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A. Lange & Sohne: up-close and personal with the company’s manufacture

The Peak visits the brand’s manufacture in the east German watchmaking town of Glashutte.

Luxury watch brands typically pride themselves on the large amount of handwork that goes into their creations. But even among a sea of names that pride themselves on crafting by hand, A. Lange & Sohne stands out. A few months ago, The Peak had the chance to visit the brand’s manufacture in the east German watchmaking town of Glashutte, three years after an expansion project saw the construction of a new 5,400 sq m building.

Typically, a watch factory visit combines a showcase of a brand’s latest CNC (computer numerical control) milling machines, and demonstrations of hand-executed manual finishing and decoration. On this tour, however, almost every activity focused on hand-craftwork and fine details, from hand-finishing to assembly. Unsurprising, for a brand that assembles each movement twice for utmost quality, and which “tries to decorate all components possible”, according to our guide. This includes even the tiniest parts – like 0.5mm- wide links resembling little specks, and that are used to create the chain in the brand’s energy-regulating fusee-and-chain mechanism. A young finishing specialist, who looked to be in his 20s, explained that each chain has 636 tiny components. After each chain is assembled, straight-graining is done, giving the top of each teeny surface a finely lined, matte finish.

(RELATED: Change is coming to A. Lange & Sohne, says CEO Wilhelm Schmid)

With so much work going into its timepieces, do not expect Lange’s annual production of approximately 5,000 pieces to increase just because its production facility has grown. As Anthony de Haas, the brand’s outspoken director of product development, shared with us at the end of our tour: “We only face one kind of pressure from (Richemont Group chairman) Johann Rupert and (Richemont Group CEO) Jerome Lambert – to stay as good as we are, while trying to get better at what we do. Johann Rupert tells us, ‘This is the pearl of the group. Stay as you are.’”

Highlights of our trip to the A. Lange & Sohne manufacture

  • A. Lange & Sohne Polishing with Eneska tool

    FINISHING LINE

    Our first stop was the finishing and engraving department. In one room, several white-coated women worked on various components, ranging from creating the vertical Glashutte stripes that characterise the brand’s three-quarter plates (a signature Glashutte watch part that helps to stabilise a movement), to polishing tiny date correctors, using traditional wooden discs or motorised Eneska tools (pictured). Care needs to be taken especially when polishing very small parts, as polishing removes some material and taking off too much metal (we’re talking hundredths of a millimetre) can throw tolerances off.

(RELATED: The 60-second watch brand guide: A. Lange & Sohne)

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