Tino Bobe, A. Lange & Söhne
Angus Davies chats to Tino Bobe, A. Lange & Söhne. The brand’s Director of Manufacturing explains his role, details of the company’s models and his thoughts about this exceptional Maison.
This detailed feature about Tino Bobe, A. Lange & Söhne includes discussion of his background, the 1815 Chronograph, the Zeitwerk and, most pertinently, the company’s iconic Lange 1.
A. Lange & Söhne can trace its origins to Ferdinand Adolph Lange (1715 – 1875), an exceptional individual who attended the Technical School in Dresden and worked with master watchmaker Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes.
Ferdinand Adolph Lange moved to Glashütte with the financial support of the Royal Saxon Ministry in order to set up his Manufactory. Initially, his relocation to the town proved challenging. The area was synonymous with mining and the local population lacked the innate skills required for watchmaking. It was only with perseverance that his Manufactory became capable of producing fine watches. Today, Glashütte plays host to several watch companies, making the town the epicentre of German watchmaking.
A. Lange & Söhne Manufactory
While the aforementioned details are interesting, in my opinion, the greatest episode in the company’s history occurred after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Walter Lange, the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, sought to rekindle his family’s business. The following year, in 1990, Walter Lange joined forces with Günter Blümlein, a man with extensive experience working within the watch industry and the brand began anew. Remarkably, just four years later, in 1994, the company launched its inaugural timepiece, the iconic Lange 1.
The luxury marque has never ceased creating new watches, each imbued with elegantly understated aesthetics coupled with a degree of mechanical probity few other companies can match.
Up until his passing in 2017, Walter Lange continued to have an influence on the eponymously named brand. Furthermore, his legacy is perpetuated by those individuals who worked for the company in its formative years.
Tino Bobe joined A. Lange & Söhne in the early years of the company (1999). Today, he is the Director of Manufacturing, heading a large team of watchmakers and artisans who collectively bring spellbinding timepieces to life for the delectation of purists.
While attending SIHH 2019, I was kindly granted the opportunity to interview Tino and learn more about his role, A. Lange & Söhne watches as well as his thoughts about this exceptional luxury Maison.
Interview with Tino Bobe, A. Lange & Söhne (TB) by Angus Davies (AD)
AD: What do you think makes an A. Lange & Söhne timepiece special?
TB: It is a precious watch but very understated. It is a watch for those in the know. Behind everything there is a reason. We always try to go one step further, even if it is hard to do. Each watch we create is an incredibly precise measuring instrument as well as being a piece of art.
AD: Can you provide a brief summary of your background prior to working for A. Lange & Söhne?
TB: I grew up in Glashütte. I am not a watchmaker, I trained as a toolmaker during the DDR era. I studied micro-mechanics and engineering in Dresden and Besançon. After I finished my academic studies I returned to Germany, working on measurement instruments for universities and later for a research institute in Dresden. During my work at this research institute a manufactory in Glashütte offerered an internship and I sent my application to that company. That company was A. Lange & Söhne and I have worked for the firm since 1999.
AD: I have previously interviewed Anthony de Haas. Can you explain your respective areas of responsibility?
TB: Anthony is responsible for the whole of product development, including the movement design and the prototyping atelier.
I am responsible for the production side of things. In production we have 380 people. We employ more than 200 watchmakers and we have a team of 50 people employed purely for the finishing of each movement component.
We have an incredible manufacturing capability. We make our own hairsprings, but our machinery is unsuitable for mainsprings, hence we source these externally. In addition, we do not produce rubies. However, we are able to make all of the other watch components.
AD: The general public have become conditioned to seeing low-priced chronographs and, as such, I don’t think they fully appreciate the complexity of a high-end chronograph. For example, the 1815 Chronograph is fully integrated and requires the skills of highly-trained watchmakers in order to bring it to fruition. For the benefit of our readers, can you detail the ‘added-value’ with the Lange 1815 Chronograph?
