A Lange & Sohne watches: Factory visit

Monday, June 19th 2017
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I've always liked watches, but deliberately stayed out of the depths of obsessiveness that consumes some men.

Time and money restricts your hobbies, and I have preferred to acquire the odd piece that particularly takes me from an aesthetic point of view - rather than one based on historical significance or mechanical complications.

Read my previous articles and guides to watches here:

However, visiting my first watch manufacture - A Lange & Sohne in Glashutte - last month made me understand for the first time how such obsessiveness could start.

Indeed, I find it odd that so many men could become obsessive about watches without visiting a factory.

Many modern watches have transparent case backs, so you can see a certain amount of what's going on.

But that's like feeling the pin-pricks on the back of a hand-padded lapel, rather than seeing them put in first-hand.

It was only when I saw a watch assembled at Lange that the engineering appeal hit home.

Or rather, it was watching an English member of staff put bits in, take them out, test a couple of pushers, watch the results, try again, and smile when the glitch was fixed - every tiny wheel connecting in the right way, and two number plates clicking into place with perfect symmetry.

It is the appeal of car repair. Of mechanics.

A very different appeal to the craft of bespoke tailoring or shoemaking - with none of its creativity or style - but a deeply appealing one nonetheless.

The artistic side of Lange was in another building (there are several in the compound, in the village of Glashutte, in a wet, green valley outside Dresden).

Here, we saw the engraving of a balance cock (shown above).

Minute carving of rococo patterns on a thin piece of metal. Fascinating and nerve-wracking, but again a very different appeal to the engineering of a mechanical movement.

As described in my post 'How to buy a watch: Value', this is one of the details that separates some of the more expensive watches from cheaper, still automatic and highly complicated, brands.

You get what you pay for, and here it is all of complication, precious metal and artistic embellishment.

So, what else would a Permanent Style reader find interesting about a watch factory?

Perhaps that the average age of workers is very low, with many people in their 20s and 30s.

Several schools, competitions and apprenticeship systems help funnel the most talented people into Lange and other manufactures.

You can't help feeling that if tailoring had margins that approached watchmaking, it would be able to support similar schemes and the industry would be a lot healthier.

It would make bespoke less accessible to people, but perhaps more likely to survive for another generation.

I also found the clear division of roles interesting.

There is the design team, the watchmakers and the engravers. They are all separate, but all communicate continuously.

They are the equivalents, in some ways, of cutters, tailors and finishers in bespoke tailoring.

(Although obviously there is none of the bespoke fitting that is core to the cutter's trade.)

I often feel that it should be clearer that a cutter is not a designer (as they frequently make bad ones). Or indeed that a front-of-house is the designer.

Artisan industries tend to underestimate the importance of good, original and relevant design. Clear separation might enable a profitable focus on it.

Finally, it was striking how much passion and tradition there was at Lange.

It's easy to be cynical about the watch industry, and there are some houses producing hundreds of thousands of pieces a year with largely automated processes. Their approach to heritage can be rather loose as well.

But even though Lange is a relatively young company (it was founded in 1845, but only re-started recently, in 1990), the enthusiasm of the makers was striking - no less than at any tailor or shoemaker I've ever visited.

And the heritage comes just as much from staff like Arnd Einhorn, the wonderful communications director who has been at the company for decades and seen it grow from nothing, as it does from the original designs and passion of Ferdinand Adolf Lange.

As we drove back to Dresden, light rain falling like a mist on the trees outside, I felt glad I'd taken the time to visit a manufacture outside our normal remit.

It had provided both inspiration and perspective.

Above: Lange 1815 Up and Down model in rose gold

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Gibran Hashim

Did you get one in the end? Haha. Out of curiosity, what watch do you wear? Vintage Rolex?


A couple of points on value; the mark-up on luxury brand watches is approx. 1000% some higher, some lower. Applying this, as you suggest above, to bespoke suits; price £4,800 x 30% = £1,600 = actual cost. Multiply this by 1000% = £16, 000. How many suits would be in your wardrobe at this price? Also, whilst the romance of quality micro engineering is easy to understand, the issue of ownership is side-stepped. Lange is one of over a dozen watch brands owned by Richemont (whose origins were in the tobacco industry), the second largest luxury brand holding Co next to LMVH. Net-a-Porter, Purdey, Dunhill, Montblanc, Van Cleef and Arpels etc. are also part of the organisation. The problem? By conglomerating ownership companies such as Richemont monopolise markets whilst applying mark-ups that bear little relationship to value. It also destroys competition, and more importantly, innovation. The tax structure of these holding companies is also worth scrutiny. LMVH, Richemont, Kerring, Swatch and Fossil control over 90% of all brand and fashion watches worldwide. Independent Swiss brands include Patek Phillipe, Rolex, Audemars, Richard Mille, Chopard and Breitling (though owned by CVC) and as independents are more worthy of interest. Finally, given that mechanical watches keep less accurate time (the actual purpose of the item) than a £5 digital watch I think they offer poor value as to purpose.


Many interesting points and all very poiniant.
These roll-ups really are the enemy of innovation.
I’m old enough to have both an IWC and a JLC bought when they were both independent. The service was at a completely different level back then.
Right now, I think Rolex makes the best watches and I think I’m right in saying that they are the only ones not making everything in house.


Actually, everyone from “Hodinkee” to ‘A blog to watch for”, has visited Rolex, they are in fact the ONLY manufacturer that DOES make everything in house – even down to the custom metals for the cases.

