The turn of the century was an important moment for traditional watchmaking. It was also an important moment for us because we published World of Watches for the first time that year. Seminal watches such as the Harry Winston Opus, the Ulysse Nardin Freak and the Richard Mille RM001 showed a new spirit in contemporary watchmaking. It was truly springtime in the world of mechanical watchmaking, even as A. Lange & Söhne moved back into its historic building on December 7, 2001.
But, there was also a sense that an era was ending. On October 1, 2001, the great Günter Blümlein passed away at the age of 58. That the man who revived A. Lange & Söhne, arguably changing the fortunes of Glashütte in the process, while also egging IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre to new heights, died so young was only part of the story. The professional tragedy was that watchmaking lost a true visionary, and there never were too many of those.
Walter Lange, re-founder of A. Lange & Söhne and great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, said it best, so we’ll quote him directly: “Without Günter Blümlein, A. Lange & Söhne would not exist any more — and Glashütte would not have resumed its role as the centre of German precision watchmaking.” The Saxon brand is certainly the one most closely associated with Blümlein, and he had a special place for it in his heart. Anthony de Haas, Product Development Director at A. Lange & Söhne, worked with Blümlein at IWC and, when he was about to leave for greener pastures, Blümlein tried to entice him to stay. He didn’t make him any extravagant offers. Instead, he showed him a watch that would become the new A. Lange & Söhne, which had not yet been revived at that time.
Interestingly, Blümlein was not a watchmaker himself, unlike de Haas. He trained as an engineer but found his true calling in sales and marketing. His Nuremberg hometown was an industrial hotbed but it was in the Black Forest, with the Diehl Group, that Blümlein discovered watchmaking. Diehl had snapped up watchmaker Junghans in the 1950s, and Blümlein eventually became director of marketing and sales there. This set the stage for his involvement with IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre, in the period of great turmoil shaking watchmaking. This was the 1980s and it was a different time in the trade. When the Berlin wall crumbled in 1989, Blümlein started in on what would raise his name to legendary status: A. Lange & Söhne.
By 1990, all the Glashütte watchmaking names had been obliterated by Communism — Blümlein and Walter Lange began to change that by bringing A. Lange & Söhne back. They were armed with little more than dreams of the best traditional watches that could be made in Germany. In 1994, Blümlein and Lange introduced the world to the first wristwatches from the brand. Blümlein had a very particular vision, one based on the popularity, desirability and scarcity of the old brand’s pocket watches at auction. “A Lange watch is a complete work of art. It combines the watchmaker’s passion for mechanisms and craftsmanship with the inimitable style of the brand and its rich history,” said Blümlein of the new wristwatches from A. Lange & Söhne in that 1994 introduction to the press. There were only four watches at that launch, and only 123 were made, in total. All sold out in minutes, reportedly.
“As a newcomer, we cannot afford the slightest weakness. Our products must be perfect, down to the tiniest detail,” said Blümlein at that first press conference. A. Lange & Söhne may not be a newcomer any longer, but the watches remain faithful to those words.
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