Monday, June 5, 2017

Dresden & Not Glashütte - Lang & Heyne

When you mention Made in Germany, watch enthusiasts will think of Glashütte - a town in the State of Saxony. But the folks of Lang & Heyne prefer to locate in Dresden, the capital city of the State instead.

The historic capital city of Saxony is not only architecturally significant but also important for the craft of watchmaking. Marco harks from the city of Dresden and the history of watchmaking goes further back compared to Glashütte. It was only after the government granted Lange some subsidies did Glashütte develop into a watchmaking city. Marco Lang wanted to pursue the more artistic way in watchmaking that is associated with Dresden, hence the decision to locate in Dresden rather than Glashütte.

And in the same line of thought, their range reflects nobility associated with the city. If you look at their range, Friedrich August I, Johann, Moritz etc., the folks at Lang & Heyne has dedicated them to selected rulers of the House of Wettin, one of the oldest families of the German nobility.

In recent months, Lang & Heyne has been making waves with their 2017 Baselworld release - the Georg. As with many other fellow non-German collectors, we call it "The George". How wrong I am... Ev Kudoke, the Marketing Manager for the brand tells me the correct pronunciation is "gee-org". hope I get it right this time.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Georg 03_zpsa4s4kqrh.jpg

Not only is this Lang & Heyne's first rectangular timepiece, it boasts of a totally open and skeletonised movement at the back. Beautiful does not do justice to the description of this movement. Take a look...
 photo Lang amp Heyne Georg 06_zpsxdj6bowh.jpg

But today, we are not talking about Georg - that I leave for another post in the future. What I find interesting speaking with Ev and Marco Lang in their recent trip to Singapore is how innovative the brand is. Taking traditional Saxon watchmaking techniques and transforming them. Their range starting with the Friedrich August I and the Johann featuring the Caliber I got their inspiration from the pocket watch movements of old.

Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the Johann or the Friedrich I, but this is the second in-house calibre in the Moritz. The Moritz is a full calendar
 photo Lang amp Heyne Moritz 02_zpss2g3ykqp.jpg

The signature of movements of that era is the three quarter plate we now associate with German watchmaking. And here in the Caliber III is an example of the three quarter plate movement. Other than the jewels, mainspring and hairspring, all other components are made in-house. Lang & Heyne is proud to state their movement is up to 95% produced in-house.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Moritz 06_zpsi5zqhunq.jpg
 photo Lang amp Heyne Moritz 07_zps4dndnnmo.jpg

On top of the hand engraved balance cock, also typical of German watchmaking, what is also unique to the brand is the diamond in the centre of the balance cock - unique to the brand and found in all timepieces. And the hand finishing is as expected - top class.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Calibre III Balance Cock 02_zpsp9ld54xi.jpg

Then comes the more complicated Calibre IV found in the Albert chronograph range. A monopusher Column Wheel Chronograph with the pusher integrated into the crown system.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Albert 02_zpsc4jx49td.jpg

Encased in three metals - white gold, rose gold and platinum, this is the platinum with a black dial version. Notice also the three lugs construction which lends some proportion to the timepieces of Lang & Heyne.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Albert 01_zpsac5zbrht.jpg

And the movement side of the Albert featuring Calibre IV - a column wheel chronograph with a re-imagined three quarter plate. The construction of the timepiece still has features of the three quarter plate, except that the plate is receding towards a more open construction.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Albert 05_zps5mh8lzv2.jpg

The German movements and especially that of the chronograph are well laid out with their "multi-dimensional" construction.

The next complication is the constant force mechanism which is found in the Konrad. In traditional timepieces, the main spring that gives power to the gear train will have different torque when it is fully wound and when it is towards the end of its power reserve. The constant force mechanism addresses this issue by providing a constant force throughout improving accuracy. Here, Lang & Heyne introduces their one second constant force movement - to the uninitiated, the "ticking" of the second hand either indicates a quartz or a dead-second (aka dead beat second) but it is not - it is far more complicated than that. Few have mustered the art of a constant force mechanism and for those who do, typically combines it with the Tourbillon. Notice the shine on the white enamel dial of the Konrad.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Konrad 02_zpsimdikjna.jpg

What is equally interesting is the "prograde" date indicator. Instead of a more common retrograde indication where the hands return to the start as moving counter to its initial path, the prograde indicator jumps from the last date in the same direction to the 1st of the month. So in the prograde mechanism here in the Konrad, the golden date indicator jumps in a clockwise direction from 31st to 1st. And those blued Louis-XV hands add a touch of classicism to the timepiece. The Konrad for all its complication comes housed in a 39.4mm case - wearable... very wearable indeed!
 photo Lang amp Heyne Konrad 03_zpsry3hjfge.jpg

The fourth movement in the manufacture of Lang & Heyne is the Calibre V. Perhaps one of the most difficult to master, the constant force mechanism ensure a constant force being transmitted to the escapement wheel thereby ensuring the wheels receives the same force throughout as the main barrel powers down. Again, the multi-layered construction of the movement is a sight to behold. And the three wheels of the constant force mechanism ticking away is also a joy to watch.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Konrad 04_zpskmqbnowi.jpg

Next up is Calibre VI found in the Friedrich II. While it looks similar to the Friedrich August I the Friedrich II is 39.3mm versus the Friedrich August I in 43.5mm. Additionally the Friedrich August comes with an enamel dial while the Friedrich II comes with a lacquer dial. Lang & Heyne also produce their own enamel dial for their Champlevé model as well as the earth and moon discs of model Moritz. The rest of the enamel dial comes from a third party specialist - Donzé Cadrans.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Friedrich II 01_zpsnafzzqzn.jpg

The stepped dial gives depth to the white lacquer dial. The words, Made in Saxony and art deco numerals adorn the dial.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Friedrich II 02_zpsypsl4wj5.jpg

This is the prototype - Number 0.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Friedrich II 03_zps0mw92zds.jpg

The Calibre VI has 55 hours of power reserve and in the Lang & Heyne tradition, is hand finished and has the engraved balance cock adorn with the diamond and also a stepped construction to the movement.
 photo Lang amp Heyne Konrad 06_zpslerkfov6.jpg
 photo Lang amp Heyne Friedrich II 05_zps2kn7rfdr.jpg

I asked Ev why they progressed from Calibre I to Calibre III and skipped Caliber II - her answer is this. She tells me that they have put Calibre II in "cold storage" and that when the inspiration is reignited, perhaps they will introduce it in another timepiece.

Certainly an interesting German brand. While Glashütte is more well known for watchmaking in the modern era, basing their manufacture in Dresden is probably a smart move for Lang & Heyne. Not only does it represent the roots of Marco Lang but it also reflects the historic significance of Saxon watchmaking. Production numbers are not large as they focus more on quality than quantity. So don't be surprised the waiting time for your timepiece will take anything in the region of 3-6 months and if customisation is requested, a longer lead time.

With Georg, the brand is gaining recognition at last. But lest we forget, they have many other offerings. My favourite being the Konrad. I hope to own one some day - only if I can afford it.