The Lange 1 is without question A. Lange & Söhne’s flagship watch. Introduced in 1994 as one of the four foundational models announced by the newly relaunched A. Lange & Söhne, it has become one of the most important new watch models produced in the last quarter-century. This rare solid caseback Lange 1 reference 101.001 is a part of that initial brand launching group and is one of the earliest Lange 1 watches ever made.
Though this is a first series example, it’s still instantly recognizable as a Lange 1, showing just how little the iconic design has changed over the years. The round 18k yellow gold case is 38.5mm in diameter and 10mm thick. The alternating polished and brushed finishing adds some visual interest but keeps things simple in true German fashion. The lugs are bold and intentionally stand out from the case with a stepped and faceted structure that has a dramatic downturn to increase wearability. They’re bold, confident, and one of my favorite Lange design traits. Overall the proportions and design of the case are about as close as it gets to perfect.
While the case and lugs are distinct, the dial is what really sets this watch apart. Even without branding, the layout and big date would instantly let you know this is a Lange timepiece. The asymmetric design went through numerous iterations before Lange settled on this specific configuration. No detail was left unconsidered. Designers used a combination of mathematic principles like the golden ratio and the old-fashioned eye test to ensure that the watch would still look great despite the untraditional look. For example, the center of the subdials to the center of the big date form a perfect isosceles triangle. The commitment to ensuring this is a visually and geometrically balanced dial is surely a large part of why the design is so well-loved.
The most prominent feature of the dial is the big date window. This is a feature that Lange made iconic and is a crucial part of the brand’s design DNA. But some might not know that it’s a trait with roots that go back to the original A. Lange & Söhne founder Ferdinand Adolph Lange and his time as a young watchmaker’s apprentice. The design is taken from a five-minute digital display clock that Ferdinand helped install at the Dresden Opera House in the 1800s. The resemblance to the now-famous big date is uncanny, and the clock is still in the opera house to this day.
Hidden under the solid caseback is the beautifully finished caliber L901.0. Despite being covered, this movement is just as gorgeous as those seen under display caseback models. The unique german silver hue with Glashütte rubbing embellishments, and the classic hand-engraved balance cock are all still present. Manually wound, with an ahead-of-its-time 72-hour power reserve, this is a watch that is willing and ready to be a daily wearer despite its preciousness.
A. Lange & Söhne has quickly asserted itself as one of the top watch brands in the world. It’s often mentioned in the same breath as Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, and Audemars Piguet, even though the brand as we know it today is a fraction of those brand’s age. This first series A. Lange & Sohne reference 101.001 is possibly one of the only realistic chances one has to own a foundational flagship model from a watchmaker of this quality. To obtain the equivalent from the brands mentioned above would be practically impossible. This is a timepiece that can be bought and worn today who’s only true peers are likely in museums. It’s nothing short of an accessible piece of horological history.