Langes And Lake Como: The Watches And Cars Of The 2019 Concorso d’Eleganza
Watchonista was in Lake Como for Concorso d’Eleganza, arguably the world’s most exclusive event for historical cars. It turned out to be an amazing place for watch-spotting as well.
Seated in the lush gardens of the 16th-century Villa d’Este, overlooking Lake Como were dozens of the world’s most exquisite historical cars. Quickly, it started to rain on the neighboring table – not drops of water, but watches. It is a shower initiated by collectors of A. Lange & Söhne. A major collector from Shanghai urged me to contribute to the photo, and since I was wearing a Lange 1 in white gold for the Concorso d’Eleganza weekend, I was happy to oblige him.
The stack kept growing, until reaching an impressive size, given that Lange is exclusive in the true meaning of the word. Unlike the Crown's annual million-watch output, we are talking about just 5,000 watches per year. In the 13-watch stack, I spotted a couple of Lange 1s, a Datograph Flyback, a Datograph Perpetual, a Saxonia, the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar, and finally, the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna – both in white and pink gold.
Outside of a watch fair or when I visited the manufacture which was inaugurated by no less than Angela Merkel, I've never seen so many different Langes in the metal, as it were, from the brand that is the proud forerunner of German haute horlogerie.
I spoke with Anthony de Haas, product director of A. Lange & Söhne, who had this to add, “There are big similarities in the fascination of mechanical cars and the fascination of mechanical watches. It is just something about those moving parts – and these beautiful classic cars were built when they took the time to execute beautiful handcraftsmanship. You could compare it with the chamfering and mirror finishing of our watch movements.”
The German brand is refreshingly traditionalist in a time when a lot of high-end brands are hell-bent on diving into silicium or growing material with LIGA or carbon fiber technology. “That route is not ours. For us, watches must have handcraftsmanship inside, just like they have had for the last 200 years. The perfect mixture between tradition and modern technology is that we do work with CNC machines when producing our parts. And we are looking into cutting with lasers, but we are not there yet. My biggest problem with silicium parts is that you cannot finish them by hand; you cannot make them beautiful. Those materials are high-tech. What we do is high-mech,” de Haas concluded.
A. Lange & Söhne as we know it today is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its first watch, the Lange 1. To salute this groundbreaking piece somebody had the crazy idea of releasing a new watch every month until October 24 – the date of the Lange 1 release a quarter of a century ago. These monthly watches are made in a limited edition of 25 pieces each.
The May watch, the Lange 1 Time Zone 25th Anniversary, has large numerals for the home time and a smaller subdial representing the time in one of the cities on the peripheral city ring. A golden arrow at 5 o’clock shows you which one. Silver and blue are the dominant colors of the 41.9-millimeter white gold watch with blued screws, blue inscription, and a blue alligator leather strap. The price? 49,000 euros.
As I walk around the garden, I am surrounded by not only amazing cars but also people in matching period costumes and panama hats sipping rosé champagne. If I forget a four-piece orchestra, I feel like I have been transported to 1929, which was the first year of the Concorso d’Eleganza. Near a Belgian Minerva from 1928, I bump into Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. On his left wrist, he sported an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak – at a glance, it looks like the 41-millimeter 'Jumbo' version.
“Concorso d’Eleganza has incredible vehicles that you would normally only see in pictures,” he said about the approximately 90 cars and 40 motorbikes, before bringing me over to a Rolls-Royce Wraith Eagle VIII Collection where he posed for a few photos.
Little do we know that the skies are soon to open with rain and hail which will make life a bit tricky for some of the drivers parading past the hotel, especially those in open cars. Well, at least the petrol fumes were easier to bear this year. As if set by clockwork, the storm subsided just as the parade finished.
Speaking to some collectors after they dried off, it turns out watches and cars have something more in common: how should you keep an old beauty? Should you renovate with caution or restore fully? There was a time when the trend was restoring – when the cars looked better than new. But those cars turned out as natural as the Botox-injected influencers running amok on Instagram. Thankfully the growing trend in watches – careful renovation, if at all – is also the current trend in cars.
On Sunday night, came the moment that everybody had been waiting for – the Best in Show award. The overall winner of Concorso d’Eleganza 2019 was a 1937 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B owned by David Sydorick. At the awards ceremony, Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, gave Mr Sydorick a unique white gold 41.9-millimeter Lange 1 Time Zone “Como Edition”, with the back of its half-hunter case hand-engraved with the crest of the Villa d’Este. But this was not his first time – David Sydorick also received this award in 2015 for another Alfa Romeo, the 8C 2300 Spider Zagato.
Anthony de Haas has now been with A. Lange & Söhne for 15 years – twice as long as the brand has partnered with the Concorso. He shared, “Lange is a very intriguing brand because on one side of the industry you have the big brands: Patek, Breguet, Audemars, and Vacheron. On the other hand, you have independents."
"The independents make the crazy watches, and the big brands make the commercial watches. My meaning is that Lange is right in-between. Look for instance at our Zeitwerk collection – it could be from an independent. Lange belongs to the big brands – we are a big name – but together with the team I have the freedom to be creative.”
(Photography by Anders Modig)