Modern forms: A Lange & Söhne’s architecture for the wrist
Ask the design team at A. Lange & Söhne about its ongoing quest to harmonise technology and aesthetics and to unify tradition and modernity, and it will reference theories espoused by maverick 20th-century architects
‘Gerrit Rietveld argued that construction and beauty need not be contradictory,’ says A. Lange’s head of design, Martin Schetter. ‘And Egon Eiermann, one of Germany's most prominent architects, considered that contemporary architecture should follow from economic, constructive and functional principles, and that functionality should be recognisable in the design. At A. Lange, our design decisions are measured by the same standards.’
These simple but rigorous principles run through the meticulous design engineering of every wristwatch made by the eminent Glashutte manufacture, from pen-on-paper sketch stages right through to production. This is why models such as the Lange 1, with its clear graphics and elegantly masculine aesthetics, have been described by design aficionados as a ‘modernist building on the wrist’.
‘Straightforward, functional, and efficient – these are attributes that define German design,’ says Anthony de Haas, A. Lange’s director of product development. ‘Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair, the Braun radio or the Porsche 911 – many of these classic examples of German design were initially polarising but eventually became style-defining, just like the Lange 1.’
With its decentralised dial layout, lucid and legible fonts inspired by a clock the marque made for the Semper Opera House in Dresden, a (then) revolutionary three-day movement and the first outsize date in a regularly produced wristwatch, the watch won instant acclaim among press, connoisseurs and collectors on its original launch in 1994. It also became a benchmark for every new development at the Glashutte atelier.
Wallpaper* invited two young design talents – award-winning furniture designer Valentin Loellman and architect Sebastian Thaut – to A. Lange & Sohne’s Saxony HQ to experience the form and function of the classic Lange 1, as well as the ‘Zeitwerk’, with its jumping numerals display. Touring the buildings and observing the microsurgery required to piece together complications and ‘jump date’ mechanisms, the German-born, Maastricht-based Loellman immediately saw parallels with his own brand. ‘Both disciplines go through a process to create something personal and unique, ideally something contemporary that remains light and timeless,’ says Loellman. ‘It’s also fascinating to see that A. Lange makes all its movements in-house, just as all the pieces and interior projects that I design are made from start to finish in my own atelier.’
Thaut, who, with his wife Silvia Schellenberg-Thaut, helms the Leipzig-based architecture firm Atelier ST, recognised the use of simple sketches in both creative processes. ‘Like the team at A. Lange, we often consider opposites and contrasts while designing,’ says Thaut. ‘We try to create an emotional experience. Some of the first things we consider when designing a new structure is the functionality of a building as well as its technical aspects. But our highest priority is to create a special mood and atmosphere. You could say our structures are like A. Lange watches – a combination of individuality, precision, tradition and modernity.’