A. Lange & Söhne – A watch that looks backwards in two ways

A watch that looks backwards in two ways

The logic-defying and record-breaking price achieved by Paul Newman’s Rolex last month in New York overshadowed all other watch auction news, to the point that people might have forgotten that there are more auctions on the horizon, in addition to the exceptional biennial Only Watch charity sale on 11th November.

A number of smaller, more local auction houses time their sales to coincide with the seasonal auctions of the Big Four (Phillips, Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Antiquorum). Fellows in Birmingham, England, regularly offer a selection of affordable luxury watches, offering a platform for the more discreet and more impoverished collector. I also regularly receive the catalogue of Zurich-based Ineichen auctions and I always make sure I read it from cover to cover, ever since I spotted a boxing timer (a pocket chronograph with a display to time the rounds of a boxing match) last year that I really should have bid on.

With an estimate in excess of 20,000 Swiss francs, the hidden gem in this Saturday’s auction in Zurich is way outside my budget, and risks being overshadowed by the Only Watch sale, which gets underway almost at the same time in Geneva. But it’s worth a closer look because of its history. First of all, it’s listed as an A. Lange & Söhne pilot’s watch, but there is no mention of A. Lange & Söhne on the dial. Instead you will find the initials of the notorious Waffen-SS and a baffling arrangement of Roman and Arabic numerals on the dial.

A watch that looks backwards in two ways

An extract from the “Aviator Watches” section of Reinhard Meis’s excellent book on the watchmakers of Dresden indicates that the backwards seconds on the inner part of the dial meant that they could be read in a mirror when mounted in navigation equipment. When flying by waypoints, as pilots had to do in the second world war, being able to read the seconds accurately was crucial.

But neither of them have the small moments or mother-of-pearl dial. Both the tiny Lange 1 Moon Phase and Saxonia cater to distinct sub-markets from the women watch market and Lange has introduced some truly fantastic pieces.The Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2017 has become concluded, and the aBlogtoWatch group is predictably exhausted. We tried something new this year — a video log (vlog) show — to assist catch what it’s like to be in the show. Combining high excitement and energy-draining hours, we are happy people enjoyed that quite intimate look behind the scenes and what it’s like to attend the “world’s most esteemed” high-end watch trade show.In my 9th year attending SIHH (itself at its 27th year) I would like to once more recap the overall sentiment of this series in addition to point out key highlights that we believe the overall watch-loving public ought to be enthusiastic about in 2017. Before we reach our best 11 watches of SIHH 2017, I’d like to learn more about the overall watch and luxury industry setting so that people get a clearer idea of why particular products are being made — and for whom.It was a particularly cold and windy week in Geneva, Switzerland, during SIHH 2017. Our accommodations near Lake Geneva offered a first-rate perspective of exactly what struck me as a acceptable metaphor for the industry’s current circumstance. High winds blew across the water causing not just surfable waves (if you’ve got an Iceman-like tolerance for cold) but also spilling onto the adjacent walking paths that from the summer and spring result in popular walking paths for fans and languishers alike. The seas and ominous lake waves seemed a fitting metaphor for the luxury watch industry that is continuing to undergo a storm.
Being able to measure the seconds accurately was more important, of course, and the calibre 48.1 movement used in this watch has a history all of its own, having been developed specifically to Wehrmacht specifications that required accuracy to within less than one second per day! It also has a stop-seconds function that was at the time patented by Junghans, which meant that A. Lange & Söhne had to pay its German competitor a licence fee so that it could produce these urgently needed watches.

Could the price for this early pilot’s watch, of which only around 7,000 were produced during the war, reach the skies at auction on Saturday? Follow the auction live to find out. If you’re interested in delving deeper into the rich history of this watch and its contemporaries, or in Saxon watchmaking in general, and like me your budget doesn’t stretch to bidding on this exceptional watch, consider the weighty tome by Reinhard Meis, which is available from Watchprint and could be a great item for your Christmas wish list.

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