It seems that a Venn diagram of watch enthusiasts and car enthusiasts would practically be a circle. The two industries have much in common, including commitment to engineering excellence, thoughtful design and master level craftsmanship. It’s no surprise to see the plentiful examples of collaborations between watchmakers and car manufactures. A. Lange & Söhne has been a partner for the famous Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este since 2012 to honor the best of the vintage and classic cars that are showcased at the event.
Indeed, Lange is a watch brand with an incredible story. Ferdinand Lange was a driven man who was given the opportunity by his foster family to study with the masters at the Technischen Bildungsanstalt of Dresden. He worked with a master clockmaker, Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes of the famous Five-Minute Clock at Dresden’s Semperoper and completed his apprenticeship with honors in 1835. His journeyman years would take him to France, England and Switzerland and give him the chance to work with several well-known watchmakers.
He dreamed of returning to Saxony and building a watchmaking industry to rival that of the Swiss masters. In 1841, he returned to Dresden and applied to the government for a business license in an economically depressed region, “Erzgebirge” in Glashütte. In the years that followed, he worked tirelessly to realize his dream with his watch company, A. Lange & Cie., and he applied all that he’d learned to building a fledgling watch industry.
In addition to his own work, Lange took on a team of 15 apprentices to learn the business of watchmaking and encouraged them to establish their own firms in the area. It wasn’t long before Glashütte was home to a cluster of manufacturers. Lange even served as mayor of Glashütte for 18 years.
By 1868, Lange had seven children and the eldest, Richard, had joined the enterprise and prompted the name change to A. Lange & Söhne (A. Lange & Sons). The company would experience many ups and downs through the nearly two centuries that followed, including the turmoil and shortages of World War II and the destruction of the main production building on the last day of World War II in Europe, May 8, 1945.
After many years of dissolution when the government seized and merged watch companies to form VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe, Ferdinand Lange’s great- grandson, Walter Lange, with the help of Günter Blümlein, re-established the brand in 1990 and led the company into a new era of Saxony watchmaking success.
A Competition of Elegance
Villa d’Este was built in 1568 as a private summer residence in Cernobbio in northern Italy and rests on the western shore of Lake Como. It’s now an opulent hotel with gorgeous views and a beautiful 25-acre landscaped park. Known for the exquisite cuisine, gala celebrations and old- world grandeur, Villa d’Este is also the host for the annual Concorso d’Eleganza or “Competition of Elegance.”
The event was first held in 1929 and has been organized by the BMW Group for over 20 years. The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is a grand spectacle of some of the most incredible vintage and classic cars in the world. Guests to the event are treated to an up-close view of around 50 selected cars from as far back as the 1920s and a handful of 2022’s most exciting models.
Cars are awarded prizes and trophies in several categories, like the stunning 1934 Bugatti Type 59 from the Pearl Collection (once owned by King Leopold III of Belgium) that took the FIVA trophy for the best-preserved prewar car and the 1954 Maserati A6 GCS MM that took home the ASI trophy for the best-preserved postwar car.
Some of these beauties were made more interesting by their stories. A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing was gifted to Sophia Loren, and she raced it at the Rally del Cinema in 1956. Another Mercedes, the 540 K Cabriolet A., was once owned by the owner of the Montmartre- based La Roulette, Lucy Franchi, and was used to chauffeur jazz stars such as Édith Piaf, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt around Paris.
A Decade of Partnership
Since 2012, A. Lange & Söhne has been a proud partner to the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. It has fallen to the prestigious watchmaker to create an exclusive award for the “Best of Show” winner. In 2022, the prize was a one-of- a-kind 1815 Chronograph in white gold.
The 1815 Chronograph’s movement is constructed from 306 individual components that were finished by hand in Lange’s Glashütte-based manufactory. Caliber L.951.5 is a visual feast showcasing column wheel chronograph actuation and a cam-poised balance wheel with a freely oscillating in-house hairspring.
The one-of-a-kind model features a pink gold dial with brown subdials and hand engraved hinged cuvette. The 39.5mm case is crafted from white gold and the hinged caseback is hand engraved with the Concorso coat of arms and the year. It features a flyback chronograph complication with a precisely jumping minute counter and a pulsometer scale.
Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid said of the partnership, “The Concorso is a celebration of beauty, which is not only reflected in the shiny surfaces of the cars, but also when you look under the hood. It ́s a similar kind of beauty that can be found in our timepieces. It makes me proud that this close connection has grown into a strong partnership that has already lasted 10 years.”
The Winner’s Watch
The winner of the “Best of Show” trophy and the beautiful 1815 Chronograph from A. Lange & Söhne in 2022 was contributor Andrew Pisker with a gorgeous 1937 Bugatti 57 S. The car was produced by Bugatti in partnership with the Parisian traditional coachbuilder, Vanvooren. The elegant cabriolet was one of only four Bugatti Type 57 S vehicles to be built as a convertible. At one point, the car was owned by the vice president of General Motors, and he swapped out the inline eight-cylinder engine with a Buick V8 for test purposes. Incredibly, the original engine was found 40 years later in a fortuitous Internet search and was returned.
The special 1815 Chronograph was presented by Wilhelm Schmid to Pisker at the award ceremony.
While this is a truly unique limited edition, enthusiasts can find a series model of the 1815 Chronograph, without the hinged cuvette, in 18K white or pink gold with a black or argenté colored dial in solid silver.
A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Chronograph, Ref 414.049
Movement: Manual winding caliber L951.5; 60-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds and flyback chronograph with precisely jumping minute counter
Case: 39.5mm; 18K white gold with hand- engraved hinged cuvette; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Pink gold with brown sub-dials; black Arabic numerals
Strap: Deep tobacco brown alligator leather; 18K white gold pin buckle
Price: Awarded to winner of “Best of Show” at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2022
Availability: Pièce unique