Situated in Saxony near the Czech border, the tiny village of Glashütte is Germany’s answer to Switzerland’s hallowed Jura Arc and the heartbeat of its watchmaking industry. This is where the country’s most esteemed watchmakers have set up shop, spending their days working on some of the most complex mechanical timepieces the world has ever seen. Glashütte is a veritable Mecca of horological craft, but among the watchmakers here, one name stands out above all others:
A. Lange & Söhne, Germany’s most illustrious timepiece manufacturer.
Established by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in 1845, A. Lange & Söhne has reinvented itself for the modern consumer while remaining unwavering in its pursuit of traditional, handcrafted excellence. It’s a company that prizes history and pedigree, taking a more difficult approach in the age of convenience. In fact, you could say A. Lange & Söhne doesn’t make watches at all. It makes works of art.
Such is the company’s stringent benchmark for excellence, it’s said that its yearly production volume comes in at around 5,000 units, each release a handcrafted labor of excruciating love that is coveted by collectors like a rare Picasso or Matisse. Got $2.5 million going spare? How about dropping it all on this beauty?
Patek Philippe has the Calatrava, Rolex has the Daytona, and Cartier has the Tank. When it comes to A. Lange & Söhne, it’s the Datograph, which legendary watchmaker Philippe Dufour once identified as the best serially produced watch in the world.
In watchmaking circles, the Datograph is the purist’s chronograph, and when it debuted in Basel, Switzerland in 1999, its movement was the first designed entirely from scratch in over two decades. It sent shockwaves through the watchmaking world and immediately became the high watermark for lavish horological architecture.
In 2010, A. Lange & Söhne launched the “Lumen” series, which has so far seen three of the brand’s masterpieces — the Zeitwerk, Grand Lange 1, and Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase — executed with semi-transparent dials and luminous displays. These pieces are illustrious in their own right, but the mechanical Datograph operates in another sphere of prestige entirely, which is what makes the Datograph Up/Down “Lumen” — a new, glow-in-the-dark, limited-edition take on the grail — so special.
For horology stans, it’s a bit like if Hermès were to release an elephant-print Birkin bag, or Rolls Royce a camouflage Cullinan. Never did sacrilege look so cool.
In theory, the Datograph Up/Down “Lumen” shouldn’t really work. Applying a minty green glow to the face of an unfuckwithable classic? It sounds a bit much. But that’s not the point. The Datograph Up/Down “Lumen” isn’t meant to be worn. Limited to 200 numbered pieces, it’s a collector’s item that you buy, leave in a safe somewhere and then watch its value soar with time.
As an artifact, it’s gorgeous. The luminous hue dovetails perfectly with the smoked sapphire dial, while the manually wound caliber L951.7 movement on the reverse side, which consists of 454 parts, including 46 jewels, is almost like its own little microverse.
The launch of such a spectacular product demands an equally spectacular setting, and vistas don’t get much more picturesque than Solo House in rural Aragon, Spain. In collaboration with Openhouse magazine, A. Lange & Söhne invited a select few to this fascinating construction based in a largely untouched forest two hours outside Barcelona.
The circular building eschews boundaries and lets light pour in, inviting those inside to reconsider their relationship with the natural world around them. It’s the type of place you can imagine Kanye West escaping to when he wants to record a new record, or where a billionaire Silicon Valley executive would host weekend pool parties.
Also on hand was Dutch designer Sabine Marcelis, who hosted a talk about how timepieces, architecture, design, and light interact. Marcelis designed a special pyramid-shaped structure that refracts light, placing it in the center of the house as if it were a holy obelisk.
If you’re looking to get your hands on the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down “Lumen,” bad news: all 200 have already been snapped up by special clients. Still, one can dream, eh?
Model name: A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Up/Down “Lumen”
Dial/case: 41mm x 13.4mm, platinum case
Movement: caliber L951.7, manually wound
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, power reserve indicator
Power reserve: 60 hours
Pieces available: 200
When you’re finished reading, peep our video with Lange & Söhne from 2016 below.