Ferdinand Adolph Lange was born 200 years ago, on 18 February 1815. This inventor, entrepreneur and politician is regarded as the founding father of the precision watchmaking industry in Saxony. A multimedia overview of one of the major economic pioneers of the 19th century.
This gifted watchmaker, whose pocket watches are still very much in demand today, dedicated his life to establishing a watchmaking manufactory in a region with little infrastructure, thus laying the cornerstone of the precision watchmaking industry in Saxony. The video shows some of the major milestones of his life.
Innovation 1: The introduction of the metric system. This picture shows Lange's journey- and workbook, in which he recorded detailed calculations for each individual gear-wheel size, using French lignes as units. On returning from his travels, he started to standardise on the metric system in his watchmaking, instead of the French ligne units that had previously been the norm.
Innovation 2: Three-quarter plate. Lange developed the three-quarter plate over a period of many years. It improved the stability of the movement. This distinctive component became one of the characteristic features of his pocket watches. Today it still forms a major component of the watches made by A. Lange & Söhne.
Innovation 3: Precise measuring instruments. Tools such as this dixième gauge invented by Lange made it possible to determine depth, length and external diameter with even more precision – to an accuracy of a tenth of a millimetre. The measuring results are shown on an arc-shaped scale by a metal arm.
Innovation 4: Dial micrometer. This dial gauge was used to measure filigreed components that required particular precision, such as arbors and pivots. The component to be measured is clamped between the two jaws of the dial micrometer, which then measures with an accuracy of one hundredth of a millimetre.
Innovation 5: Lathe. Lange introduced the watchmaker's lathe to replace the traditional rotating arc. A pedal could be used to turn circular parts such as pins, pinions, wheels and discs at a constant speed – ensuring high-precision manufacturing.
Innovation 6: Crown winding. This innovative technology replaced winding by means of a key, making it much easier to wind up the watch. An example is this early pocket watch (No. 1340), which Lange and his brother-in-law, Bernhard Gutkaes, produced in around 1850.
Innovation 7: The jumping second. The “seconde morte” function makes the position of the seconds hand easier to read. Lange developed a mechanism for an independent central-seconds hand that jumped every second. His idea was further developed by Lange's sons and a patent application was filed in 1877.
Innovation 8: The design of wheels and pinions. To reduce friction and thereby minimise abrasion, Lange calculated and designed the form of the teeth on gear-wheels and pinions to optimise their interaction.
Innovation 9: Decorating the watch. By implementing high quality standards for any watch he made, Lange was following the motto of his teacher, Gutkaes: a watch must be perfect – from each individual component to the case. Fine engraving, guilloché work, finishing and polishing of his pocket watches still bear witness to this today.
„The entire pursuit of a watchmaker should be the perfection of each and every watch.“
„Without Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the A. Lange & Söhne brand and the town of Glashütte would not exist today. It is still his courageous vision of making Saxony the watchmaking capital of the world that drives us today.“
„Congratulations on your 200th birthday, dear great-grandfather!“
„The anniversary exhibition 'Simple and Perfect – Saxony’s Path into the World of International Watchmaking' brings the work and creativity of this extraordinary person to the attention of a wider public.“
Ferdinand Adolph Lange studied at the Institute for Technical Education in Dresden from 1829 to 1831. This was initially located in a detached house on Brühl’sche Terrasse. In parallel, he trained as a watchmaker with Johann Christian Friedrich Gutkaes from Easter 1830 onwards.
In his journey- and workbook, Lange kept detailed drawings and calculations during his years of travelling between 1837 and 1841. In addition to a letter of recommendation from his teacher, Gutkaes, it contains full-scale sketches of watch movements, for example, including those he made during the time he spent with Joseph Thaddäus Winnerl in Paris.
On his return to Dresden, Lange became a partner in the precision watchmaking workshop of his teacher, Gutkaes. In 1842, he married Gutkaes' daughter Antonia. In 1845, she accompanied him to Glashütte, where Lange opened his first own workshop. The apprentice had become a company founder.
After a difficult start, Lange eventually achieved economic success, due to his perseverance and strong convictions: After starting with 15 trainees, the staff had grown to 100 employees by the time his sons, Richard and Emil, joined the company as partners in 1868 and 1871 respectively. The manufactory was henceforth known as A. Lange & Söhne.
Lange enjoyed great respect, but not only for his business activities. This father of seven children also took on political responsibility in his home town: he was mayor of Glashütte for a period of 18 years. After retiring from this position, he was awarded the honorary citizenship. Additionally, the citizens of Glashütte established the Lange Foundation, which provided pensions for local watchmakers.
The Mathematics and Physics Salon at the Zwinger Palace in Dresden is celebrating Ferdinand Adolph Lange's 200th birthday with the anniversary exhibition 'Simple and Perfect – Saxony’s Path into the World of International Watchmaking' . Until 14 June 2015, numerous exhibits will provide fascinating insight into the impressive lifetime achievements of the founding father.