As for those inside the gated compound of Villa d’Este on these notable days of the year, A. Lange & Söhne humbly offers a way out of the second greatest cause of death among 1%-ers: utter boredom. (I’ll leave you to think of the #1 cause.) Surround yourself for too long with cars of this magnitude, and soon you’ll find yourself, with or without a Panama hat, scrutinizing the intactness of some soggy stickers inside an engine bay on a car that has otherwise been made to look like new anyway.

That does, in fact, lead me to a quick side note, if you’ll humor me: the majority of competing cars at the event appeared to have been more or less (often fully) refurbished. Cars — and even race cars — frequently between 40 and 70 years of age appeared new or, in fact, I reckon a lot better than new. Surely, you can attain some impressive results with a bit of polish, but the quality of paint, the tightness of the panel gaps, and the absolutely pristine interiors in the majority of the cars displayed made me think of them as an exhibition of “what these important cars would look like if they were made today.” Anyhow, everyone will have a different preference with regard to where the perfect balance lies between the mere preservation of these cars (with as minimal impact as possible) and their complete renovation.

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All I can say is that when I see a 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione ‘Tour de France” that allegedly was raced back in its day, I want to see stone chips and rubber marks and signs of that history — as opposed to masterfully redone paint, better than what Ferrari puts on its cars today. Restored cars, to my untrained eye, appeared to have been not the exception, but the norm, and that was not what I was expecting. Maybe the world has really run out of original cars in some instances — or the handful that remain are so friggin’ valuable already that they need not (and cannot) participate in any event.

Side note over, A. Lange & Söhne has every right to represent itself as the savior of even the most hard-to-impress, seen-it-all 1%-er. The brand secured an impressive suite located on the first floor and in the absolute center of the Villa, with a balcony overlooking the path that the cars roll down on as they ceremoniously make their ways from the gardens to the “finish straight,” where there is a massive crowd waiting and the best-of-class awards are presented. The image above shows exactly what you see from Lange’s well-chosen location.

The view probably wasn’t the main concern, though; the vicinity to the event and the participants’ ease of access might have been paramount. You see, once guests manage to leave their beautiful cars behind, they are greeted by a tour de force representation of what makes A. Lange & Söhne worthy of their attention. Every year, I’m told, there is a different element of their in-house prowesses — this year it was an impressive presentation of hand-engraving (something we, too, could give a go, risking not our pride in our non-existent dexterity, but rather the wholeness of our fingers. With the sharp tools and the amount of pressure required, a small slip can result in a deeply unpleasant cut — and when you see scratches even on the master engraver’s delicate hands, you quickly re-evaluate your answer to the question, “What could possibly go wrong?”

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Guests also had a chance to speak to Lange Academy instructor and Head of Zeitwerk from A. Lange & Söhne — because the watch industry never fails to impressive with a yet-cooler position. If you think watch industry events are often an ideal place for nerds to nerd out, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you… But every once in a while you meet those experts who spend most of their time within the secure walls of big (or small) manufactures and who have actual hands-on knowledge and a remarkably deep understanding of how outrageously complicated watches work.

Now, irrespective of the brand that they represent, a lot of the stuff that they say is generally considered to be delicate information — not to even the most hardcore watch nerd, but to those competitors who have their ears on the ground, trying to catch a glimpse into their counterparts’ challenges and their respective solutions. And while that just further enforces the secretive nature of the industry, there nevertheless is a lot to be learned by those who ventured to the first floor of the Villa d’Este.

What I learned and came away super-impressed with is the brief but telling insight gained into how such highly responsible watchmakers/engineers trusted with some of these immensely complicated watches go about their tasks. Robert, to me, came across as an extremely knowledgeable watchmaker who is nevertheless deeply humbled by the gargantuan undertaking that is… well, everything related to the Zeitwerk. One of Lange’s most complex watches also happens to be one of the most delicately balanced and nuanced watches ever made. If you have any sort of mechanical sympathy, you’ll be able to tell this the moment you first witness the “digital” double-digit minute display of a Zeitwerk advance exactly at the end of a minute…

Or, better still, witness the Zeitwerk Striking Time (linked to further above) strike at the very moment an hour passes. A host of important Lange watches were on display and available to be handled and appreciated up close by the guests of Lange’s suite — which, on day two, was absolutely packed, with the space full of faces showing surprise and of the echo of impressed “oohs” and “aahs” as yet another secret of a Lange watch revealed itself.

The thing is that, by the time one gets to own cars of such magnitude and importance, chances are that he or she has duly experienced every avenue of the world’s blatantly obvious luxuries — and has, at this point, either become bored or disappointed by them. And that is where a relatively very small, yet highly versatile and capable brand such as A. Lange & Söhne comes into the picture.

Lange admittedly has to dedicate a lot of effort to gain traction with new customers — in line with what I said in the intro about the company and its fondness of tackling challenges. As Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne, told me,”It is all about education, education, education.” I mean, it is — for brands like Lange that have a lot to share and very little to hide — in stark contrast with the norms of the industry. You’d have a snowflake’s chance in hell to meet with the Director of Product Development from most all other big brands with interesting products, unfortunately.

Once said goals linked to education have been reached, based on my chats with guests and participants not just at this event but over the last number of years, I can say that the effect is rather profound. It is good to know that fine watchmaking still has a few brands that keep up their reputation as the go-to place if you want to find something that is not only stupendously expensive but can also blow your mind. The fact that Saxony offers more diligent brands to actively maintain said reputation than most all of the Vallée du Joux is something for us watch nerds to think about. Learn more about A. Lange & Söhne watches on the brand’s website here:

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