Thanks, gentlemen. The Seamaster 1948 is 39mm. Subtle for a watch with sporty origins, but also slightly thicker than the average dress watch. For me it's just a perfect size for every day use.
A year ago I knew nothing at all about this maker. Several years back I knew a guy who collected watches, and now recall that Lange was a favourite of his. At the time I didn't really have much of an interest, and just thought he was rich and bored. Which might well be true. Anyway, having stumbled across SF while trying to sell a pair of shoes (did anyone buy a wide pair of blue Allen Edmonds double monks on eBay last summer?!), I in turn stumbled across TWAT, posted a pic of my Dad's old watch that I'd just fixed up, everyone was very welcoming, and now here I am. Completely hooked. And one thing that really hooked me is A Lange & Soehne.
It's far from the only watch I like. Off the top of my head I can think of a dozen makers and fifty watches I would be delighted to have, and none of them Lange's. But if I were to pick one maker that touches me deeply, one that I see as a special pinnacle of class and distinction, one holy grail for my dream watches, it's Lange. Explaining why is difficult. I've not seen or handled that many, and bar that former colleague whom I've not seen in years, I don't even know anyone who owns one. Lange's most iconic and TWAT-friendly design, the Lange 1 is something I like, but most models appeal to me less than other makers' pieces, So it's not a blind love. Some I love, some I don't, like any maker. But those I love I really love. Why? I can't say they are always more beautiful than a Patek Philippe, or more original than a Vacheron Constantin (another maker that touches my heart for some reason). So of all the unofficial "big five" and beyond, why this one?
I admire a lot of things German, and in the watch world definitely. From Stowa to Nomos to Glashuette Original to Lange, there are design elements, standards and in my mind, relative good value, that stand out. There's also something about Germans that makes you feel a watch made there will not have cut any corners. It will be thoughtfully designed, perfectly engineered, carefully finished. And it will work. That's what I imagine when I think of German products, and that the designs of the watches are so distinctively German just reinforces this positive prejudice in my subconscious. So maybe that's part of it: Lange is the best of the Germans, therefore it must be excellent.
There are a few other endearing themes that I can identify: the beauty of the movements, and that they are invariably on display, makes Lange's watches feel complete - perfectly finished in exquisite detail, entirely in-house, and even though the technical distinctions might still be beyond my comprehension, I believe that many are very original. From whichever angle, I can see that nothing has been missed or skipped over, back or front, in or out. I love that feeling of comprehensive perfection. Also, I do think they feel different to their Swiss cousins - fonts, proportions, whole dial layouts, are quintessentially Glashuette, quintessentially Lange. It's nice to feel unique. Finally, they seem to be somehow immune to fashion: they have always been a little heavier than their Patek counterparts, but like that most famous of Swiss, have not felt the insecure need to inflate their cases further, or make a carbon fibre special forces black ops ninja edition in rose gold and stingray. True, they did make a larger Lange 1, but that's not entirely inconsistent with the original design. And Patek made that hideous "sports watch". Every business feels pressure to deliver what its customers want. But the best know that, in general, the customers they want, will always want what they make.
On the matter of following trends, we all like to think that we plough our own furrow, indifferent to the whims and caprices of others. I'd like to think I'm very much an individual, and the older I get, ever more enormous and irresistible grows the gravity of the fuck I simply don't give. Yet that's only partially true: especially as the neophyte, the parvenue among my new TWAT friends, I am not indifferent to the trends and implicit peer pressure that run through the discussion: many things I have grown to like simply be seeing them many times here. The Royal Oak is a good example - I didn't especially like it when I first saw it, but it's grown on me immensely - all the more so since handling a few in person. That is solely a function of exposure. Funnily enough, I share things I like often with my beloved, and she also didn't like the RO to start with. As of yesterday, she's picking out the one she prefers. We are all susceptible to a little influence.
Am I then, following a herd into Lange-love: certainly I've heard a few things about the maker and their creations on TWAT, and what comments there are on Lange tend to be very positive. But actually, it is not much discussed here, and I don't read other forums like many of you. Kai bought that gorgeous Lange 1 Time Zone (probably the Lange 1 I like the most, along with the Moonphase), fairly recently. Someone else had a Richard Lange or an 1815, I forget, a while back. But in general, most of the regular contributors who I read regularly have little special connection with Lange, and none of their watches.
My favourite Lange 1 (Click to show)
I tried this on at my local AD a few weeks ago:
If peer group influence were the main driver of aspiration, I would be talking all day about Patek Philippe having been inspired by Frilly. And a Nautilus or a 3970p would be extraordinary and wonderful things, I like them very much. Yet ask me to pick one, and it's got to be a Lange, and not TWAT-approved either: Dino flat out does't like it (and in general, a policy of agreeing with Dino on most things watch-related, is pretty safe). Or rather, he said "it does nothing for him". Which I can even understand - it's not unique in its function, unusual in size or shape, and the style is a matter of personal taste. But it does plenty for me. Actually, several of them do I've posted picture before, and until this week, pictures are all I had. On Tuesday, however, I discovered that for once, everything I had imagined was true. They really are the ones for me.
So back to the A Lange und Soehne boutique. I went in there with a little trepidation, if truth be told. Of all the boutiques, it was somehow the most intimidating. Bright white, cool, and laid out in a way that was almost unfriendly - a pillar of shelves in the centre in front of the door, breaking up the room from a raised section at the rear that housed the top pieces, giving a psychological barrier that says "no entry without invitation". The other reason for a twinge of self doubt was my high expectations. This was the one I had been saving, looking forward to, and would it live up to my imagination?
