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Quest for perfect timing

A visit to the manufactory of an iconic German watchmaker reveals the art behind crafting of a timepiece. Read on to know more about this unique brand.

entertainment Updated: Oct 15, 2010 20:09 IST
Rochelle Pinto

Take it from someone who doesn’t even wear a watch, crafting a timepiece is no child’s play. And while the words Swiss and watchmakers have become synonymous with each other, a small town in Eastern Germany is giving the Swiss a run for their money.

Housed in a deceptively peaceful-looking manufactory in the Saxon state of Glashutte, Germany, the team at A Lange & Söhne, work to make some of the most precise and technologically advanced timepieces in the world. Some of the technicians, we’re told, spend their entire careers perfecting one part of the watchmaking puzzle. Whether focusing on perlage (creating different graining patterns on the surface of different parts), screwing on the chatons (miniature screws), or delicately hand-engraving designs on metal under a microscope, the artisans barely take their eyes off the task at hand.

Strangely simple to look at, the real ingenuity of the watch comes to light when you flip it over. In fact, unless you’re a collector who wears the watch for more than its immediate face value, you’d be better off wearing it upside down. Whirring and ticking in perpetual motion, the parts are so tiny that you’d need a microscope to just tell them apart. But don’t think that a missing piece would go unnoticed; even the most microscopic mechanism can put quite a dent in your wallet.

Of the different departments that are responsible for the final product, it’s clear that the Research and Development team are the in-house rockstars. They’re responsible for the innovations that will shape the next line of watches, some of which will only be released in limited editions no matter how many years were spent perfecting them.

Of course the engravers are no second citizens. Each with a special signature that collectors can recognize and trace back, the engravers carve floral patterns and the A Lange & Söhne signature freehand. From start to finish, the watch will undergo stress tests to make sure that each part performs under duress, a second assembly and given a final inspection before being sent off to a collector who has waited breathlessly for months for his parcel to arrive.

Of course, this kind of attention to detail doesn’t come cheap - an entry-level watch will cost you a cool $ 18,000 (Rs eight lakhs approximately). And the simple façade might seem disappointing to the monogrammed masses that the final product doesn’t betray the zeroes in the price tag. The company also has a very limited offering for women, who are unarguably the world’s best shoppers. But the folks in Glashutte don’t seem too worried. They know a good deal when they see it.

What you need to know about A Lange & Söhne
The 165-year-old brand was founded by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in the Saxon town of Glashutte.

Starting with pocket watches and moving on to wristwatches with mechanical movement, the brand’s most iconic piece is the Lange 1 series. Its automatic version was launched in 2010, called the Lange 1 Daymatic.

Some of the other iconic pieces include the Lange Zeitwerk, Langematik Perpetual and the Lange Saxonia.