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Bringing the Lange manufacture around the world

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A steady hand is needed to assemble a watch movement . . . BT journalist Dylan Tan had a taste of watch-making at A Lange & Sohne's Connoisseur's Akademie in Phuket.

Phuket

I'M STARING at an un-assembled ETA 6498-1 movement placed before me and have about two hours to put it together and get it running.

There is no chance of that happening under any circumstances but thankfully today, we have Robert Hoffman, head of A Lange & Söhne's Zeitwerk department, leading a watchmaking class very patiently.

Welcome to Connoisseur's Akademie, where Lange brings the manufacture around the world to the press, retailers and customers.

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The aim is not only to show us the finer art of German watchmaking but also allow attendees to get our hands dirty at workshops like the one I'm sitting in.

Connoisseur's Akademie came to Singapore last July during the House of Lange exhibition and the latest was held last month at Como Point Yamu in Phuket.

Securing the main plate of the ETA in the movement holder was a breeze but, beyond that, every thing else requires steady hands, fiddling with pincers and screwdrivers and, of course, raising of a hand to ask for assistance from Mr Hoffman.

For the latter, the task must be a walk in the park which he can complete with one eye closed and one hand tied to his back - after all, he works with far more complicated movements daily in the Zeitwerk department he leads.

Just for comparison, the ETA I'm struggling with has about 18 to 20 parts - while a standard Zeitwerk movement has well over 415.

Even the most basic Lange movement has over 200 parts so, despite completing today's course and receiving a certificate to show for it, I'm not updating my LinkedIn page yet or mailing my resume to Glashütte where the brand is headquartered.

Not that the manufacture has any shortage of aspiring watchmakers - about 100 on average will apply annually to study at its watchmaking school but only about 20 will qualify and just a handful out of that will make the final cut.

Lange also practises an usual twofold assembly tradition where every movement - be it a basic three-hand calibre or a complication - is put together, then taken part and cleaned in an ultrasonic bath before being assembled again.

If anything, the effort only makes a Lange watch owner appreciate the amount of time and craftsmanship that go into putting a timepiece together.