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Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Marco Lang smiles when I call him a “serious watch nerd.” Walking through the cozy manufacture space that is Lang & Heyne, between words in his native German I hear him voice in English “watch nerd” as he proudly repeats my phrase to his various watchmakers who together make up the very special Dresden-based maker of traditional timepieces. Marco Lang points to his watchmaker certificate placed on the wall of his kitchen set among others who make up the multi-generational mosaic of official-looking papers proving that he comes from a long line of like-minded micro-mechanical minds. His favorite is from the early 1920s when a female relative of his was the first woman not only to become a watchmaker in the Lang clan, but also the first female watch maker in the region.

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Among the many stories of effort and passionate toil required to make these gorgeous German timepieces, the one that my mind kept coming back to was just how long it takes to produce a single screw. Marco Lang helped start this high-end watch brand after a series of business deals led him to be a major part of starting Dresden-based movement company known as UWD. The company’s goal is to become a sort of “German ETA,” producing in-house-made German movements sold to third-party companies. The UWD’s first major public client is also German-based Sinn who recently announced their 6200 watch with an exclusive movement made for them by UWD here.

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

With that piece of important context into the world of Mr. Lang, I return to his own passion project where he and others utterly obsessed with watchmaking techniques put together some of the most fantastically detailed modern classic timepieces around. Competitors might be companies such as Urban Jürgensen or Kari Voutilainen, even though the three produce very different types of timepieces. With that said, each of these three companies is about keeping the magic of traditional watches alive, with a distinctly “non Swiss attitude” that hits right in the center of the bullseye which is that sweet spot of value, design, and effort that many high-end collectors are looking for.

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

What Marco Lang has in good watch taste he probably lacks in people skills. Clearly more comfortable at the bench and in the manufacture being part of timepiece production than communicating about his work, such personality traits along with a serious attention to detail will no doubt keep Lang & Heyne a secret treat of the most informed clientele willing to understand the extreme attention to detail (and long order waiting list) the still-new company brings to the busy table of available high-end timepieces.

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

If I can arouse your interest in Lang & Heyne watches it just might be with a story of how long it takes (and how much money it costs) to produce just one single screw. Lang & Heyne’s colleague in the area with the most direct comparable German-style watches is of course Glashutte-based A. Lange & Söhne. I don’t know if the massively respected Richemont-owned monarch of luxury German watchmaking sees Lang & Heyne as much as a competitor as a viable colleague. Lang & Heyne only produces about 50 watches per year, and their ultimate goal is only about 200. Still not a lot? If you learn how long it takes for them to make movements (let alone a screw), you’ll understand why 200 is an ambitious volume for their incredibly dedicated team.

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Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

I’m watching a young watchmaker pull something across a piece of tin. Yes, the old “can metal” is apparently the ideal base when topped with a thin layer of diamond paste to “black polish” the tips of screws. A single screw is swiped and pulled across the surface of the tin rod with loving care as I’m staring at a small dish with shiny pieces of metal stuck into blue gummy material that you’ll find at almost any watchmaker’s desk. Bound in the blue “scratch-free zone” of the putty are a series of finished screws which have each been carefully finished.

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

How long does it take to finally see to the precise shape and surfacing of a “complete screw?” About 40 minutes, according to Marco Lang in a very matter-of-fact manner. That isn’t production or quality control, but rather just the polishing. The end result looks fantastic, and people who aren’t familiar with the true value of fine watch movement finishing could easily skip over little things like screws assuming some fancy high-tech machine pops them out like factory widgets. The truth is that when you invest in a serious hand-finished watch (especially from the Germans), even the screws are given attention akin to that of an overprotective parent. Then again, if you are paying luxury prices for a traditional timepiece you want everyone handling it to act like an overprotective parent.

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Why Movement Screws At German Lang & Heyne Cost €100 Each Inside the Manufacture

Forty minutes of skilled watchmaker time is required to apply the correct flat mirror polish on a few screw surfaces. These small yet incredibly necessary parts begin as a specially-ordered steel alloy that is then actually CNC machine-cut to produce the “raw” shape of each new screw. Just the materials and production cost per screw prior to any finishing at all costs Lang & Heyne about one euro each. These are produced at UWD, actually – which also currently serves as a “sister company” to Lang & Heyne. One-euro screws are then transformed by first a quality control check and then careful flat and angled polishing. Lang & Heyne produces a few screw sizes in-house and some of them are then flame-blued for additional color and aesthetic design.

