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A German icon turns 25
WITH an unconventional dial layout, a three-day lavishly finished movement and the first outsized date in a regularly produced wrist-watch, the Lange 1 remains fresh in its design and still stirs as much excitement as when it was unveiled a quarter of a century ago.
It says much about the popularity of the timepiece - which has stayed almost unchanged outwardly - when it's instantly recognised even by non-watch connoisseurs. Among watch fans, the Lange 1 is worshipped as one of the 20th century's great timepiece classics.
Technically, the watch's large date - about three times larger than other watches' - with its framed double aperture, inspired by the famous five-minute clock in the Dresden Semper Opera House, has spun off several innovations in modern watchmaking. Style-wise, the watch has set new trends in the look and appearances of timepieces today.
The Lange 1 has become the face and soul of A Lange & Sohne, its creator. Its broad appeal makes it the cornerstone of a watch family. The brand is producing 10 limited editions of various models from the family to celebrate the Lange 1's 25th birthday. They come in a white gold case, a deep-blue printed argente-coloured dial, blue date numerals and a hand-stitched blue alligator leather strap with a grey seam.
Seven anniversary models have appeared since January, with the first release limited to 250 pieces and the rest to 25 pieces:
* The first is the Lange 1 "25th Anniversary", which looks no different from the regular model, until it's turned over. A second cover appears inside the case-back. The hinged cuvette, crafted in white gold, is engraved with an image of A Lange & Sohne's headquarters dating back to 1873; the names of the two men instrumental in the revival of Lange - Walter Lange and Gunter Blumlein; and the inscription "25 YEARS LANGE 1".
* The Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase "25th Anniversary", released in February, features for the first time in a Lange timepiece a hand-engraved lunar disc made of solid white gold. Six stars and numerous small dots engraved by hand on it gives the appearance of a starry sky. Together with the inlaid golden moon, this forms a unique 3-D night scene. The moon phase display is set on an argente-coloured dial made of solid silver with blue-printed numbers, indices and a blue date.
* Next came the Little Lange 1 "25th Anniversary". The regular model, launched in 1998, is the smallest model in the Lange 1 watch family. With a case 36.8 millimetres wide, it's 1.7 mm smaller than the Lange 1. A smaller version of the Lange 1, the regular Little Lange 1 is available in pink gold with a brown dial; in white gold with a grey dial; and in white gold with a purple dial. The Little Lange 1 "25th Anniversary" extends the range to include a white gold with a blue printed argents-coloured dial.
* April saw the roll-out of the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar "25th Anniversary", which pairs the perpetual calendar with a one-minute tourbillon. First introduced in 2012, the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar is the most complicated model in the Lange 1 family. It has a rotating peripheral ring on the dial indicating the month. A retrograde day-of-the-week display takes the place of a power-reserve indicator. The leap year is seen through a small opening at 6 o'clock on the dial. The moon-phase display, accurate to 122.6 years, includes a hand-engraved lunar disc in white gold. The tourbillon features a patented stop-seconds mechanism that can be detected only from the movement side.
* The Lange 1 Timezone "25th Anniversary" was introduced in May. This tracks the time at home and in another time zone. The GMT timepiece offers travellers clearly legible double time indication with a city ring on the dial that makes the setting of a second time zone easy. The large numerals circle displays the home time, while the small circle shows the time in a second time zone. A city name on the peripheral ring represents each of the 24 time zones. A golden arrow at 5 o'clock points at the name of the city that represents the currently indicated time zone.
* The Lange 1 Moon Phase "25th Anniversary" offers a new way of depicting the moon phases by pairing the moon phase display with a day-night indicator. The day-night feature was only added to the regular Lange 1 Moon Phase in 2017 - 15 years after the model made its debut. It reflects the fact that the moon is still with us by day. We don't see it in the day only because the sun outshines it. The Lange 1 Moon Phase, after 2007, makes that visible. During daytime, the moon is shown against a bright blue starless sky. At night, it contrasts against the dark blue heavens with 383 sparkling stars.
* Launched in July, the Grand Lange 1 "25th Anniversary", like the regular model, is a bigger version of the Lange 1. With a case 41 millimetres wide, it's 2.5 mm larger than the original. But the size difference is subtle and is only obvious when the two models are viewed side by side. While bigger, the Grand Lange 1 is actually thinner because a bespoke movement has to be developed for the Grand Lange 1. The larger bespoke movement allows a more compact arrangement with only one spring barrel, compared to two for the Lange 1.