SCHOLARS: Anthony de Haas

The story of A. Lange & Söhne rising to the pinnacle of watchmaking from its unlikely origin in the Saxon region of Germany is well-known, having been brought back to life by Walter Lange, the great-grandson of the founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The former had a vision, and an undeniable heritage that would give the brand credence. The technical and business sides though were brought through his partnership with the legendary Günter Blümlein, who headed one of the original watchmaking groups called Les Manufactures Horlogères (LMH), operated by the German conglomerate, VDO, and comprised of Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC Schaffhausen.

Anthony De Haas

Lange and Blumlein saw a tremendous opportunity in 1989, with the reunification of Germany, to shine a light on German watchmaking once again, and set upon reviving the brand in its home of Glashütte. The company, Lange Uhren, was founded in 1990, and presented its first collection of the modern era in 1994. This would not have been possible without Blümlein, who saw the synergies provided by having two established manufactures already under his purview, and the technical knowledge of the watchmakers from JLC and IWC would help the company recruit and train the technicians in Glashütte.

Within a few years, A. Lange & Söhne’s reputation was already well established, a stunning achievement given the technical and artisanal content within its watches. The double assembly principle was already in place, whereby the movements are hand-finished, assembled once to ensure that it all works properly, then completely disassembled for further hand finishing before final assembly and casing, with a level of refinement that is, at the very least, on par with some of the finest examples in Switzerland.

Lot 213 A. Lange & Sohne Anniversary

Although Blümlein sadly passed away unexpectedly in 2001, the foundations he laid with Walter Lange were such that there have always been very high expectations of any timepiece produced by the company in Glashütte. It’s with this responsibility that Anthony de Haas became its Director of Product Development in 2004, a position which he still holds today.

De Haas hails from the Netherlands, where he studied micromechanics and watchmaking, before spending a few years as a watchmaker responsible for after sales service, first at a jewellery shop in his native country, followed by a few years with Seiko in the Netherlands, before joining IWC Schaffhausen in 1997, where he met the late Blümlein, who predicted then that he would one day work at Lange. He stayed in Schaffhausen until 1999 before moving to Le Locle, taking up residence at Audemars Piguet (Renaud & Papi), where he specialised in the department dedicated to chiming watches. Unusually for a technician, he moved within ARPR to head their sales and marketing, and also their human resources, but this gave him a particular affinity for the human aspect of watchmaking. In 2004, the opportunity with Lange presented itself, and he hasn’t looked back since.

With his particular skill set, there were high expectations that De Haas would, sooner or later, develop a chiming watch for Lange, which did happen although it took almost nine years, with the Grand Complication presented in 2013. He would explain that part of that time was required because the watchmakers in Glashütte, although very gifted, would require to be thrown in at the deep end in order to appreciate the intangible nature of a chiming watch, and why one piece might sound different from the next, even though the parts would presumably be the same.

Lot 214 A. Lange & Sohne Grande Lange 1

The A. Lange & Söhne legacy is always part of his remit though, which is very much exemplified in the watches presented here. The Lange 1 is certainly the most iconic, with its outsized date and off-centre dial being perhaps the most recognised design, certainly because it was part of that original 1994 collection. The disparate elements on the dial somehow seem aesthetically balanced, which is due to their disposition being arranged according to the Golden Ratio; it had the particularity of having the dial being designed before the calibre was developed (usually, a dial is adapted to an existing calibre).

An extension of the Lange 1 design is seen in the Grand Lange 1 Luna Mundi, a pair of watches that exemplify the technical attention brought to even the relatively simple timepieces. The moonphase was one of the most accurate at the time of the set’s introduction, as it moves continuously rather than in the usual increments, leading to a variation of just one day every 122 years. The two watches in the set represent the fact that the moon is seen differently from the northern or southern hemisphere. There is also the Langematik Anniversary, which was unveiled on the occasion of the modern brand’s 10th anniversary; the seemingly straightforward technical nature of the watch means that only those who are well-versed in the challenges of producing enamel dials to appreciate its artistic nature. As a result, it took more than four years for the 500 piece series to be completed.

Lot 215 A. Lange & Sohne Lundi Mundi

It is clearly evident that Anthony de Haas took on these responsibilities with great aplomb, as he immediately set about overseeing, in addition to the chiming watches, collections such as the Zeitwerk and the Timezone, both of which are also highly discernible technical achievements for the brand. Perhaps what’s most admirable though is how de Haas will, even today, present each and every new timepiece with enthusiasm, taking great pleasure in explaining the intricacies and hurdles that had to be overcome in order to make the watch come to life. Although he is also ever adept at keeping projects that are still under development secret, there is certainly much to look forward to from Lange in the next 20 years.