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Comments

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  • Marco is not just a watchmaker as in an assembler or repairer. He also designs all of the movements found in L&H watches as well as the UWD movements. I’ve found him to be very friendly but if I speak English too quickly (which I always tend to do), he can’t follow along all of the time. But hey his English is way better than my German. Such a talented guy who wears many hats. I doubt the 100 euro per screw price applies to all of the UWD movements which are used by Leinfleder Munich and Sinn in watches that aren’t in the price range of a Lang & Heyne. Thanks for the review Ariel. After meeting Marco at BaselWorld, I’ve kept wishing I could swing a return trip to Dresden someday (I was there in 2008 before I got seriously into watches).

  • I_G

    I hate blue painted or chemically blued screws and hands. Nice work by Lang & Heyne.

  • iamcalledryan

    Glorious movements, and sublime screws, but I was deeply saddened to see that they are using child labor. 😉

    • LOL, yeah Marco often has his wife and kids in the group shots. Not sure at what age they will be pressed into service.

  • ??????

    My little green Seiko costs 1/2 of their screw. Nice lol

  • SuperStrapper

    When I look at the beautiful macro movement shots we are often treated to here on aBtW, I always take note of how well (or not) elements like screws and chatons are finished. Makes for a good yardstick on quality, which L&H h in spades. Great article.

  • BNABOD

    we all like a good screw but to me they look the same as any other blued screw. Must be something to see 1st hand. I would hate to be the Saxon in charge of polishing and blueing screws all day. hopefully that professional will have something else to do soon. Beautiful movements though, great attention to details in such a highly competitive environment

  • Andrew Hughes

    The macro photography in this article is spectacular. Great article too.

    • Shinytoys

      Seconded!

  • Omegaboy

    The hands on this watch!!! Wow!

  • Shinytoys

    I guess I should stop bitching about the cost of titanium fasteners for the race bike. What a gorgeous piece of artwork that tells time as well.

  • DanW94

    Excellent read and photos. That movement is worth a second, third and fourth look!

  • srs144

    I met Marco recently and I would not agree with you that he lacks people skill. He lacks a self-promotional nature. His humility and kindness and good nature are genuine and rare, and that speaks more volumes than fake marketing skills.

    • Totally agree. He is a watchmaker first and foremost and less of a salesman. But a truly nice guy.

      • egznyc

        There are clearly people whose skills and passion combine to make the marketing part happen without any “selling,” because their dedication and artistry speak for themselves.

    • Ariel Adams

      Some might say that lacking the ability to communicate about one’s own work in a way that best represents that work is tantamount to lacking people skills. Marco is a great guy and I have nothing but high esteem for him, but compared to some of the other watch makers he is more reserved and calculated in is communication – like a true engineer. Also, English is not his first language, so when speaking to me and other English speakers it is prone to make anyone who isn’t comfortable with English even more reserved. I only meant to paint Marco as more technically-minded as opposed to people-mind in a similar way that people often think about engineers. That doesn’t mean he is not anything but incredibly gracious with people – just in his own way.

  • You have to admire German craftsmanship and precision applied to the drying apparatus attached to the spinning machine in this picture. It probably costs upwards of €1000, given the man-hours of dedicated husbandry involved!

    http://ablogtowatch.kinsta.cloud/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Lang-Heyne-Watch-Manufacture-Germany-aBlogtoWatch-44.jpg

    • Boogur T. Wang

      So true.
      I literally developed an “obsessive” relationship with a German photo-print drum-drying machine in my younger years. It technical craftsmanship it displayed was fascinating to me. I actually ‘longed’ for maintenance times when I could take it apart and clean it.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Great article, great pictures, absolute joy to look at .

  • Shirley Furby

    I tried to picture how some people who are not as obsessive about watches as some of us are, would think about a screw costing 100 euros. Perhaps they would think a screw in the space shuttle would cost that much but surely not in a simple watch. Can you value the cost of the paint used in the Mona Lisa? I believe his watches (Marco) approach a work of art. Not to be valued as a timepiece but something to admire and to contemplate the exquisite craftmanship demonstrated in their construction. Keep being obsessive Marco I appreciate you.

