In 1880, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his famous 1812 Overture to commemorate the Russian defence of Moscow from Napoleon’s Grande Armée and the Battle of Borodino.
In 1815 the Congress of Vienna brought together ambassadors of European nations after a turbulent era of conflict within Europe.
Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena in 1815 and the outcome of the Congress of Vienna was that it redistributed territories and tried to restore a balance of power which was agreeable to Britain, France, Austria, Russia and Prussia.
After the Congress of Vienna, Saxony enjoyed a period of peace for a number of years.
In 1815, Ferdinand A. Lange was born in Dresden. A shortage of skilled workers within Saxony would see the government of the time reform its educational system.
Ferdinand A. Lange went to a polytechnic in Dresden. During his time at the polytechnic he met Christian Friedrich Gutkaes a respected watchmaker of the era.
Gutkaes gave Lange the opportunity to study watch making under his tutelage and over the following years Ferdinand would seek to hone his skills and pursue horological perfection.
The A. Lange & Söhne 1815 was named after the year Ferdinand A. Lange was born.
Background to my purchase
I purchased the watch pictured in the United Kingdom in 2009.
The recommended retail price at the time was £11,100 including VAT.
The case is a wonderful yellow gold. However, typical of the considered manufacture by Lange, the gold is “Honey Coloured Gold”.
“Honey Coloured Gold” is a harder 18-carat gold alloy than conventional gold alloys, improving its resistance to scratches and other damage.
When appraising the case, I particularly love the contrast between the brushed gold sides and the highly polished gold surfaces which adorn the remainder of the case.
The movement features blued screws, rubies, Glashütte Ribbing and an exquisite Three-Quarter Plate, engraved with the gold text informing the wearer where the watch originates.
The Calibre L051.1 contains 188 parts and 21 jewels.
It is the attention to detail which is truly breathtaking.
Prior to synthetic jewels being used in watch making, real rubies would be used. Pushing a ruby into a Bore Hole in the Three-Quarter Plate could result in the ruby breaking or becoming damaged, an expensive mishap.
The solution that was borne out of this economic necessity was to push the ruby into a gold chaton (one bore hole) which acted like a cushion due to the softness of the gold. A further bore hole was drilled into the plate to accommodate the chaton (that’s two bore holes now). In addition, three further bore holes were drilled around this to accommodate blued screws i.e. five bore holes in total.
Drilling five bore holes is clearly more labour intensive than drilling one, however, when real jewels were used the extra labour was justified by reducing the risk of damage to a jewel.
These days jewels are synthetic and readily available, hence drilling five bore boles and using a chaton is a costlier approach than may be necessary today.
However, A. Lange & Söhne continues with using gold chatons in combination with five bore holes for 5 of the jewels on the 1815 which beautifully enhances the aesthetic appearance of the movement.
The aforementioned Three-Quarter Plate is made of “Untreated German Silver” which changes colour with time to develop a lovely warm patina.
The Three-Quarter Plate is drilled and simultaneously positioned onto several arbors. Failure to position it accurately or unduly load one area may result in damage, hence great skill is required.
The benefit of the three quarter plate is that it is felt to afford the movement greater stability than using separate bridges.
One very obvious benefit of the three-quarter plate is the beauty of its appearance.
The screwed balance is marvellously executed and again pays tribute to haute horology of yesteryear.
The Balance Cock is attractively engraved with an intricate pattern that is delicately crafted and is individual to the engraver working on the watch. This exemplifies the attention to tradition, skill and aesthetics which make my 1815 watch a joy to behold.
The dial is delightfully understated. No excessive application of diamonds favoured by the nouveau riche, but a clear and succinct means of conveying the time to its wearer utilising Arabic numerals.
Blued hands contrast with the solid silver dial (argenté).
There is a small seconds hand in a discrete sub dial near 6 o’ clock.
The Crocodile leather strap is fitted with a gold pin buckle, branded “LANGE”.
Shortly after taking ownership of the 1815, I registered my watch details with the official A. Lange & Söhne website.
I now receive wonderful DVD’s featuring interesting pictures and animation of watch movements periodically and invitations to a personalised website (log-in details required) where I can view new models and listen to the CEO Wilhelm Schmid talk about Lange and its products.
One of the most impressive aspects of ownership is the letters I receive from Herr Schmid, personally signed, with my address written in his own hand.
My perception is that I am a valued member of a club, where the privileged few are made privy to some of the wonders of fine horology from Saxony – and I love it!
Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture ended in a musical cacophony of sounds ultimately simulating cannon fire during battle.
I enjoy my own 1815 Overture when I place the A. Lange & Söhne to my ear and enjoy the quiet ticking of the pallets engaging with the escape wheel. The gentle notes which capture my heart are borne out of an Artisan’s skill during a time of peace.