At the ‘Geneva International Haute Horlogerie Exhibition’, Walter Lange is a special character. Wherever the 89-year-old goes, people pay tribute. As the fourth generation of Lange watches, his spirit has become the benchmark for watchmaking.
Watchmaking alive legend
Lange is a top watch brand from Germany. In 1845, Ferdinando Adolf Lange (1815 ~ 1875) founded Lange in the small town of Glashütte near Dresden, the capital of Saxony, Germany. After Lange was founded, the town of Glashütte became the center of the German watchmaking industry, and successively founded a number of brands.
On the last day of World War II in 1945, the main production department of the Lange watch factory was bombed by the Allies. In 1948, the watch factory was nationalized by the regime of the Soviet occupation. In 1951, 7 watchmaking enterprises including Lange in Glashütte were merged to form the ‘Glashütte People’s Watch Factory’, which began mass production of watches with practical starting points. Such as gooseneck trimming, German silver plywood, gold sleeves, hand-carved, etc., disappeared along with the Lange trademark, and the amazing precision crafts are in danger of being lost.
It was Walter Lange who saved the brand. Born in 1924, he studied watchmaking at the Austrian Watch School at the age of 16. In 1942, Walter joined the army to participate in World War II, during which he was seriously injured twice and escaped during the retreat. In 1945, Walter returned to his hometown of Glashütte as the wounded and joined his father in the reconstruction of the watch factory after the war. After Lange was nationalized, he was fined as a miner for refusing to join the government union organization, and then exiled to the Federal Republic of Germany.
On October 3, 1990, East and West were unified, and Walter returned to the town of Glashütte. On December 7, he re-registered the Lange trademark on the 145th anniversary of his great-grandfather’s founding. In 1994, when 123 Lange watches carefully created over 3 years were presented at the exhibition, it caused a sensation in the watchmaking industry. Walter has thus become a living legend in the watch industry.
‘Cannot lower quality standards for anything’
Author: What inspired you to rebuild Lange in 1990?
Lange: The prerequisite is German unification so that I can return to the town of Glashütte. At that time, the rate of unemployment in the town of Glashütte was very high, and the people’s lives were difficult. There is only one industrial consortium left from Democratic Germany. Under the conditions of a market economy, it is impossible to survive. Although I live in Federal Germany, my heart is always beating for the town of Glashütte. I wanted to do something for my hometown, so I decided to rebuild Lange.
Author: Have you ever thought about rebuilding Lange in Federal Germany?
Lange: Lange and Glashütte are inseparable, and I can’t imagine setting up a new Lange company elsewhere. My great-grandfather founded it in the town of Glashütte and it has taken root here.
Author: Why did the company launch the first watches after nearly 4 years of establishment? Did you encounter any difficulties during the reconstruction process?
Lange: We had nothing at that time, no plant and machinery, and everything had to start from scratch. And we have been interrupted for more than 40 years. Many Swiss brands have been developing and have been a lot ahead. In addition, the company previously produced only pocket watches, but now it is difficult to imagine that it will be converted into watches. The most important thing is that I have always adhered to the philosophy that Lange believes in for more than 100 years-to make the best watches in the world, so we do not easily launch products. Once the products are on the market, they must be comparable to the world’s top brands.
Author: When the new Lange successfully launched the first watches, what was your mood?
Lange: Thank God! Lange is finally back at the forefront of the watch industry. Lange’s new look is completely different from other brands’ watches. The first four series, especially the distinctive Lange 1, surpassed everyone’s expectations: it symbolizes Lange’s relentless pursuit of perfect watches. The method combines traditional and innovative elements, and is in line with the old pocket watch. Lange 1’s revolutionary eccentric dial layout, patented large calendar and power reserve display set a new benchmark for the industry. Germany has regained its time!
Author: Why can Lange achieve such success?
Lange: Lange represents the essence of traditional German watchmaking, and is unique in the ranks of top watches occupied by Swiss brands. In terms of appearance, Lange’s watches are clean and clear, without complicated decoration, and they have a tough and cold style, which is an extremely high level of aesthetics. In terms of movement, Lange adheres to German traditional watchmaking features, including German silver 3/4 Plywood, gooseneck trimming, hand-engraved balance wheel plywood, blue steel screw-fixed gold sleeve, etc. These traditional essences are derived from Lange’s top pocket watches; in terms of technology, all Lange movements are not only reassembled, but The fineness and perfection of hand polishing and decoration are also unmatched in the industry.
Author: How does Lange ensure top quality in the world?
Lange: There are many aspects. Technically, you have to keep innovating and never stop. We have our own watch school, with good designers and watchmakers, tirelessly developing new products. In management, we have many scientific management processes. Technically, we are meticulous and pursue perfection. For example, the second assembly of a watch is unique among all brands. We first assemble and debug the watch for the first time, then disassemble the assembled watch, and then further polish and modify the parts according to the debugging results to ensure the perfect state. After the second assembly and commissioning. Finally, the watch is placed on a circular rotating instrument for several weeks of observation and testing. Once we find the smallest deficiency in quality, we will start over.
Author: How do you want Lange to continue to develop?
Lange: I no longer manage the daily business of Lange, but I will still attend some important events. I don’t want to interfere with the work of current managers, but one thing that must be followed forever is to be committed to building the world’s top quality. There must be no slack at any time, and quality standards cannot be lowered because of anything. Quality is our life. Once quality goes wrong and reputation is affected, customers will abandon you. Now we only produce a few thousand watches each year, and we will not expand the production scale in pursuit of profit, producing tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of watches.
‘I have never been afraid’
Author: In addition to starting a career, readers are also very interested in your legendary life. Can you tell us about the feelings of an ordinary soldier in World War II?
Lange: War is a terrible thing, and many people are displaced or even lost their lives. So peace is the most important thing. After World War II, Europe was committed to peace and the European Union was formed. The European Union now has many problems to solve, but in the past Europe had at least one war every 30 years, and now Europe has not had a full-scale war for more than 60 years. But many people don’t see this, people often don’t cherish what has been obtained.
Author: Have you been scared in the war?
Lange: I’ve never been scared. It’s really strange. I have no fear of death, nor of failure. If I was afraid, I would not rebuild Lange.
Author: You are almost 90 years old now, but you made an hour’s report and received an hour’s interview. You didn’t even drool. Can you talk about your longevity secrets?
Lange: I used to travel by car. When you come to the suburbs on the weekends, you will be active and active again. But since my wife died more than 10 years ago, I have been driving less by myself. People of my age can not do much exercise now, and if physical conditions allow, I will take a walk every day.
But for healthy longevity, the most important thing is to maintain optimism. A lot of negative news is now published in newspapers and TVs. If you read these news often, you will feel that you are living in a very bad environment. Positive news can have a short impact on people, but negative news can make you feel depressed for a long time. So look more at the positives and less bad news. If you have gone through the Great Depression and World War II, you will know how wonderful your life is now. So I said, as long as you maintain an optimistic spirit, do what you like, and always look forward, you will live a happy and long life.
Author: Next year is your 90th birthday. How to celebrate?
Lange: I will find a quiet place to spend the day alone.