In the 1990's, the decade I grew up as a watch fan, the resurrection of A. Lange und Söhne was one of the most important events in the watch industry. I still remember the presentation in 1994, led by the great Günter Blümlein and Walter Lange, where the inaugural core collection was presented to the world. We saw something new, something different in style and quality and hints of a great ambition. Flagship from day one was the "1", an instant classic. Almost three decades later the 1 has matured as a classic and grown into an icon. Its off-center dial design, 38,5mm case size and Big Date window have aged in the most beautiful way and inspired many. Since 1994 we have seen more than 100 different references, but the looks essentially never changed.
Being a dress watch from an upcoming brand, the Lange 1 long remained under the radar of collectors. However the tide is changing quickly. In recent years the model is gaining more and more appreciation and prices are moving up, especially on some of the early pieces. Let me guide you through 5 references that have proven to be very collectable already.
The Ur-Lange, that was part of the brand introduction in 1994. With its 38,5 mm yellow gold case and silver dial it has the archetype Lange 1 looks. What makes the 100.001 special is the solid case back. It was soon to be replaced by 100.002, having a see-through case back and much more popular at the time. However, the short lifespan and limited production numbers have made the 100.001 the ultimate sleeper that woke up in the past two years. In November 2019 an example made euro 40,000 at Dr. Crotts auction, and recognition came for the Ur-Lange. Two auctions in 2020 have confirmed the market that this price is current market rate, and almost twice as much as a regular pre-owned Lange 1.
From day 1 Lange only offered precious metals on all of their models. However, already in the early 2000's rumors rose about the existence of some steel models, that would be made available for selected retailers, clients and even employees. Reference 101.026 is the steel version of the Lange 1, and it is estimated that between 20 and 30 were ever made. Showing up at auctions every few years, the value has risen dramatically. In 2016 Christie's sold one for CHF 143,750, but recent results at Antiquorum (May 9, 2021: CHF 312,500) and Phillips (December 10, 2019: $ 343,750) have shown how serious a collectors piece this is. The Odysseus, that was launched in 2019 as Lange's first official steel watch successfully introduced the brand to a new, younger audience and will certainly have sparked interest in the 101.026 as well.
This reference is nick-named "Darth" because of its dial and date disc configuration. The black dial color was combined with a black date-disc instead of the usual contrasting color, giving the watch a different look. Combine this with a 38,5 mm platinum dial we have a stunning combination. Produced between 1999 and 2006, the Darth has remained a sleeper for a long time. In recent years the Darth has started to show up the in collection of "A Collected Man" and then you will know that collectors have started to pay attention. The recent auction result at Christie's (Online, May 23 2021: $ 47,500) still sounds very reasonable though.
In 2010 Lange introduced their own 18K gold alloy called Honey Gold. The patented material is harder than platinum and brings a warm, unique gold color that sits between yellow and red gold. Every now and then Lange uses honey gold and specific (limited) editions, and probably the most exclusive one is a run of 20 pieces of the Lange 1 Honey Gold they produced in 2015. The 101.050 was the last reference that used the original Lange 1 caliber. In 2019 Dr. Crott sold one at euro 104,000, and you'll probably have to be patient to see another one hitting the market.
Number 5 in the list is the most recent one and the only Lange that has not got the original 38,5 mm case size. Since the early 2000's Lange also offers a 40,9mm case, dubbed "Grand Lange 1". In 2012 the 117.035 "Lumen" saw the light in a limited edition of 200 pieces. The unique smokey sapphire dial gave a unique insight in the silver movement and date disc. The looks would prove to be very successful, and later Lumen versions of the Lange 1 with moonphase and the Datograph followed.
Inspired by the Lange 1? Please check our podcast episode 94, where Kristian and I will go more into detail on this iconic watch. Our partner Watchbox usually has some collectable Lange 1's and many other references from the illustrious brand in stock. Have a look!