  • spiceballs

    Really very nice-looking movements, but out of my league. Nevertheless please keep it going Lang & Heyne, one day maybe – – ?

  • awildermode

    Fascinating fasteners

  • Svetoslav Popov

    I don’t care if someone makes something with one hand fastened behind his back and says I have to pay tenfold for that. As long as two screws are identical function and look wise, I would always prefer the cheaper one. And don’t get silly, a screw could not be worth 100 euro. And BTW, I am a watch fan, but do not even dream of buying something with such an exaggerated price. I just love design ideas based on simplicity and clarity.The gold watch with blue dial and stars has nothing to do with simplicity!

    • iamcalledryan

      If you don’t want to pay for craft, I recommend picking up a watch with a Unitas movement. It has the same manual pocket-watch movement charm but none of the craft. Then there is the Rolex approach to quality with emphasis on function over form, also a safe bet. But you don’t need to dismiss these watches, they are something entirely different. If you are looking for a traditional handmade/fine watch (some people are), the whole thing is more expensive, from the retail price right down to the salary of the watchmaker. Screws don’t polish themselves or blue themselves and a machine polished and chemical blued screw is clearly visible through the loupe so not acceptable for some.

      • Svetoslav Popov

        My Unitas is also with blued screws (not chemically) and probably the whole movement costs 100 euro 🙂 Everybody has the right to spend his money as he pleases, including all the ways that make him look stupid 🙂

        • iamcalledryan

          I love the Unitas movement, but make no mistake that it is not even close to the quality standard of these featured movements, nor does the price of them and your consumer choice have any bearing on your superiority or their stupidity.

          You would be a fool to buy a screw for $100, but a $100 screw in a $50k watch has nothing to do with stupidity, Ariel is simply explaining the value differential, there is no need to cast such basic judgements. You are of course entitled to your opinion.

      • Joao Torres

        so what the difference?

        the unitas will work like the lang and heynes movement, so whats the difference, blued screws?, polish?, i will polish the components at home or in a shop , and save 30.000 bucks

        thanks…

        • I suggest you do exactly that, log your costs and share pictures – I will point out the differences! Talk is cheap Joao 😉

    • peter_byford

      I agree in part with your argument, as there are people out there that think a $10k Rolex adorned with $50k worth of diamonds make it a $60k watch lol ! You can buy $15k golf shoes, $10k pens, & the ladies buy $15k Hermes handbags ( Victoria Beckham etc ) I personally would like to think a watch costing £250,000 had $100 dollar blued screws in it. How would you know what an ‘exaggerated ‘ price is ? Better stick with cheapo Swatch watches…..plenty of simplicity & clarity there for you lol ! Leave serious watches to serious people who know what they are talking about, because you plainly do not ! You are the typical lowest common denominator buyer , thank God the world is populated with people with more imagination & aesthetic taste than you.

      • Svetoslav Popov

        How many watches worth 50k euro do you own Mister with imagination 🙂

        • peter_byford

          NONE…….but neither do you !…so why ask ?

      • Joao Torres

        with $50k
        i buy the gold the diamonds and the rubis,
        and i order to make a full gold watch, not clad,

        the rest of the money i will use to buy a real leather STRIP.

  • I gotta say, at least this guy is candid about why his creations cost $55,000.

  • yb

    Ariel, can you elaborate on how Cooperation with Sinn works out. Did Lang und Heyne designed the movement and sold the rights, or they will get a licensing fee per watch made?

    • Ariel Adams

      It is a good question. What I know is that Sinn is a client of UWD and I am not sure who owns the rights to their soon to be produced exclusive movement.

  • Marius

    After a certain point, even high-end finishing becomes utterly useless. For instance, what is the difference between the Lang&Heyne screws, and those used by Lange, Patek, or Ferrier? I mean, theoretically, you could spend €10,000 for each screw if you used a very costly manufacturing
    process. In my opinion, the actual movement is more important than the finishing applied. Moreover, given that even Patek and Lange complain about a shortage of skilled workers, where do brands such as Lang, or Grossmann find these watchmakers.
    My impression is that, lately, some brands focus more upon the finishing aspect, and less on the actual movement, since a high-end finish is now in vogue.

