To round up the year, the Revolution editors share their personal picks for the watch that defined 2021. Revolution USA editor-in-chief Bhanu Chopra kicks off the series with an unusual choice — Lange 1 from A. Lange & Söhne.
As 2021 comes to close, the watch that defines the year for me, on a personal level, is the Lange 1 from A. Lange & Söhne. This is not a new release, or even a very recent timepiece, but that is exactly the reason it is my personal choice. Allow me to explain.
I first laid my eyes on the Lange 1 in the early 2000s, and it was love at first sight. The design of the watch is so compelling, it continues to trigger strong emotions of joy in me to this day. There is something so satisfying about the dial, made of solid silver, with its asymmetrical layout featuring a big date, power reserve indicator and a large subsidiary seconds. Then, you flip it around and gaze at the charming Saxon watchmaking style of the hand engraved balance cock, gold chatons and a three-quarter plate. The Lange 1 instantly became my grail watch.
Fast forward to spring this year, I was planning a trip with my family to Prague to stay for the summer with my in-laws. I informed my good friend Martin Janna of my visit. Martin is the boutique manager of Carollinum, an authorized dealer of Lange in Prague, and he jokingly predicted that I might have my grail watch wish come true this summer. We had a couple of get-togethers during the summer in Prague, and I finally decided to put the Lange 1 on my wrist. I selected the reference 191.032 with argenté dial and pink gold case. Even though this is an updated version that was released in 2015, it is the closest to the original one from 1994. The proportions are the same as the original. However, it has a few updates to the dial and an upgraded L121.1 movement with 72 hours of power reserve.
It was not an easy decision to acquire this watch. I had to divest of a few of my favorite watches. But what really put me over the edge to make the decision had to do with the summer issue of Revolution USA.
We had been planning a feature on the Lange 1, and Wei Koh sent all the editors his draft of the story. It was so brilliantly written, and it took you back in time to the period after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Walter Lange and the legendary Günter Blümlein were destined to resurrect A. Lange & Söhne in Glashütte. I would highly recommend bookmarking Wei’s article for your holiday reading. Here is an excerpt from his article describing why the Lange 1 is such a classic, “The case of the Lange 1 is one of the most beautiful contemporary designs in recent memory. This has very much to do with the watch’s wonderful lugs, which are notched, beveled, flared and highly sensual. This creates an incredible dynamic tension with a dial that can feel a bit Bauhaus-like in terms of its commitment to the functional display of information. I love this. It reminds me of the secret to extraordinary wines such as the Meursaults of Coche-Dury, which similarly display an amazing dynamic tension between fruit and laser-sharp acidity.”
I was also doing research at the time on Walter Lange and had read his memoir, The Revival of Time, which is an easy book to read over a weekend. The life of Walter Lange, however, was not an easy one. But with lots of luck and perseverance, he lived to see his family business thrive again. He had a great partner in Günter Blümlein, who sadly passed away 20 years ago at a relatively young age. It is a fascinating story of how Blümlein was obsessed with every minute detail of the Lange 1 design as he collaborated with watchmaker and author, Reinhard Meis.
Lastly, everything came full circle, when very surprisingly, Lange approved my request to visit the manufacture in Glashütte in July. We were still in the second wave of the pandemic, and watch companies in early summer were not opened to visitors and journalists yet. I was the first journalist to visit Lange after the pandemic shutdown. Mr. Arnd Einhorn, head of corporate communications, proudly pointed to the printed article written by Wei in the cafeteria for all the employees to read. I had a memorable conversation with Lange’s CEO, Wilhelm Schmid, who gave me this quote: “If there were no Lange 1, I would not be sitting here.”
Let’s be honest that 2021 has been a wildly successful year for the watch industry. With all the social media hype, FOMO, flippers and micro-influencers, it’s been the year of sold-out sports watches, independent watchmakers that have enough orders to fulfill for the next two years, and micro-brands whose ordering systems crash upon the release of new watches. Yet the Lange 1 stands out as a classic that will outlast all the trends — for me it is an anti-hype timepiece. You can acquire it at the retailer and with a change of leather strap, it can be your daily companion too.