Saxon watchmaker, inventor, entrepreneur and politician Ferdinand Adolph Lange was born on 18 February 1815. He gave fine watchmaking a new home in Saxony and reformed the tradition-steeped craft. On his 200th birthday, A. Lange & Söhne pays tribute to the eminent watch pioneer with an anniversary model of the 1815. And the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments in Dresden is dedicating a special exhibition to this acclaimed personality.
Born in Dresden on 18 February 1815, Ferdinand Adolph Lange ranks among Germany’s foremost economic trailblazers of the 19th century. Trained in natural sciences and classics, he began to realise his entrepreneurial vision of crafting the world’s finest watches in the former mining town of Glashütte in Saxony – he was just 30 years old at the time. He succeeded in developing a successful business from the ground up and laid the cornerstone of a further hub, next to Switzerland, of precision watchmaking.
One of his great accomplishments is the introduction of the metric system in horology. He invented measuring instruments such as the dial micrometer, which made it possible for the first time in watchmaking to measure hundredths of a millimetre. And he devised new tools that improved precision in parts manufacturing. With these parts, in turn, he was able to improve the rate accuracy of pocket watches. Several patents confirm that Lange also boosted precision in fine watchmaking with new design concepts.
The constant-force escapement, jumping seconds, a chronograph mechanism and a quarter-repeater are some noteworthy examples. The three-quarter plate he developed embodies his horological ideals and his quest for perfection in simplicity. It improves the stability of the movement. The prominent component became the style-defining hallmark of his pocket watches. With his innovative design approaches, Ferdinand Adolph Lange created the foundation on which the A. Lange & Söhne brand gained international fame and helped turn “Made in Germany” into a global seal of quality.
As an idealist and humanist, Ferdinand Adolph Lange encouraged his best employees to establish their own companies. He created the prerequisites for prosperity in a once impoverished region. In his mind, entrepreneurial success and public welfare were complementary, not contradictory. During his tenure as a mayor of Glashütte, he was committed to an attractive townscape and had roads, embankments and bridges built. As a representative of the Saxon Landtag (parliament), he lobbied for a traffic connection from Dresden to Glashütte. In 1870, when he resigned as mayor, the community of Glashütte granted him honorary citizenship and as a token of gratitude established the Lange Foundation which would fund retirement benefits for local watchmakers.
Since 1895, a monument on the market square in his home town of Glashütte has testifiedto his many accomplishments. During a ceremonial event on 18 February 2015, the citywill also unveil a commemorative plaque at the former mayor’s office.
The anniversary edition of the 1815 watch model
Simplicity and flawlessness – the key attributes of the style pioneered by Ferdinand Adolph Lange – also characterise the special edition of the 1815 “200th Anniversary F. A. Lange”. Characteristic details such as Arabic numerals, the railway-track minute scale and the subsidiary seconds are reminiscent of Ferdinand Adolph Lange’s famous pocket watches that were acclaimed for their precision and dependability.
With the sleek and noble three-hand watch, A. Lange & Söhne has created a horological monument for the founder of fine Saxon watchmaking; befitting for the occasion, it comes in a limited edition of 200 pieces.
The anniversary exhibition
The Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments in Dresden’s Zwinger is also saluting the founder of fine Saxon watchmaking in his anniversary year. From 18 February to 14 June 2015, the exhibition “Simply perfect – How Saxony became a centre of the watchmaking industry” provides fascinating insights into the impressive lifework of the expert, entrepreneur and forward-looking European, including some items that have never been displayed before.
There can be no better venue for the anniversary exhibition than the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments, the cradle of Saxon precision watchmaking and the state’s foremost authority of timekeeping since the late 18th century. It is where the young Ferdinand Adolph Lange encountered the mechanical masterpieces of his era and through them discovered his enthusiasm for horology. His vision to craft the world’s finest watches in Saxony had its origins here. The exhibition marks a further milestone in the nine-year collaboration between Dresden State Art Collections and A. Lange & Söhne.
The legacy of Ferdinand Adolph Lange
Even today, Ferdinand Adolph Lange serves as a role model. In 1990, the reunification gave his great-grandson Walter Lange the opportunity to revitalise and breathe new life into a family tradition that had been pursued across three generations and was then interrupted by destruction and expropriation. He chose the founder’s ideas and ideals as the yardstick. Today, Glashütte is the centre of the German watch industry again and Lange is its biggest employer. Timepieces bearing the proud A. Lange & Söhne signature are once again coveted by collectors all over the world as icons of sublime watchmaking artistry.