There are many many micro makers, such as F. P. Journe, but even they contract out for straps, balance wheels, etc. , although they are at the next level of “in – house” only companies….


Grand Seiko also manufactures everything inhouse down to the heat-blued screws holding their movements together.



Good call, and my oversight.

I am sure there are a few others, I was just impressed by a multi-page visit by the ‘Hodinkee’ staff a while back, and they went to great lengths to point out how Rolex made everything in-house as opposed to some other highly rated brands who contracted out several key parts of their product.

The author started by saying he was not a fan of Rolex (the Toyota (bland), Mercedes (status) and Ferrari (expensive) of the watch industry – all at the same time – is that possible?) but after visiting came away highly impressed.


“…A very different appeal to the craft of bespoke tailoring or shoemaking – with none of its creativity or style..”
Not sure about that.

Unless you are talking about sole proprietors in suiting, or bench-made shoes, there is no creativity among the many people who cut fabic, or sews soles at the high-end clothing and shoe makers.

All have but a few people who actually lead the design on the products.

In addition the innovation is in areas that require a wholly different level of appreciation.

Rolex spent 10 years coming up with a new materials combination for its’ mainspring, apparently improving the accuracy as it relates to temperature difference by some huge factor..

And that is just one level where the creativity comes into play. Boosting the power reserve, coming up with new levels of refinement, or “thin movements”, etc., are all areas where the boundaries are being pushed.

Dave Carter

Given your taste for true artisanal products; even among the most highly-regarded watchmakers, the key distinction is between watch companies that produce small volumes, largely by hand, and those that produce large volumes, largely using machines.


I agree. Philippe Dufour, Laurent Ferrier, FP Journe, Roger Smith and Credor ( particularly the Eichi II) are equivalent to the high end bespoke tailors.

George Dunnett

Many thanks Simon for the post.
For anyone interested in horology a good place to start is George Daniel’s book “All in Good Time”.
I defy anyone not to become fascinated with watchmaking after reading this book.

Tim Fleming

This is a big world, one that has captured as much interest of mine as tailoring. A Lang & Sohne make some very fine watches, with a terrific attention to detail and finishing. Thank you very much for this post. You mentioned independent makers in one of the comments – I think this side of the industry is where you find the most unique and interesting watches, with a wide range of style, design, and craft that fit right alongside the same PS values. Aside from venturing into mainland Europe or going further south to Switzerland, there’s an independent watchmaker right in your backyard, right next to where your Breanish tweed was conceived and created – Roger Smith on the Isle of Man. He was the sole protégé of George Daniels, also mentioned in one of the comments. From my knowledge, he’s the only watchmaker in the UK that’s making watches at the top tier of the industry, equivalent to the best tailoring houses you’ve covered.

Are you familiar with him or this side of the watch business? It could be a nice and fitting addition to PS to have the inclusion of luxury British horology – no?


You should also have a look at Bremont.


It interesting to see the comments and beliefs when one looks at another area of “obsession”.
I would love to see a watch blog that visits a bespoke tailor…
I am sure we would see comments like “nice visit to Gieves & Hawkes, you should also visit one of my favourites – Top Shop – they make great clothes as well”….

David G

If you buy wisely, good quality watches hold their value or appreciate, so I wouldn’t compare them to bespoke tailoring, from a value point of view. Stick to Patek, Rolex, AP, Langhe etc, buy from or check prices on Chrono24, and you won’t go far wrong.


One of the key differences between watches and clothes is the demarcation between elite/non elite.

‘Elite’ watches have their mechanisms made in-house, and as brands climb the ladder, they make this the cornerstone of getting there.

However, the equivalent in clothes would probably be making your fabric in-house… yet the few brands that do it (such as Zegna) are not as highly regarded as the tailoring brands that source fabric from a variety of suppliers (re: the clothes, not the fabric)

I don’t see this changing, as markets, and pursuits develop with different standards, etc.

Simon, any input?

Red Atticus

“It is the appeal of car repair. Of mechanics.

A very different appeal to the craft of bespoke tailoring or shoemaking – with none of its creativity or style – but a deeply appealing one nonetheless.”

I am sorry….If you are not into a topic in detail, could you refrain from reporting about it please. It made me cringe reading your above lines. You obviously havent heard of watchmakers like F P Journe or Phillipe Dufour.


Appreciated all your articles on watches – and the expertly officiated comments sections in each. You continue to demonstrate that a gracious and fair style of administration wins the day regardless of topic.
As a watch enthusiast I was interested to read your articles and expected other watch enthusiasts to start gently then vehemently defending their favorite brands as comments mounted. However you kept the focus on the interesting similarities between the watch and clothing industries in general. Well done!


Dear Simon: Does Lange Sohne Factory show visitors how they produce the hairspring? I am curious to know if they disclose the manufacturing process of this extremely “secret” component. I would love to see this.


Dear Simon: Does Lange Sohne Factory show visitors how they produce the hairspring? I am curious to know if they disclose the manufacturing process of this extremely “secret” component. I would really love to see this.

Max S Trowbridge

Simon is this your Rubinacci jacket?

antonio h

Thats very cool that you actually were abke to go behind the scens=es and see how they make their watches. I really like the A Lange Sohne 401031. But the aggregated auctions show that they been bringing about $30,000 at the major auctions shown here https://www.watchaholic.com/a_lange_and_sohne/1815/401031.watch. Wondering if that is the going rate currently. Its a very nice watch, just seems very expensive.