Never Stand Still!
On Walter Lange’s 90th birthday
Walter Lange is a man who takes movement to be the purpose of life. In his mid-sixties, instead of retiring like other people, he set up a company. On 7 December 1990, in his home town of Glashütte, which he had to leave in 1948 after his family was expropriated, he founded Lange Uhren GmbH and brought back to life the inheritance left to him by his ancestors. 145 years before, to the day, his great-grandfather Ferdinand A. Lange had set up his watch manufactory and thus laid the foundations of fine watchmaking in Saxony.
The fall of the Berlin wall and German reunification offered Walter Lange a historic opportunity: he could turn his vision – of the world’s best watches made once more in Saxony – into reality. He seized it. An optimist and an idealist, he wanted to bring work to Glashütte and give the people of his hometown new hope for the future.
On 24 October 1994, four years of intensive construction and development work on the part of the team led by Walter Lange and his business partner Günter Blümlein eventually culminated in the memorable presentation of the first Lange collection of the new era. This first quartet of watches – four classic timepieces of the greatest technical refinement and the most perfect craftsmanship – exceeded all expectations and resurrected the watchmaking legend. The news that the illustrious name of A. Lange & Söhne was reborn caused a paradigm shift: the art of fine watchmaking had once more found a second home, outside Switzerland.
As Walter Lange looks back on the occasion of his 90th birthday, he can be proud of his life’s work. After a long series of watchmaking successes, A. Lange & Söhne has established itself as a global luxury brand in some sixty countries. From the small initial workforce, an enterprise employing 700 people has grown up and, over 20 years, the four timepieces of the first collection have given rise to five imposing watch families, comprising over 70 references. But what gives him the greatest satisfaction is that more than 1,300 people now have jobs in watchmaking in his old home town. And the growth is still there.
Even if Walter Lange no longer takes an active part in the firm’s everyday affairs, he continues to keep track of the development of “his” manufactory as an expert adviser and, as he himself expresses it, a “bridge to history”. At trade fairs and important events, he still puts in an appearance as the brand’s representative, esteemed by all.
Although he is too modest ever to say such a thing himself, the fact that A. Lange & Söhne exists again today is chiefly due to the courage of Walter Lange. His pioneering efforts and the firm that he founded created the conditions to make Glashütte the German capital of watchmaking once again. For his achievements, he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Glashütte in 1995, and in 1998 the Order of Merit of the Free State of Saxony. Finally, last year, the Swiss Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) honoured “the man without whom the wonderful rebirth of A. Lange & Söhne would not have been possible” with the distinction of “Hommage à la Passion”. And he was especially delighted to be awarded this prize for his life’s work in Lausanne, remarking with a twinkle in his eye: “In Switzerland, of all places!”