Closed Caseback, Small ‘MiG’ 101.002 A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1
The standard neo-vintage conversation covers the holy trinity QPs, integrated offerings from the 90s like first generation Overseas, Roth for Breguet, Roth for Roth, CPCP, oddities like the Star Wheel or Mercator, and brass Journe. One deserving entrant always gets left out: zee Germans at Lange. I have a hypothesis for this: for all the above mentioned entrants, there are very clear and easily distinguished details that bookend the neo-vintage era. The QPs have their stepped 36mm cases. The Overseas and Aquanaut have tritium. Journes have that oxidized gold blank dial. For the most part, Lange 1 details have been consistent and unageing. Except for the very earliest productions, which featured a closed caseback and marginally different printing. And its really only been in the last couple years that anyone paid attention.
It was down to some excellent detective work by friend of Hairspring, Perth Ophaswongse (@edinburghtimepieces), who noticed that the earliest Lange 1 dials had a sans-serif, smaller print for ‘MADE IN GERMANY’ and wrote about it for Subdial in 2021. This article lit the Lange world on fire, and set up a new collecting domain. However, before that, there was only one. Where small MiG print exists across all pieces pre-early 2000s, closed casebacks were only fitted to the very, very earliest 1s. These are references 101.001, 101.002, 101.005, 101.007 and 101.011 respectively.
These watches come from a time when Walter Lange didn’t know if his painstakingly revived eponymous brand would survive. And they didn’t sell widely. Where I normally prefer a display back on a movement with this many hours of finishing work, this is the sole exception. Fitting we call it ‘the 1’ for short. Because solid caseback 1s, of any reference, are special. Solid backs existed at introduction in ’94. A transparent back was introduced quickly thereafter to meet customer demand in ’95 as an option, everyone wanted to see that L901.0. Solid backs continued on until just ’97, when transparent backs then became the standard. It is unknown but speculated from production volume around that time that fewer than 300 pieces ever left the factory with a closed back. So perhaps neo-vintage Lange does have one or two defining features worth collecting after all. And when I say one or two, I mean two. They’re German, let’s be precise. Anything less would offend Walter.
This example sports a full case with very light wear, it should be noted it went back to Lange to be touched up. The caseback, though, hasn’t been touched by request, last serviced 2022. Its engravings are deep everywhere. It comes from a well-regarded London retailer.