[Image: Walter Lange by a sculpture of his great-grandfather Ferdinand Adolph Lange.]
In 1990, Walter Lange had the opportunity to revitalise the factory of his forefathers, whose operations were interrupted by the Cold War and the division of Germany into East and West. He was 66 years old at the time. As a trained watchmaker, Walter Lange helped shape the rebuilding of his family’s company under extremely difficult circumstances following the end of World War II. In the mid 1970s, he took regular journeys to the Erzgebirge mountains so that he did not lose touch with the people in his home town. He saw it as his personal endeavour to ensure their continued subsistence, and therefore decided to make his vision of a comeback of A. Lange & Söhne a reality.
The reunification of Germany opened a historical window of opportunity for the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, founder of the Saxony-based maker of fine watches. After a 40-year-long involuntary hiatus, Walter Lange managed to breathe new life into the legend of the historical brand and to successfully take on the powerful competition from Swiss watchmakers. He brought Germany’s most famous watch brand back to life with the help of a small committed team of ingenious engineers, watchmakers and his partner Günter Blümlein.
At the end of the 20th century, together, they understood how to win over the people around them for the ambitious goal of once again making the best watches in world in Glashütte, where their headquarters are. Timepieces were created under the aegis of Walter Lange which held to a classic, artisan ideal and yet also featured the most cutting-edge technology. Thus they struck the nerve of a time which had just rediscovered its fascination with mechanical watches. The best example of this is the Lange 1, which has become the face of the brand since its presentation in the first collection. Both the outsize date as well as the decentralised dial arrangement were revolutionary at the time of their introduction.
Following a long series of watchmaking successes, A. Lange & Söhne has established itself as one of the most exclusive watch brands in more than 60 countries. The small pioneering team has now grown to 770 employees, and the first collection with only four watches has blossomed into five model families. The extraordinary product and design quality of A. Lange & Söhne watches has been recognised with over 250 international awards.
Walter Lange’s work has been praised. He was awarded the Order of Merit of the Free State of Saxony in 1998 and the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2015. He remained involved with the company he founded as a brand ambassador and consultant even long after he withdrew from company management. He once said: ‘I am the bridge to our past.’ Yet he was much more than that. Thanks to his courage, his vision, his critical spirit and his sincere interest in the people around him, he was not only a symbol of continuity, but also a father figure with whom people could identify.
The factory he brought back to life has long since become independent. But the example set by this philanthropist who passed away on 17 January 2017, at the age of 92 following a full life, still shapes the culture of the company today.