    • iamcalledryan

      It is literally all about aesthetic, and as a result has very little to do with performance. Just like the hand-stitching on a Rolls Royce seat has nothing to do with performance. But people buy the Rolls for the engine AND the aesthetic. Whether performance of a movement is more important than the overall aesthetic of a watch is, as you say, down to personal opinion.

      A lot of consumers of high-end watches happen to care far less about objective accuracy stats than they do about broader concepts like “in-house” and “finishing”. I have great respect for good movements, even the more spartan performance ones. The finishing is like icing on the cake. Does a chamfered screw-slot really add performance value to the movement, of course not, but it adds flourish and character and also differentiates itself from an impostor.

      I do agree with you that the objective measurement of movement performance and accuracy is deeply lacking at the moment. The risk here is that you buy a highly specialized watch only to find that it breaks shortly after. You will be less subject to that risk and to that extent are wise!

    • Look at it backwards. There is a small group of people who want to pay a lot of money for a watch, but they do not want to feel ripped off while doing so.

      The return on resources invested in chronometry increases with production scale. Omega and Rolex are superior in this regard. Independent makers can’t compete.

      Technical execution is different. R&D costs per watch will scale inversely with production volume, but certain complications and technical solutions are too labour intensive for large-series production. Appreciating the value of technical execution requires the collector to be educated. Some technical concepts are difficult to grasp.

      Hand finishing is the easiest way to build value. It requires resources, but does not scale with production volume. Appreciating the value of hand finishing requires collector education, but this education can be spoon-fed with pretty pictures.

      It is easy enough to spot the difference between good hand finishing, great hand finishing and best-in-class hand finishing. The same can’t be said of technical innovation and chronometric performance.

      From my perspective, investing resources in hand-finishing provides the safest return, followed by technical innovation and, far behind, chronometric performance.

  • Ulysses31

    They really know how to make some beautiful watches. I wouldn’t even mind wearing that blue thing with all the stars, even if it does look like it was custom made for Evel Knievel.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Artistic merit combined with true craftsmanship.

  • Joao Torres

    Iam not sure but ima a mechnic and i have worked in watches too, but nothing of this make sense to me, just a sense : RIP OFF

    First blueing a screw is very very easy. When we blue a screw it is more rust resistant.ok, they say the contrary, lets see, so
    So why the hell would they build screws that rust easly???
    to make a worst machine? or just to be funny?

    100 bucks each one, give them to me i will make for half the price, and after 10 io will offer 3.

    a watch for 30.000 dollars??? are you out of your mind? just because screws are blueeedd?? really?

    Get a rich idiot, he will probably buy the SCAM.

  • Joao Torres

    SOrry but htis break the lawas of mechnic and economy.

    the movements work like an orient movement, some times even less precise and reliablçe, so why the hell should i buy this watch???

    cause componets are polish?

    dude the watches are produced like 100 ago, and they are almost identicall to a 500 dollar wathc,

    nothing really new and inovative in them,

    so why so pricy, they are rip offs…

  • peter_byford

    So many stupid & ill-informed comments on this article from people who think they know what they are talking about re watches, but quite frankly show just how little they know & how narrow minded they are. ” $30,000 watch …just because it has blued screws ?” ….No, it’s a $30,000 dollar watch that uses blued screws for the movement….a totally different context. All things are only worth what people are prepared to pay for them, no justification needed to anyone else. If you have the financial wealth to pay for the absolute best in anything in life, do so. Billionaires do not think like the majority of poorer folk, they do not consider or pay heed to value for money concepts or whether $100 for a blued screw in a watch is ‘ludicrous’. These guys own £200m yachts, Lear jets, fleets of limousines etc, etc. They buy watches costing millions, …..just a drop in the bucket to them. …..wearing a cheap & tacky Orient watch is not for them ! They don’t want to be seen wearing one in the same company as a taxi driver or mechanic ! If I could manufacture a widget costing $100 & sell millions of them, I’d be a very happy ( & wealthy ) man lol ! ……so ignore the ignoramus commenters, & just read those of Mark Carson, iamcalledryan…….people who DO actually know & appreciate ‘ the pursuit of excellence’ in watchmaking & horology……..you’ll learn a lot more useful information from them than these other cheapo jokers !