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Time and Again

For European watchmakers IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and A. Lange & Söhne, success has been all in good
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Laurence Fishburne, Jan/Feb 00

(continued from page 4)

The new $46,200 Datograph is the world's first chronograph with a "precisely jumping" minute counter, an outsize date, stop seconds, a platinum case and flyback (the ability to instantly reset the chronometer to zero and then start the stopwatch by releasing the pushpiece). The watch took four years to develop and more than six months to manufacture. Only 50 were made in 1999, and though about 250 pieces are planned for this year, Lange still has more orders than it can fill. This masterwork features a movement with 390 precise, hand-finished parts, a two-part dial made of solid silver, and a see-through, sapphire glass caseback.  

A new movement had to be created to accommodate the flyback feature with the minute counter and oversized date, an example of the extraordinary technology that has become the firm's hallmark. Company spokesman Arnd Einhorn says such innovations will continue. "While we're working on new movements that might be presented in 2001, we believe in going slow," says Einhorn. "Preserving our exclusivity [only 41 jewelers worldwide carry Lange's products] and our craftsmanship is paramount. We'll only make significant watches, pieces worthy of our heritage."  

Cellini's Leon Adams suggests that A. Lange's go-slow strategy has allowed it to "build a product superior to most Swiss companies." But even while equating its exceptional craftsmanship with "the pursuit of a dream," he wonders whether "the sudden demand for Lange watches will impact quality. So far, Lange has resisted temptations to greatly increase production, and remained loyal to splendid workmanship."  

While commercial pressures may ultimately alter the firm's plans, Walter Lange is confident his company will continue to be a singular presence in the industry. "With all the demand for our work, it's our newest challenge to produce only a limited number of the finest pieces. We'll continue to just rely on movements we make, and if that makes us rare in the industry, great. We like doing the impossible."  

Florida-based freelance writer Edward Kiersh is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.

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