A building with a history

A. Lange & Söhne celebrates the 20th anniversary of the reopening of the former family domain as well as a special date in the company’s history.

The Lange family domain comes with an eventful history: completed in 1873 by the manufactory’s founder Ferdinand Adolph Lange, who laid the cornerstone for Saxon fine watchmaking, the building was both the residence of the Lange family as well as the birthplace of one-of-a-kind watchmaking masterpieces for more than 70 years – until its expropriation in 1948. The listed family domain has been in operation again for exactly 20 years.

It is located in the centre of the watchmaking town of Glashütte, at Ferdinand-Adolph-Lange-Platz 1: a three-storey building from the Gründerzeit economic boom with a bright facade, high windows and striking clock gables. The so-called Stammhaus (family domain) of A. Lange & Söhne, where administrative departments are housed today, is by far the oldest part of the manufactory complex. “The importance of the building for us, as well as for the city of Glashütte and for precision watchmaking in Saxony, is enormous,” emphasises Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmid, whose office is also located at the headquarters. “When you enter this building – whether as an employee or a visitor – one inevitably experiences the history of A. Lange & Söhne and Saxon fine watchmaking. This history is directly reflected in our work, because it is associated with not only the highest demands – it is also our motivation to develop ourselves and create innovations.”

The history of the headquarters began a few years after Ferdinand Adolph Lange founded his manufactory. Because the production space where the watchmakers had been working since 1845 quickly became too cramped, the owner had a new building constructed near the old location, which they moved into in 1873. In addition to the production areas in the long annex, the building also housed the residence of the Lange family, so it has been called the Stammhaus ever since.

The building offered the best working conditions, not least because the large windows provided the utmost in daylight in the interior. To this day, another special architectural feature pays homage to the pioneer of the craft of watchmaking: a pendulum clock with a three-second precision pendulum that measures nine metres in length and crosses all three storeys in a shaft.

Although Ferdinand Adolph Lange passed away two years after the building was finished, he was still around for the start of his company’s golden age. Beginning in 1870, the demand for Lange precision pocket watches rose rapidly, leading his sons Emil and Richard Lange to further expand the building up to the start of the First World War in 1914. From 1906, the gold and silver workshop, a soldering furnace, case production, the finisseur and the areas for finishing, packaging and shipping all made their homes in the building.

The 100-year success story came to an end with the Second World War. A nearby production building was destroyed in a bombing on the final day of the war; the manufactory was looted and, on 20 April 1948, those in power expropriated the company. From 1951, the attractive company headquarters was used as an administrative building for the state company VEB Glashütter Uhrenbetriebe (GUB).

The reunification of Germany offered Walter Lange, the great-grandson of Ferdinand Adolph Lange, the historic opportunity to bring the A. Lange & Söhne brand back to life. Together with his business partner Günter Blümlein, he founded Lange Uhren GmbH in 1990 with its headquarters in Glashütte.

After many years of tough negotiations with the privatisation agency that was charged with reallocation of former East German properties, they managed to buy back the company’s headquarters from the city of Glashütte in the year 2000. It was renovated and turned into a modern administration and production site so that it could once again be used for the purposes of precision watchmaking. The ceremonial opening was held on 7 December 2001 – a historical date because Ferdinand Adolph Lange founded his manufactory on 7 December 1845, exactly 145 years to the day before the company was revived by his great-grandson.