Lange 1815 Chronograph
TB: The first thing to remember is that the Lange 1815 Chronograph is a flyback chronograph with an exactly jumping minute counter. The flyback provides a very precise measurement of time. The display is very precise with the minute counter hand sitting exactly on the index, not in between. Unlike a regular chronograph which necessitates the wearer stopping, resetting and restarting the chronograph, the flyback does all of these three tasks with one press of the pushpiece. To perform this, the movement is incredibly complicated. Furthermore, within our chronographs you can see the mechanism and understand how it works. Our chronographs have a traditional horizontal clutch which allows the wearer to see how the mechanism works. Even though the movement employs a three-quarter plate, we do not hide the chronograph mechanism. It sits on top in order that you can see what happens.
Many people appreciate this.
Calibre L951.5 fitted to Lange 1815 Chronograph
And just to give you an idea what our ambitions means to go one step further in terms of reliability and quality: We test the pushpiece, carrying out 50,000 depressions of the pusher, in order to ensure the behaviour of the pushpiece is optimised.
AD: I have always adored the Zeitwerk. I appreciate that you have subsequently evolved the collection, releasing the Decimal Strike and the Minute Repeater, however, the initial model remains my favourite version. I assume the jumping hours and minutes have a tendency to quaff energy. Is this correct? What is the power-reserve of the watch?
TB: The original watch has a power reserve of 36 hours. It was a challenge to achieve 36 hours of autonomy. In fact, the whole of the watch was a challenge. This year we have presented the Zeitwerk Date which not only has an innovative date display but also a completely new movement. Thanks to an improved construction of the patented twin main spring barrels, it has been possible to double the power reserve from 36 to 72 hours.
The watch is fitted with a constant force system, applying all of the energy from the mainspring to the disc (time displays). The force of the mainspring is equivalent to 2.5Kg on a 1mm lever which needs to be controlled. If the force was not managed it would destroy the escapement.
AD: This is a big year for the Lange 1. It is probably the most iconic timepiece in your collection. The initial model was launched in 1994 and this year it celebrates its 25th anniversary. As I understand you updated the watch in 2015. Can you explain what the changes were and the reasons for these modifications?
Lange 1 ’25th anniversary’
TB: I arrived after the launch of the initial version, however, I do remember the brief for the new one in 2015. Our objective was clear, namely that we were not to touch the iconic appearance of the watch. I must say, we never liked using the word, ‘iconic’, however, for many years connoisseurs and journalists described it this way. Eventually we had to accept this description and be proud of the recognition the watch enjoys.
Walter Lange taught us ‘never stand still’. With regards to the design, we just refined the typography on the dial but nothing else. However, we did incorporate many technical improvements to the movement such as the jumping outsize date, our own hairspring and our own balance wheel with eccentric poising weights.
AD: What are your aspirations for A. Lange & Söhne?
TB: Our dream is that the company in 20 or 30 years time, continues to be as successful as it is today. It is not only our dream but our responsibility. We have to prepare all things, including the next generation of employees, to make this dream a reality. In my opinion, the real value of a company is created by the people it employs.
Tino Bobe is a highly intelligent individual who exhibits an endearing modesty. These traits are consistent with the watches bearing the name, A. Lange & Söhne. The company’s watches never flaunt the wealth of their owner, assuming a tasteful degree of restraint. However, the German firm’s timepieces are endowed with a notable degree of intelligent design and mechanical virtue. Chatting to Tino augmented my already positive perception of the brand and the watches it makes.
Lange’s workforce originate from a number of different countries. Therefore, the thought that Tino, a son of Glashütte who has travelled extensively in the past, chose to return to his home town, in my opinion, is wonderful.
A. Lange & Söhne perpetuates the skills used in making its timepieces by continuously developing the know-how of its workforce and nurturing future talent. This is manifest with the F. A. Lange Scholarship & Watchmaking Award. Tino clearly appreciates the importance of ‘the people’. By nourishing its human resources and preserving the skills employed in watchmaking, the Saxony-based company provides current Lange clients with long term peace of mind. There should be no problem repairing or servicing a Lange timepiece many years from now.
Tino illustrated why people are ‘the real value of a company’. The people created the prototypes, made numerous components and brought them together with time-served skill, creating an iconic watch. During the 25 years which have since the Lange 1 was unveiled, the collaboration of many people has yielded numerous breathtaking paragons of high-end watchmaking. I suspect that Lange’s respect for its employees will perpetuate the company’s success and facilitate the creation of many more peerless horological creations.