First, let's get the name right. A. Lange & Söhne is the name of a German watchmaker, pronounced ah lang-uh oont sown-uh – delivered in your best Hollywood German accent. This should prevent any unfortunate misunderstandings, should you buy a watch bearing the A. Lange & Söhne brand.
#legend was the only English-language publication in Hong Kong invited by A. Lange & Söhne to Florence to attend the unveiling to the waiting world of its 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst. I couldn’t pronounce it, but I was delighted to accept the invitation on behalf of the magazine.
On arriving at The St Regis Florence hotel, I was presented with an A. Lange & Söhne watch which was mine to wear for the duration of my visit. It was a Saxonia Annual Calendar. Lunch was served in the Giardino Bardini, a Renaissance garden with a breathtaking view over Florence, where the charming chief executive of A. Lange & Söhne, Wilhelm Schmid, welcomed us.
Guided by the company’s regional managing director, Gaetan Guillosson, and its regional marketing and communications manager, Jenny Chan, our group of journalists from the Asia-Pacific region went sightseeing. We began at the Piazza del Duomo. We made ourselves busy snapping pictures of our A. Lange & Söhne watches, set against the beautiful backdrop of Florentine architecture, to post on Instagram. The famous square and the streets around it are packed with tourists from all corners of the world, and I got lost in the crowd a few times. But the eagle-eyed Guillosson plucked me from the horde and we all made it back to the hotel.
We dined that night in SE·STO on Arno, the rooftop restaurant at The Westin Excelsior, Florence hotel, which has magnificent views of the city and the surrounding hills. The restaurant serves innovative Italian cuisine created by the executive chef, Matteo Lorenzini. In the course of the evening I was surprised by the number of A. Lange & Söhne executives who came and introduced themselves to me. They all seemed to know me, and know what pictures I had posted on Instagram. Later, Chan let on that they all knew who I was because they had chosen to invite me. They certainly know how to make a guest feel special.
The next morning, I was among 60 or so journalists and influencers from all over the world whisked us off to the Antinori nel Chianti Classico winery. The Antinori family has been making wine since 1385. You wouldn’t guess that from looking at their winemaking facility. The winery is a fine example of modern architecture and employs the most modern of technology, yet paradoxically it serves the purpose of preserving the traditional way of making wine. The winery has its own restaurant and even an art collection.
A climb up a huge spiral staircase delivered us to a wide open terrace, somewhat reminiscent of a feature of a skateboarding park for giants, where we could admire the glorious view out over the vineyard. Among the dozens of serious writers about watches, either for the mass media or for their own blogs, were guests whose names are known more widely around the world, such as fashion arbiter Nick Wooster and DJ Brendon Fallis.
We gathered in the theatre to be greeted anew by Schmid, and by the chief executive of the winemaker, Albiera Antinori. Our hosts gave us their views on the values, traditions and craftsmanship that are applied in the making of wine and in the making of watches. A tasting in the cellars allowed us to appreciate the beautiful outcome of the winemaker’s application of its values, traditions and craftsmanship, and put us in just the right frame of mind for the moment we had all been waiting for: the unveiling, in a room suffused with mysterious blue light, of the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst – a supreme example of the watchmaker’s application of its values, traditions and craftsmanship.
And what a sight it makes for. This limited 20-watch edition – the sixth in the Handwerkskunst series – combines enamel art and engraving on its dial. Solid white gold is the substrate for the deep-blue enamel, beneath which 319 relief-engraved stars stand out as if sculpted. The stellar motif of the dial is reflected in the relief and tremblage engravings on the operating-lever, cover and chronograph bridges as well as on the rattrapante and balance cocks. For god measure, a hinged cuvette depicts the goddess Luna. The watch features a split-seconds chronograph and perpetual calendar with a moon-phase display.
We took lunch in the rooftop restaurant, Rinuccio 1180, which commands a vista of the extraordinary landscape of the Chianti wine region. The restaurant is named after one of the illustrious forebears of the Antinori family, Rinuccio Antinori. A different kind of wine accompanied each course.
Back at the St Regis Florence, I shot interviews with Schmid, Wooster and Italian menswear style blogger Fabio Attanasio before we all repaired to the magnificent Sala del Caminetto Palazza Gondi, which was bathed in blue light for an evening gala appropriately called Blue Brilliance. There, A. Lange & Söhne put on display five more new models of watch that have blue faces. The walls of the grand hall where we dined sumptuously were hung with the coats of arms of the noble families of Florence, and portraits of the historical figures that made the city great. Dinner was followed by a lively party, but I regretfully excused myself, pleading exhaustion.
It was just as well I skipped the party, because the morning after many of my companions were feeling a little delicate. Schmid gave a speech to say goodbye to us. But my stay in Florence was far from over. A. Lange & Söhne had arranged for me an excursion to the Numeroventi Design Residency, which contains accommodation and studio facilities for creative people from all over the world. There, they can connect with Tuscan artisans and together work on projects, put together collections and exhibit the results.
The creative director of the Numeroventi Design Residency, Martino di Napoli Rampolla, gave me the grand tour and introduced me to resident artist Duccio Maria Gambi. The artist works with concrete, and demonstrated various techniques for us. I took away a souvenir – a moulding of concrete mixed with blue dye and poured into bubble wrap to give it its special texture.
A final meal was my chance to give my thanks to the friendly faces of A. Lange & Söhne who had made my first visit to Florence so marvellous, to bid them a fond farewell and, of course, to hand back my A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Annual Calendar – albeit wistfully. I did however get one last special treat; a lapel pin made from the balance cock that Lange use in their watches with my initials on it. A stamp of approval in every possible way.
This feature originally appeared in the November 2017 print issue of #legend