Two of my favourites were on display and I noticed them quickly. And I didn't ask for them. I asked instead about one I thought I'd like that is relatively more attainable (not for me yet, but potentially at least!): the 1815 up/down. They didn't have it. So I looked for another starting point, and saw this:
As you can see, it was certainly worth trying on. It's a solid 40mm piece of platinum, so certainly a dress watch with confidence. It's heavy, and although it's comfortable it has real presence. You know you're wearing this watch. I liked it a lot. I chatted about it with the first of my new friends at Lange, a lovely lady called Svetlana (you might note that all the boutiques in Dubai seem to have at least one Russian and one Mandarin speaker on staff, as well as Arabic and English). And despite her considerable charms, mostly I stared at this. Platinum is certainly special, and so is a Lange.
From a cynical point of view, this is a watch with a price heading up to $40k, that does nothing but tell the time. There is no complication, no extraordinary concept to show your friends. But this again takes me back to a reason I love this maker: unless you tell them, or unless they happen to know a thing or two about watches, nobody you meet will know that this is an expensive watch. They might, if observant, see that it's very nice. The finish and detail are perfect - the care, the microscopic fineness of the lettering, and the almost imperceptible detail of the red numbers at 6 and 12 - not so you'd notice, yet somehow they lift the black and white dial and make it alive without your noticing how. But this is not a watch for show-offs. It's a watch to make you feel that YOU know. That's a powerful feeling.
I looked at it, cradled it, cherished it for a while. I enjoyed my conversation with Svetlana, gave my details for the mailing list, left the other watched unmolested, and departed with yet another Lange on my mind. But that was Monday.
Tuesday I had more time and did the bulk of my tyre-kicking. I had unfinished business with Lange, and towards the end of the day, went back. This time, Russia was out and China was in, and thank you to Ms Shen Shen (I hope I remembered that right) for making me just as welcome, even though this time, I was aiming even further beyond my means. I explained how I'd been looking at the Richard Lange and how I'd liked it. But it wasn't the one. Although I was sure they were beyond me for the forseeable future, there were two watches I wanted to handle to know the truth: to know if my adoration from afar was justified. My new friend did not disappoint, and in the silent boutique, chatted with me happily for half an hour, openly appreciating the conversation with a Lange fan who knew a little about the maker, cheerfully taking pictures, sharing thoughts and passing the time. And here's the one I had to see first, the one I'd pick for reasons of my own that I don't entirely understand. Here's my number one:
This is the Langematik Perpetual. It is an automatic, when the purists would say hand-wound is top. It has incomplete roman indices when I generally prefer sticks. It's not, empirically, the most interesting or spectacular watch in the world. Or even in this price range. Or even that I'd handled that day. But it's the one for me. The size is right, the proportions are right, the way it sits on my writs, the weight, the intricacy, that micro rotor, the hand-engraved details of the movement, the very deliberate, functional elements of the complication manifested on the dial. I just love it. And it looks absolutely perfect on me. Whether you think so or not. :)
What else can I say about that watch? It's just how I feel!
And here's another. Perhaps a more difficult choice in that there are similar styles that I also love from other makers i.e. the Vacheron Constantin Les Historiques Chronograph. We compared them a few weeks back, along with the Patek equivalent. The former is considerably cheaper, too, and easily found used. But both the VC and PP use the same movement they've adapted, and although the PP in particular is beautifully decorated, this Lange is original. A rarity in that it's a new chronograph movement (or was when it was launched) rather than a development of someone else's old standard.
The original Datograph had a jumble of indices that left Dino discombobulated. That I can understand. But this one is very tidy. It also has that power reserve indicator at the bottom of the dial that for some reason I adore. Again, like the Langematik, it's a great size and weight, a little more chunky but not self-consciously so. The contrasting subdials make it almost loud for a Lange, and definitely a little sporty. Not too much, just enough to tell you there's power on the inside. And just take a look at the back. I would contest that none of its peers from other makers have a movement that looks this good.
I think it's fantastic. It's my second love. Maybe logically it should be first, given its engineering and design purity. But that's not how it works, is it? I would love to wear this watch. But I'd love to live with the Langematik always. Ideally of course, the standard TWAT refrain is "have both". Certainly, given the means, that would be a serious temptation.
They do make a lovely couple, don't they?
Essentially, that was me satisfied, bar one thing: I'd noticed one more watch in pride of place. Not in any way the most exotic thing I'd seen that day, and honestly, priced half as much again as the Datograph Up/Down, really one that you'd have to be obsessive about to think of buying, even if you were very wealthy. Gentlemen, the Datograph Double Split Flyback Chronograph enters the room. I know that this is supposed to be one of the most difficult complications to engineer, and admire that. But what really makes me understand this obsession is, like with many other Langes, the way it looks from behind. Front and back, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. I'm sorry for the limitations of my phone camera, but I've done what I can to show the sheer depth and intricacy of this machine. You get the picture, I'm sure.
I'm not sure there's much commentary I need to add after that. Just a final shot of the three beauties together: forgive the perspective distortion, the double split is 43mm, not 73 as it appears - it's just resting on its deployant clasp; the others stay traditional on a tang, allegedly to make viewing of the movements easier. I guess with this one, they thought you'd make the effort to view from any angle and sideways is best. And given the weight and intricacy, you'd best not drop it while putting it on. I'm sold.
All that's left to say is that I still love Lange, I just feel more justified in it! Next time I must visit VC too, but for now at least this is certainly my number one. And I'm one of few men who can say the words "Svetlana, Shen-Shen, thank you for a great time in Dubai", with a clear conscience. Pure in mind and body, my love will be consummated another day!