble that watchmakers had in completing them up to the mid-1980s (the moment that tourbillons were effectively added to serially delivered wristwatches); and the astronomical costs that such pieces commanded, meaning that the potential client base of such watches was seriously limited.
A. Lange & Söhne’s restoration (for the full story see The Life And Times Of A. Lange & Söhne Re-Founder Walter Lange ) caused a surge of interest in both mechanical watches and German watches, particularly in German-speaking Europe. And the profundity of the small collection presented on October 24, 1994, with four models each displaying totally different personalities, certainly played a part in this.
The Lange 1 remains right up ’til the present time the company’s symbol with its asymmetrical dial; the clean Saxonia related to clean German character; and the Arkade was primarily aimed at ladies’ wrists (and it was decent that ladies weren’t failed to remember at when mechanical watches were really all about men).
A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour le Mérite
And then there was the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite. In 1994, a particularly complicated wristwatch was a genuine rarity.
And not exclusively did the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite feature a tourbillon, yet its tourbillon and escapement were taken care of with constant power thanks to a mechanism that had not been found in another watch for nearly a century: the chain and fusée , which was an integral part of all portable watches dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Company re-author Walter Lange has said to me many occasions that upon the presentation of these four watches, the retailers present would have requested significantly more than the fledgling company could have manufactured.
It was in particular the Lange 1 and the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite that aroused their interest.
Limited to only 200 pieces (50 in platinum and 150 in gold) and retailing for 140,000 German marks in platinum, the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite was released in a larger restricted version number than other tourbillon models on the market to that point.
All 200 pieces were represented immediately according to Lange, and it took the company years to complete the orders.
By 1999, the cost was being recorded in Germany at 153,000 marks despite the fact that the whole release had been manufactured and conveyed by 1998 except for eight pieces kept by the factory – one of which was sold at the Lange store in Dresden when it opened in 2010 according to Peter Chong, author of A. Lange & Söhne: The “Pour le Mérite” Collection .
Chong also maintains that the other seven bits of the version remain at the Glashütte factory for the time being.
And we do realize that Walter Lange wore number 1.
Chain and fusée: another milestone in present day horology
Before Germany was partitioned by the outcome of World War II, A. Lange & Söhne was the most esteemed watch maker in the country. As such, the German watchmaker had various high complication pocket watches in its collection.
Martin Huber’s 1977 reference book Die Uhren von A. Lange & Söhne Glashütte Sachsen shows four pocket watches furnished with a karussel (also known as carousel in the French-speaking world) and four with a tourbillon – one of the latter was a tourbillon pocket watch with chain and fusée and chronometer escapement that Emil Lange appeared at the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900. That timepiece’s tracker case was decorated with an allegorical enamel painting of Minerva with Paris and the Seine waterway out of sight (however Huber mistakenly depicts the scene as including Germania, Dresden, and the Elbe – a subject I will come back to in an alternate post later on as it is an intriguing example of how history can be rewritten through factual error).
Vintage watch collectors are aware that A. Lange & Söhne watches containing chain and fusée mechanisms are among the most pursued on the secondary market in central Europe, a geographical district that frequently decides taste in the horological world.
The gold A. Lange & Söhne tourbillon pocket watch No. 41000 referenced above was offered to its original proprietor on February 28, 1900 for 1,500 German marks. In 1981 it was sold at a Habsburg auction in Geneva for 905,000 marks. Nine years later it changed hands again, this time going for 1.5 million marks. The track record speaks for itself.
It made sense for the re-established A. Lange & Söhne to use a piece of its incredible history in something new to nostalgically tweak at the heartstrings of current collectors and re-interest them in the brand.
Therefore, the advanced Tourbillon Pour le Mérite was furnished with a chain and fusée, addressing the first occasion when that a wristwatch contained this element. As we see, its utilization isn’t without precedent.
The idea for its utilization came straightforwardly from A. Lange & Söhne co-refounder Günter Blümlein, who, following fifty-odd years of the absence of fine watchmaking in Germany – and in particular Saxony – wanted a watch that would showcase ideas and ability in addition to the potential of a reawakened A. Lange & Söhne. The name “ Pour le Mérite ” comes from a Prussian request established in 1740. No individual from the Lange family was ever an individual from the request, however Emil Lange got gallant accolade to become an individual from the French National Order of the Legion of Honor . It was also Emil who took pocket watch No. 41000 to the Parisian World’s Fair; it was the first internationally shown tourbillon from the place of A. Lange & Söhne.
It was Blümlein, who wanted to demonstrate that the re-established brand meant business and that authentic, creative, rich watchmaking was getting back to Saxony, who dedicated this watch with the historical Pour le Mérite name.
