On the face of it, a Lange watch looks streamlined and simple, but much like Cloud City from Star Wars, it encapsulates intriguing complexities in its saucer-shaped shell. Anthonie de Haas, Director of Product development at A. Lange & Söhne, explains the science of his profession through fiction: “Imagine you could beam yourself right into that multi-layered movement. You would find a perfect little universe of its own, planned with architectural precision, so that everything is exactly in place.” At a certain zoom factor, all complexity dissolves into order – or even into perceived simplicity.
“Looking at the uncluttered dial of an A. Lange & Söhne watch, one finds oneself reminded of the no-frills facade of a modernist building”, finds Attila Hartwig. The Berlin-based photographer has teamed up with the Saxon watchmaker to put the latest versions of the SAXONIA MOON PHASE, SAXONIA OUTSIZE DATE as well as two recent additions to the 1815 CHRONOGRAPH family into the limelight. Inspired by the clear stylistic idiom of German design classics, he chose to work with backdrops of layered perspex sheets, prisms and mirrors to deliver a series of still lifes that open up unexpected perspectives.
“A watch is an object that needs to be captured close up, but close shots tend to appear rather compressed. To create an airy atmosphere, I worked with translucent materials and surfaces that create reflections,” Hartwig notes. He plans his sets meticulously and avoids cropping pictures in post-production, so each section has to be carefully composed. “It is quite an architectural way of working, a lot about spatial effect and proportion,” the photographer adds, pointing to a parallel between his and Lange’s approach.
Refined to reconcile top-notch technology with handcrafted features and timeless aesthetics, the watches portrayed in Hartwig’s pictures exemplify the attention to detail that drives all A. Lange & Söhne designs. “We have made minimal adjustments in size and position,” Anthonie de Haas shares, “but of course, such things have an effect on the product’s overall aesthetics.” Lange designers focus on fine-tuning existing technical features. Instead of overhauling a design, they work with utmost dedication to tweak it to perfection. Only experts will discern that the date display of the SAXONIA OUTSIZE DATE has been scaled down by 4% to improve balance, for example. Its case is 1.5 mm smaller than that of the SAXONIA MOON PHASE, and as de Haas and his team figured, the proportions “just didn’t feel right”.
Reviewed with the same accuracy, the latest addition to the 1815 CHRONOGRAPH family has been tidied up for clarity: Its hands have been shortened slightly. The radius of the minute track has been decreased to make space for the tachymeter scale. The arced Lange logo has been replaced with lettering, the latter moved outside the minute scale to the dial’s upper rim.
The most striking new feature that all four models share are their black dials made of solid silver, which are contrasted with white indices.
“The strongest compositions are achieved through sharp contrast,” Hartwig declares, whose minimal sets befit the simplified layouts of Lange’s dials, while juxtaposing the complexity of their inner workings. One of his pictures shows the sapphire-crystal caseback of the SAXONIA OUT- SIZE DATE, and through it, a microstructure of delicate mechanics: the central rotor with its platinum outer centrifugal mass, the classic screw balance with its free-sprung Lange hairspring, and the hand-engraved balance cock, that turns each Lange watch into a one-off product, along with lending it the unmistakable human touch.
Lange watches are functional and efficient, but according to de Haas, the manufactory’s approach is not all in line with the form follows function doctrine. While most modern designers are conscious to rationalise their approaches in attempts to raise their products above parameters of style, Lange’s Director of Product development is refreshingly candid: “Of course, one could provide the same functionality and precision with far less effort and expenditure. But especially today, the emotional experience is incredibly important.”
In times of hurried, digital world clock widgets, Lange’s watches respond to our longing for the tangible with decidedly human designs. Hartwig’s photographs portray inanimate material objects – but they also pay homage to the untiring universes embedded within.
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