WATCHES & WONDERS 2021

Enduring appeal

Even at the height of the pandemic, watch lovers can't get enough of A Lange & Sohne collectibles.

THE CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC may have changed the way A Lange & Sohne sells its watches, but not the watches themselves nor the demand for them, says the German luxury brand's CEO Wilhelm Schmid.

"We will never change the way we design and produce our watches because that's our fundamentals," he says in a Zoom interview.

In fact, A Lange & Sohne timepieces continued to fly off the shelves of its boutiques around the world even at the height of the pandemic.

"All the limited editions last year were quickly sold out," Mr Schmid says. They include the Honey-gold triplets Tourbograph Perpetual, 1815 Rattrapante and 1815 Thin that commemorated the brand's 175th anniversary.

"Production was the challenge rather than getting orders," he says. "We still have to deal a lot with allocation due to Covid." A happy problem many watch brands would like to have.

Mr Schmid, who is into his second decade as CEO, says recent years have brought "incredible resilience" to the brand, owned by Switzerland's Richemont group which also has names like Cartier and Vacheron Constantin in its stable. "We're now harvesting the fruits of the seeds we planted in the last 25 years - the best is still ahead of us."

For sure, customers can't seem to get enough of A Lange & Sohne. At last week's digital Watches & Wonders, it relaunched the Triple Split - which was first rolled out in 2018 in a white gold case and grey dial. The latest version is in pink gold with a blue dial and matching alligator strap. "It's very strong visually," Mr Schmid says.

Though it was rolled out just three years ago, the Triple Split remains the world's only mechanical splitseconds chronograph that can measure intermediate and reference times up to 12 hours. The watch was produced in a limited edition of 100 pieces and is already sold out, leaving many customers unsatisfied, adds Mr Schmid.

The latest Triple Split is also limited to 100 watches and will take another three years to produce. The price remains similar to the first at 159,400 euros (S$253,446).

Mr Schmid's favourite among the three is the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar. With a 41.9 mm wide case, it's just right for his small wrist. "I love the Triple Split but (at 43.2 mm wide) it's just a little too big for my wrist."

Of course, the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar is the brand's first perpetual calendar watch in 20 years - and the first time its iconic Lange 1 has a perpetual calendar devoted to it. There have been watches with perpetual calendar functions since the Langematik Perpetual was launched in 2001, but they were mostly combined with other complications like a chronograph, a tourbillon or both.

One example is the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, rolled out in 2012. According to Mr Schmid, the original plan was to take the tourbillon out of the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar to create the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar. It didn't work out because the movement for the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar was an integrated mechanism. "It's far easier to develop a movement from scratch, which we then did."

To fit the calendar ensemble into the off-centre architecture of the Lange 1, without compromising the balance of the displays, the month indication is ingeniously executed with a ring at the periphery of the dial that advances once a month.

So the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar, which also features a moon-phase display with an integrated day/night indicator, is not only the first pure perpetual calendar watch in its best-selling collection, it's also a totally new perpetual calendar timepiece for the brand.

The Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar comes in a pink gold case with grey dial and in white gold case and a pink-gold dial; the latter is limited to 150 pieces. Prices: 98,000 euro (pink gold); 109,000 euro (white gold).

Rounding offthe collection is the Little Lange 1 Moon Phase, with 628 stars sparkling on its dark-blue dial, framed by a 36.8 mm white gold case. The motif is a bright moonlit night, with the solid-silver dial coated with shimmering dark-blue gold flux; the starry nocturnal sky is evoked by the sparkling copper particles.

The Little Lange 1 Moon Phase also has a second version in which 56 brilliant-cut diamonds adorn the bezel of the white gold case.

Price: 42,800 euro; 53,900 euro (with diamonds).

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