A brief history of luminous watch dials Murphy's Law states, "A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure." In watch collecting circles this is invariably true, but the number of watches in a collection is likely proportionate to the mania of the addiction, rather than proportionate to how punctual the collector might be. It also seems to be true that you need to know what time it is most urgently when you don't have a clock nearby. This seems to happen generally at night, when you wake in a panic, disoriented and wondering how long till you need to get up for work, and you can't see your alarm clock for the simple reason you only uncover it once you turn on the light. I like to think this was the problem the Swiss boffins were trying to solve when they started producing watches with luminescent dials, tired of the drowsy confusion in the middle of the night and determined to bring clarity to this midnight mire. In reality, it was driven by the need for soldiers in WWI to have watches that were easy to read in low light…. Read More
Let me be clear from the outset, this is a ridiculous challenge. It's clearly hypothetical and I'm pretty sure none of us has any plans to sell our collections and follow through with this. But having said that, it's a perennial watch party favourite, and can be pretty fun. It's also a useful challenge for distilling just what it is you like about watches – it's like mindfulness for watch nerds. Dan's pick – A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Striking Time My one watch is also my Grail watch. The A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Striking Time. It's robust enough for everyday wear yet horologically significant to make a statement. I would choose the white gold with black dial version as my preference. I may be forced to have this as my 'only watch' regardless – as I'd have to sell or trade everything I own (along with a kidney) to get it! Justin's pick – Heuer Autavia 11630 GMT Limiting myself to a single watch for life would be a painful task, to say the least (damn you, Felix), but given the challenge I chose to work backwards based on my needs in terms of complications. Regardless of where my… Read More
A. Lange & Söhne is a serious watchmaking brand. Everything they do is deliberate, and relentlessly on message. It would be easy to assume — based on this and the generally traditional nature of their timepieces — that the German brand is sober to the point of dullness, but the reality is exactly the opposite. Not only are their press presentations amongst the most consistently amusing (and informative) I've ever attended, but the watches themselves have fully fledged personalities that are anything but boring. Take the Saxonia Thin in Copper Blue. The Aventurine dial is fun, endlessly fascinating, and a perfect match for the minimal Saxonia model. Then there's the Little Lange 1, a pint-sized model offered in three confident, but not over-the-top, colour schemes. And then there's the Triple Split. Of all the A. Lange & Söhne 2018 releases it's the one that, for me, most epitomises the values of the brand. Sublime watchmaking, made not to meet a clear and pressing need, but simply because they can. And made with such a sense of style and panache. Wunderbar.
Think of Lange's colour palette and the word 'sober' probably springs to mind. Or restrained. Limited. Calm. Muted. Subdued. Discreet. Anything but vivid and daring. Now, let's for a moment think not of A. Lange & Söhne but only of the colours: white, black, grey (dials); black again, brown, (straps); pink gold, white gold (platinum looking more or less the same), a rare dash of yellow gold. Yes, there are some exceptions (we'll come to those later), but put Lange's entire catalogue of the past 20-plus years into a flip-book and that's pretty much what you get. Based on those limited ingredients, if it were a cookery book you could be looking at the plainest meat-and-potatoes menu this side of a 1960s boarding school dinner. If it were another watch company … Well, sadly, the world is swamped with insipid, play-safe watches that are about as easy to distinguish from each other as boiled potatoes. But give those restricted ingredients to Lange and we get watches with richness and liveliness, with immediately recognisable character and great presence. It's a remarkable trick. How does Lange do it? Let's look back at the 'famous four' watches that announced the rebirth of the… Read More
Typography matters. The choice of font or type is a more complicated matter than merely the arrangement of letters used and the order in which they appear. It's something designers and branding specialists know only too well: the sub-textual information communicated through the subtle language of serif, weight and kerning. Take the word 'apple', for example. Typically, that arrangement of letters evokes the fruit. Capitalise the 'a' and write it in Avenir, a font designed by Adrian Frutiger in 1988, and the meaning instantly morphs to that of the sleekly designed products of the Cupertino giant. The heaviness of this meaning is exacerbated when text is used as logo: think NASA, Coca-Cola or even Facebook. And so A. Lange & Söhne, written in that characteristic curve, which gently follows the line of a round case – surmounting the words Glashütte I/SA – has multiple meanings. A. Lange & Söhne indicates the brand, and the second line speaks to their home (the I/SA is shorthand for 'in Sachsen' or Saxony). Factual, literal stuff, but the font Lange have chosen speaks to their identity, and speaks to it in a very interesting way. A. Lange & Söhne is a brand with a… Read More
There are few dials as instantly recognisable in the world of modern watchmaking as that of the Lange 1. This circular watch, with its off-centre hours and minutes dial, subsidiary seconds, power reserve and that instantly recognisable big date. In the opinion of Caragh McKay, watches and jewellery director at Wallpaper* (and founder of McKay Gurney), this distinctive dial is a real classic. "The Lange 1 is the core model for me … the codes are such – clean, big, sublime finishing – that you'd always recognise a Lange design across a watch-crowded room. I'm always drawn to the sheer clarity of their dials – the proportions seem slightly out of kilter, but work as a whole." A modern icon then? Well, the 'i' word is a loaded one in watchmaking, prone to hyperbole and abuse. Anthony de Haas, Lange's Director of Product Development, has issues with it: "People say we design icons, but we don't. By definition, that is not possible. If a watch becomes an icon it happens over time – or it does not. The most we can do is have a good feeling about the design." And while it's hard to disagree with de Haas' sentiment,… Read More
"Money likes silence." Several years ago, a Russian collector by the name of Nikolai (he prefers not to publish his surname) was telling me why he's so keen on A. Lange & Söhne, and I was struck by that part of his reply. While he meant it to sum up the 'stealth' appeal of Lange's designs (discreet elegance; the antithesis of vulgarity), it also begged the question: what does make Lange so distinctive? A. Lange & Söhne is not what we think of as a "design brand" (the term suggests something altogether more conspicuous or self-consciously groovy) and yet its design language is not only unmistakable but also an intrinsic part of its being. We live in the Age of Noise: advertising noise, entertainment noise, social media noise – all adding to the general cacophony of daily living. So, given that a Lange watch announces its specialness with a whisper, not a shout, how does it make itself heard? The very quietness of Lange's design is the answer, I think. A couple of years ago, Paul Tange, a prominent Tokyo-based architect and keen Lange collector, summed up the beauty of Lange's design to me in the simplest terms: "Aesthetically, the… Read More
While the rules about how a man should dress for formal occasions are more relaxed than in the past, they are still governed by the principles of timelessness: elegance, discretion, refinement and restraint. Self-expression and individuality are all very well, but wearing a chunky, sporty watch with a dinner suit (or even a formal business suit) will forever remain a stylistic faux pas. And that's as much a question of aesthetics as social convention. It follows that a dress watch should be slim, relatively small (by today's standards), made of precious metal, and with a white, cream or black dial that – preferably – displays nothing more than the hours, minutes and seconds by way of simple indexes. If you're at all familiar with Lange's line-up you will have noticed that I just described its Saxonia time-only collection. When elegance is as pure as that, it's a bit risky to add another element – especially one that is as visually strong as Lange's signature outsize date. But Lange has nailed it, giving the watch a deep, inky black dial (made of galvanised solid silver) and matching black date disc with white printed numerals. The applied hour markers are solid gold,… Read More