Blümlein and Walter Lange took the idea to complicated development specialist Giulio Papi at (Audemars Piguet) Renaud et Papi, since around then the blooming company had neither its own workshops nor watchmakers capable of imagining such a piece. Right up ’til the present time, Renaud et Papi keeps on manufacturing the miniscule chain with up to 636 individual components for the Pour le Mérite pieces.
And as GaryG referenced in Why I Bought It: A. Lange & Söhne Pour Le Mérite Tourbillon , as seen from the 20/20 vision of knowing the past, this particular watch also combines the ability, creativity, and personalities of a handful of characterizing personages in haute horology: Blümlein, Walter Lange, Papi, and even free fraternal watchmakers Bart and Tim Grönefeld , who dealt with this undertaking while utilized by (Audemars Piguet) Renaud et Papi.
As a proprietor, or even as a contributed eyewitness, contemplations of what went into the making of this watch puts chills down the spine.
When the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite was presented in 1994, one reason it was announced in a particularly restricted version – 200 pieces was a large number for the era and large for a tourbillon watch altogether – was that the watch was partially planned to be a representative thank you to the brand’s active collectors, who loyally remained among those at vintage markets scanning the stalls for lost treasure, subsequently keeping the memory of this great company alive despite the fact that the separation of Germany into east and west after World War II had decided a fifty-year break for A. Lange & Söhne.
Chong also tracked the Pour le Mérite models that had come up at auction since 1994: up to the distributing of his book in 2011 a total of 28 pieces had changed hands through Antiquorum, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Dr. Crott since 1999, with the most reduced hammer cost having been €90,905. Calculated at the exchange rate of the German mark to the euro that was set upon the euro’s presentation in 2003 (two to one), that actually went for 40,000 marks more than its original retail cost of around 140,000 marks.
The most elevated sale Chong tracked was, incidentally, in 2007 in Switzerland with a platinum model going for €221,433.
“It cost at that point and still goes at costs that almost reach minute repeater status,” says Alex Ghotbi, a specialist in vintage watches at Phillips .
Ghotbi gets tracking the new history of auction sales of the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite with some fascinating stats: the platinum adaptations appear to be generally popular at auction, and it is an interesting white gold form with a black dial that holds the world record for greatest cost achieved for A. Lange & Söhne watch altogether.
That particular watch sold by Christie’s on May 12, 2014 is depicted in Chong’s book and passes by the name of Reference 701.008, which was number 101/150 (case number 110351). It hammered at a cost of 437,000 Swiss francs ($494,778). Consider the to be as photographed by Chong in Rare Watches: The A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour le Mérite Piece Unique White Gold Black Dial .
Ghotbi also noticed that aside from that world record, this present watch’s auction costs have remained stable over the years.
The suffering appeal of the A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour le Mérite
At the hour of this writing in 2017, significantly more complicated wristwatches than the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite are regularly manufactured in the realm of watches, 23 years after its introduction.
So for what reason is this particular watch still worth talking about?
Ghotbi has a couple of answers. “A. Lange & Söhne is a fascinating brand because it was a cutting edge relaunch in 1994, but at the same time it’s historical. It’s had a tremendous after among watch collectors. And the original watches launched in 1994 are, I would say, current vintage pieces because now they’re more than 20 years old.
“The one that really, really attracts collectors is the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite. In addition to the fact that it is a restricted release, it’s the first of its sort with the chain and fusée. That was something no one would have expected to see from a German brand; no one actually trusted in German watchmaking at the time. And the Pour le Mérite is one of those watches that is relevant, important, a milestone. Clearly all this adds up to making a collector piece in addition to being rare and beautiful.
“They’re pursued, they’re purchased by admirers of horology, and I really believe it’s one of those cutting edge watches that will remain a milestone and keep being a speculation. I don’t like speaking about watches as ventures, however, basically, someone who gets purchaser’s regret will get their cash back once he sells it.
“I don’t see any other real present day Lange models aside from the Zeitwerk being in gigantic [auction] demand like the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite. This watch has a majesty, a collector’s appeal that is hard to replicate.
“And recollect that a 38 mm watch is viewed as XXL in the vintage world.”
And Ghotbi makes reference to one greater element that I had not idea of.
“For me, actually, A. Lange & Söhne is responsible for the pattern in which you see the watchmaking scene finally making very much completed developments. Swiss developments were monstrous during the 1990s, there was nothing to them. At the point when you take a gander at a watch from the 1980s and 1990s, and then you take a gander at a watch from the 1950s, you may think about what turned out badly along the way.
