Austrian/Saxon watchmaking invasion...part 2: Lang & Heyne

Lang & Heyne:

Marco Lang is the real deal, a fifth generation watchmaker, born and raised in Dresden to a watchmaking father, Rolf Lang whose lineage of watchmaking forbearers is carefully documented. Growing up behind the Iron Curtain, Marco had a bit of quiet horological beginning, even though he studied hard and began at an early age to make things with his hands. With the fall of the wall and the German re-unification in 1989-90, Marco was able to build the beginnings of his watchmaking career. He headed North to work for a Master Watchmaker for seven years, it was here he began to create his precision pendulum clocks for discerning German collectors. He returned a Master Watchmaker to open his own shop restoring watches, pocketwatches and clocks.  His reputation spread and he was sought out by collectors for his fine work.

In the early 2000's he begun a new company to manufacture very fine mechanical wristwatches with a partner Mirko Heyne, whom his father had helped train in Glashutte. They presented their first 2 watches, the Johann and the Friedrich August I in Basel in 2001 to rave reviews. The Lang & Heyne manufacturer was up and running. Fast forward to today, and one finds the company alive and well, producing around 35-40 watches annually. Marco has among other things, instituted an apprentice program in his company to foster the art of fine mechanical watchmaking. Since I have known him, from 2005, he has graduated 2 Master Watchmakers through his tutelage. The second of whom we were recently honored to have visit with Marco, Alexander Klar.

When organizing this recent visit to CA, Marco thought it a great opportunity to give this young man a taste of international travel, and what a first visit to the USA, southern CA! Alex I think returned to Dresden a bit of a changed man. Anyway, he clearly is an amazingly talented watchmaker, as his passing piece for the Master certificate, is a triple timezone watch, completed entirely by Alex in the L&H workshops, using traditional techniques taught by Marco. The result is a superb piece, with a slight different 3/4 plate than the typical L&H Calibers I & III, a differing click spring for the main barrel and his own solaire finishing on the winding wheels. The dial design is Alex's and will appeal to a segment of the population, but probably not the typical L&H buyer. This might have something to do with the young age of Alex compared to the typical demographic. The two timezones are 24 hour indicators and each one is separately adjustable via pushers in the case side. Here is Alex's Masterpiece:

and here is the movement:

As is our way at Passion, we entertained a select group of fans and collectors to an evening with Marco and Alex, spending an evening in the showroom and culminating in a lovely sit down dinner catered by our dear friends at Sbicca of Del Mar. We were hugely honored to have 3 friends make the considerable effort to come all the way down from the SF Bay Area, Thanks Mike, Ruth & Kohei! Several chaps made it down from Orange County too. All in all a fabulous night spent learning about the work of these master craftsmen from Dresden.

A few more pictures from the evening:

Marco telling us a little about why he does what he does...

Since Basel earlier this year, Marco for the first time, has a steel cased watch in his offering. Gaining feedback from collectors, he decided to create a classic time only three handed watch, the Friedrich II with the latest inhouse L&H Caliber VI, a derivative of the fabulous Caliber V, which debuted in 2009 in the Konrad. Rather a change from the traditional 3/4 plate found in the earlier calibers, this sports an elegant trigonal bridge system supporting the main parts of the manual winding caliber. Finished to the highest degree in the traditional Saxon style, it is a beauty.

First the caliber VI:

The dial of this piece is surprisingly not true enamel, rather a lacquer paint with arabic numerals, three layered and designed beautifully for ease of reading. The lovely elegant thin blued steel hands finish off the dial side. Simple and classic are two words that stylistically describe Marco's latest piece, it is sure to please collectors. The other aspect is that this watch is of a size that will appeal to a broader audience as it is 40mm in diameter rather than the 43.5 or 44mm case size of the earlier models.

Marco brought with him examples of each model other than the Konrad, again the particular favorite of mine is the superb Albert, Marco's classic column wheel chronograph with a co-axial seconds and minute counter in the center to offer the wearer a 60 minute chrono counter, rather than the more usual 30 minutes. At rest this watch looks quite similar to the Johann with it's elongated black roman numerals, amazingly fine chrono hands at 12 o'clock and the monopusher featured in the winding crown.

Occasionally mistaken for a split-second chrono, when pictured with the chrono hands in operation, it is for my money one of, if not the best looking chronographs available by a Master Independent watchmaker. Cased in a 44mm platinum case that is made in their workshop also, one gains a fabulous appreciation the depth and skill found in the L&H manufacture. The lovely cailber IV is something to behold, and under magnification a whole world emerges before ones eyes, that demonstrates perfectly why I find their work so compelling.

Another view:

On the wrist:

and closer:

The third model offered by Marco in 2005 was the Moritz, a brilliant piece that I believe for the first time in a wristwatch depicted the declination or tilt of the earth depending upon the season. The beautifully enamelled green and blue earth disc, with 3 options for differing areas of the earth, tilts correctly up to 23 degrees driven off a cam from the month wheel. This watch was a departure from the previous two offering from Marco in that it does not have an enamel dial, rather a solid silver dial, resulting in quite a heavy watch! The dial is wonderfully rich and shows the classic complete calendar with moonphase indications very well. As with all of Marco's watches, there is a certain harmony and symmetry to the dial that bodes well for the future desirability and collectability. Well designed watches that stand the test of time will endure in my experience.

The lovely classic Moritz in YG...

Here again is possibly my second favorite, the lovely 18k WG 40mm cased Heinrich. A technical tour de force, Marco showed collectors why he deserves to be taken seriously. The wholly new and inhouse Caliber V, sports an ante-retrograde date, meaning the date hand jumps across the dial at 12 o'clock t the first of the month. There is a power reserve indicator in red on the elegant frosted solid silver dial and the remontoir designed into the escape wheel to provide a constant force. This mechanism has been employed by watchmakers for years to improve the timekeeping as the mainspring winds down it looses torque, and this can affect the timekeeping. A dead second hand is the final part of this lovely watch.

The stunning Caliber V with the remontoir:

As with our previous weeks guests, the other Dresdener Maria Habring and her life partner Richard, spending a couple of evenings with Marco and Alex cemented our relationship and we shared much in common. Probably the greatest of which is cooking at home with our family & friends. Marco took a back seat for once and happily lent his hand chopping and prepping in our kitchen. Dinner was a winner, with an extremely well received marinated rack of lamb and a mushroom risotto. Al dente vegetables were a bit of an odd thing for the Germans, but as they say "When in CA, do as the Californians!"

And our final dinner before they headed back to Dresden

Marco also got to try his hand at surfing a long board, and after giving it his all, he managed to stand up on a couple of waves! Well done for a beginner, one was able to see his sheer will and determination coming through. A great character trait in fine watchmaking too. I look forward to seeing all the creations he will eventually realise that currently reside in his mind!

A German watchmaker who surfs:

Many thanks again to Marco & Alex for making the trek out to CA to visit Passion Fine Jewelry, and for spending so much time explaining their work to eager aficionados and friends. We are blessed to know you and have you as friends. A trip to Dresden beckons!!!