Remembering Walter LangeWritten by Melissa Kong
The man credited with reviving A. Lange & Söhne has passed on at the age of 93.
With the brand very much on his mind till the end, Walter Lange had always invested himself completely in his family’s watchmaking business since he revived it in 1994. He had even planned to be at this year’s SIHH fair, according to A. Lange & Söhne’s director of product development, Anthony de Haas.
Having been with the brand for 12 years and working closely with Walter Lange himself, de Haas is, like the rest of the company’s employees, grieved at the passing of Lange. “He is like family to us, so it is hard to take, naturally. He even wanted to come to the fair,” de Haas revealed.
Walter Lange’s tenaciousness and diligence was well-known. Few people can claim to have accomplished as much as he did in his 93 years. In 1994, at the advanced age of 64 when most people think about retirement, the great-grandson of A. Lange & Söhne founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, restarted his family business which was destroyed in the Second World War.
A. Lange & Söhne headquarters, circa 1994
It was after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, that Lange revisited the company (then under the auspices of East German state-owned VEB Glashütte Uhrenbetriebe, which it was compulsorily absorbed) and felt convicted to restore the company to its previous eminence.
“It wasn’t just a case of wanting to revive the name of A. Lange & Söhne,” Lange explained at an interview with WatchTime.com. “Above all, I wanted to provide the people of Glashütte with hope for the future.”
Together with the late entrepreneur Günter Blümlein (above), Lange reacquired the company in 1990. The months leading up to the event were shrouded in secrecy. “We released no advance information, neither to the press nor to the retail community,” said Lange. “Some got leaked to the press, but they merely fuelled speculation.”
He also remembered being cooped up in a shared office with Blümlein, both men slaving away at their typewriters as they worked on their respective speeches, so that they corroborated with each another.
“Nearly four years of hard work were now behind us. We had established production resources, renovated a building, developed technologies, recruited specialists and helped hone their skills with advanced training. And above all, we had developed four new watches (above) on an extremely tight schedule,” he added.
When asked how he felt during the relaunch, Lange mused: “I was excited and euphoric, of course. I actually forgot my briefcase in the restaurant where we had lunch after the final press presentation. Luckily, someone noticed and brought it to me.”
There were moments of doubts of course. “My partners probably had the same feelings,” Lange explained. “But we never openly voiced concerns and were always optimistic. After all, for four entire years, we had invested all of our energy and a lot of money.”
Today, the A. Lange & Söhne brand is testament to Walter Lange’s sense of fortitude and strength. Its success and, we daresay, future achievements will be because one man braved the odds and proved that age is no barrier to success. And that, is Lange’s legacy.
Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".