“And then A. Lange & Söhne came along and gave a major kick in the Swiss business’ behind, practically saying this is what we can do. And the Swiss woke up. And at that point, without warning, in the past 10-15 years, you can see that the quality of the development finish in a Patek Philippe, in a Vacheron Constantin, in an Audemars Piguet . . . they’re making an exertion, adorning the developments more. That’s on the record, and that’s certainly what I think.”
A fly on the wall
GaryG also rhetorically asked in Why I Bought It: A. Lange & Söhne Pour Le Mérite Tourbillon what it may have been similar to have been at that presentation in 1994: “I can’t altogether imagine what it probably been similar to be in the room on October 24, 1994, seeing the initial four Lange watches, including the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite, unveiled,” he composed. “However, I imagine that for many, who were there it was the horological equivalent of the amazed feeling of revelation that individuals from the audience felt on the premiere night of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! in 1943.”
The welcomed visitors on that historical day incorporated a handful of German-speaking retailers and a couple of notable European journalists. One of the visitors was a relative newcomer to the universe of watches around then, an essayist who began his career (along with me) with the launch of German watch magazine ArmbandUhren . Peter Braun is as yet the manager in-head of that magazine, and we are still close.
I asked Braun what that legendary occasion resembled as seen from his point of view today, and his answer is perhaps less “revelatory” than GaryG may have enjoyed, however extremely intriguing nonetheless. “The presentation location in Dresden’s city castle was a room inside a ruin that was decorated with curtains and wooden boards, you just can’t portray it any in an unexpected way. The structure was black from soil, grime, and ash – the whole city, including its rural areas, was not nearly as beautiful as it is today: cobblestone roads, gray structures, lack of brilliant ads, and Trabi cars . . .
“The stairwell in the castle was a messy building site, getting to the subsequent floor was hazardous. This is the place where the organizers had created a completely isolated, clean, and splendid room; it resembled another world. It was sparingly decorated, and the uncovering of the gigantic panels with the photos of the four watches was a visual hammer!
“Harmut Knothe talked in the cautious, measured tone of an elementary teacher with a solid Saxon accent. Günter Blümlein had everything leveled out like a major politician. Walter Lange appeared to be a little lost and timid, as on the off chance that he could hardly accept what was happening. It was a brilliant, gleaming, extravagant island amidst a triste Mad Max-like scene: outside the world was in remnants, and here something new was beginning.
“A. Lange & Söhne was not at this point a brand, just a dream, an impractical considered German industry establishment (VDO Mannesmann), an image for the start of ‘Aufbau Ost .’
“And the dream became reality. Whoever botched their opportunity in 1994 rushed to make amends: only six years later, collectors paid more than the original retail cost for the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite models. A. Lange & Söhne had arrived, was already winning our “Uhr des Jahres” [the first and still most important German watch prize] with regularity, and rang in the resurrection of fine German watchmaking from which the others – Glashütte Original, Nomos, Mühle, Union, Moritz Grossmann, Wempe, and Tutima – benefit to this day.”
There is no uncertainty that A. Lange & Söhne was a major supporter of the ascent of the chain and fusée’s present status in the extravagance watch industry throughout the last two decades with this watch in addition to that of the tourbillon.
Additionally, it fueled the longing for other top notch manufacturers to in like manner use their own extraordinary types of this vintage innovation. Other people who presently utilize the chain and fusée in wristwatches incorporate Breguet , DeWitt, and Romain Gauthier in his acclaimed Logical One .
The A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour le Mérite was the main wristwatch in history to combine the tourbillon with the chain and fusée, one-increasing what was viewed as the pinnacle of complicated development making by a considerable amount.
If in 1994 a tourbillon was akin to climbing Mt. Everest, at that point this present watch’s innovation was an outing to Mars.
For more information, please visit www.alange-soehne.com .
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour le Mérite
Case: yellow gold (106 examples), platinum (50), pink gold (24), white gold (19), and stainless steel (1); 38.5 x 10 mm (with one smaller exemption in pink gold)
Dial: silvered on yellow gold adaptation with painted Arabic numerals
Development: manually twisted Caliber L902.0; recurrence 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph; power hold 36 hours; one-minute tourbillon; chain and fusée subassembly for constant power
Capacities: hours, minutes, subsidiary seconds; power hold indication
Limitation: 106 in yellow gold; 50 in platinum; 24 in pink gold; 19 in white gold; and 1 in stainless steel
Year of manufacture: 1994-1998
Original retail costs: 125,000 German marks (yellow gold), 140,000 German marks (platinum)
Late auction result costs: $154,000 to $180,000 (yellow gold), $171,000 to $251,000 (pink gold), $275,000 (platinum)
*This story was first posted on April 8, 2017 at Why The A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite Is One Of The Most Historically Important Modern Wristwatches .
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