Beauty behind black

Insights into watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne’s design process for its five new timepieces unveiled at the Geneva Salon

Published: 12th August 2018 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th August 2018 07:16 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

At the Geneva Salon early this year, premium Swiss watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne presented five debuts in elegant black: two models each of the Saxonia Moon Phase, the Saxonia Outsize Date and one of the 1815 Chronograph. Now, they are available on the market and  Berlin-based photographer, Attila Hartwig, took the opportunity to focus on the design of the watches with a series of architecturally inspired stills.

The clearly structured dial of a Lange watch conceals a highly complex mechanism that can easily be compared with the Cloud City location in Star Wars. A. Lange & Söhne’s director of product development, Anthony de Haas, sketched out a science fiction scenario: “If we could beam ourselves into a multi-level watch movement, we would be exploring a mechanical universe in which everything is designed with architectural precision and located in exactly the right place.”

Starting from a certain scale, the apparent chaos becomes organised, structures are discernible, and order sets in. “The sleek dial of an A. Lange & Söhne watch resembles the elegant facade of a modern building,” Hartwig muses. When shooting the images, Hartwig built backgrounds composed of layered Perspex panels, prisms, and mirrors. The transparent materials and reflective surfaces produce a diaphanous atmosphere of architectural rigour.

As the result of an ongoing development process that combines progressive technologies with artisanal finesse and timeless aesthetics, the new watches reflect the meticulous approach of their designers. “We implemented only minor adjustments in the proportions,” explains de Haas, “but of course, such details have a great impact on the overall aesthetic appeal of a watch.”

Thus, only an expert would notice that the date display of the Saxonia Outsize Date is slightly smaller than that of the Saxonia Moon Phase. Given that the case diameter was reduced from 40 to 38.5 millimetres, de Hass decided to proportionally reduce the size of the outsize date—by exactly four percent—in order to preserve the visual equilibrium.

The dial of the 1815 Chronograph was painstakingly analysed as well and improved to enhance the harmonious overall impression. Due to the integration of a peripheral pulsimeter scale, the radius of the minute scale had to be reduced. Accordingly, the hands were slightly shortened and narrowed.
Also, the most prominent hallmark shared by all five debut models is the deep black face of their solid-silver dials. The dark backgrounds form a striking contrast with the solid-gold hour markers and white inscriptions.

At first sight, A. Lange & Söhne watches look functional and efficient, but the design process does not quite adhere to the “form follows function” doctrine. While most designers attempt to rationalise their approaches and concepts such that they can be justified beyond aesthetic categories, de Haas’ team chose a different route: “Of course, the same functionality and precision could also be achieved with less effort. But for us, the priority is always on the emotional experience.”


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