On my trip to Tokyo to attend the Lange Owners' GTG, I was also fortunate enough to meet perhaps one of the largest Lange collectors in the world. He resides in Japan and his collection was featured in the past, e.g. at “The House Of Lange” event in LA last year as well as at Tokyo Boutique where there are always several of his Lange on display, and of course is well recognized by Lange/ Richemont management as well.
I hope you enjoy the interview (pardon the length) and the photos that follow.
KIH: When and how did you start collecting watches?
Mr. U: My watch collection history is pretty short – just barely 3 years. I have been interested in and been studying as a hobby European glass or porcelain antique such as Meissen and had a book about European Masterpieces. In that book, there was a chapter about the European watches, and PP, VC, and AP were introduced as Europe's big three. The PP Caltrava had particularly impressed me. I was in my 30s back then and wasn't even wearing watches, instead using the clock in the cell phone, but had decided to have one very nice, decent watch someday and I had thought that must be PP Caltrava.
I went to the high-end Department Stores several times where there was a high-end watch corner to see and touch the actual Masterpieces, but I had no idea what the differences were between the ones at USD10K and at USD100K or more. I realized that I would have to know more about watches before actually deciding on the particular one and the time just had gone by.
But I had a good (or bad) friend who I knew had been a watch, particularly PP, nut. He took me to an AD where he was a VIP customer and the staff of the AD was so kind to explain to me the movement and its beauty with passion. I was so attracted by the mechanical watches, and as a result, I became an owner of PP Caltrava 3919 and Perpetual Calendar 3940 in just 10 days after the first visit to the AD.
The Caltrava 3919 was a dressy YG case with dark gray dial. And the perpetual 3940 seemed too good for me to wear daily and I felt at the time it to be worn only when I would be called to the Imperial Palace, if ever, someday and must be kept in the safety deposit box at the bank. So, I thought I would need another one, which I can use for more casually daily basis, in the white metal case. My ideal model was (1) white metal (platinum preferred), (2) white dial (enamel preferred), (3) Roman numeral, (4) Small second sub dial, and (5) automatic because 3919 was manual winding. I asked the same AD to find a Caltrava that matches these conditions but the answer was “no such model in the line-up today”.
So, I then decided to search the past models on books and net and accidentally found Lange 1 in PG case and gray dial. Asymmetrical placement of the dial but has its own harmony. Gray, not black, dial in the PG case, I almost felt certain “eroticism” in it. It was completely different from what I had been looking for, but couldn't take my eyes off it. Since this hobby has the same root as my original Meissen collection, it may have been my destiny to be attracted to Lange. The AD also carried Lange and I found in Lange catalog “Anniversary” that matched my ideal watch, but unfortunately had already been sold out. The AD had global reach, particularly to Asia, and the staff assured me that there must be still one or two in stock in the branches overseas. I call the VIP friend to tell him that I would flirt with Lange just this once but would come back to PP soon (sorry, I haven't come back quite yet). But “Anniversary” didn't pop up in the ADs radar for some time and the staff became much less confident and I, too, gave up on it then.
Like many other thing, once you find what you want and also find it difficult to get it, you want it more and more. But in this case I had given up on Anniversary for the time being and decided to settle on 1815 Automatic Platinum and placed an order for it. Anyway, I was almost certain that I had acquired enough watches and all set for life.
Later day when I went to pick it up and while the paper work was being done, I walked around the shop and saw the “Set” that changed my life forever. I saw a Lange 1 in PG case and Gray dial which drew my attention so much, this time with moonphase, shining just like calling me. I admit that this sounds a bit exaggerating, but that was really the turning point. It was called “Dresden Set” which consisted of PG case with white dial 1815 CHR, and PG case with gray dial Lange 1 moon. They were so sexy to my eyes and there were only 8 sets produced (the set was produced to commemorate 800 years of the city of Dresden, thus 8 sets).
I used to like to collect the limited edition record or vinyl particularly with rare/ odd numbers, and I was so sorry that I couldn't find the LE Anniversary, and I was so attracted by Lange 1.... With all these things circling in the head, I told the sales person - half jokingly - that if they had No.1 or No.8, I would buy it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, they had No. 8 and I went home with the set. I thought it must be the sign telling me to go deeper into the Lange world and to find Anniversary no matter what (and I got it later finally).
I do like to study history and to comb through the books and papers, and I thought that I must study Lange to become a worthy owner of such a nice and rare “Dresden Set”. The more I studied about Lange, the more I was so attracted to the brand and I went deeper and deeper into it, and I was pulled into the vintage pocket watch world as well, in addition to other Lange special items (card case, DVDs, loupe, etc.), Lange books, Lange’s historical catalogs…
Sorry for my long story, but to sum it up, I am attracted by the brand Lange because I feel a lot of aspects in Lange that match my life-long interest such as European art, Meissen, porcelain, enamel, culture, history, design, universe, etc. And the more I acquire, the more friends I make and have and share fun together. That is the huge part of this hobby in my mind.
KIH: What is your favorite model?
Mr. U: Lange 1 variations – with brilliantly placed circles, well balanced in the bigger circle and that is fascinating beyond words – and Lange Anniversary. Also I wear 1815 variations most these days.
KIH: Beyond Lange, what are your favorite brands?
Mr. U: As I explained earlier, the friend who took me to the AD was/is a big fan of Patek and with him I bought several Patek. I believe Lange and Patek are sufficient for me to collect. Patek has its own unique taste. I heard this from a good friend of mine - when he met Mr. Stern at some event and showed him his Patek, he said, “You are lucky to have it”. Very different culture from Lange, I would say.
KIH: Some collectors say that Lange has not progressed as much recently as compared to the years after its founding. Particularly they cite the lack of pieces like Lange 1 and Datograph. What do you think?
Mr. U: I certainly can understand such feeling among the collectors. But I feel it is difficult to compare the first 10 years and the next 10 years. For example, Datograph, when it was introduced 5 years after the re-start of the brand, was so shockingly revolutionary and innovative, and the next chronograph MUST exceed Datograph, or many collectors would be so disappointed. Needless to say, Lange must have been doing research, development, and testing the new evolved models and the same high expectation must be the same for Perpetual, Double-Split, and Dual Time models. To me, it is obvious that Lange has not forgot its own motto of “evolution of the tradition” when I look at Zeitwerk and RL PLM. For example, Zeitwerk caliber development was started in 2004 and its size and digital dial was never the result of trend following. Zeitwerk is simply the resurrection of the digital pocket watch that Lange made long time ago and surely Lange DNA. They set the development time frame in 5 years span.
Also, I think that those new technology of Lange 31 and Cabaret Tourbillon shows “Lange DNA” as well. If Lange develops and introduces the new models at the level of Lange 1 or Datograph every year; I would have to sell my house to keep up with the pace . But frankly, I would like to see “Lange Zwei”...
KIH: Speaking of Zeitwerk, have you placed an order for it yet?
Mr. U: Actually, not yet. I would like to see how it possibly evolves in a while. I cannot help thinking that there is enough “room” on the dial for moonphase and/or perpetual calendar
KIH: Fabian Krone recently left Lange and Jerome Lambert is now overseeing Lange (along with JLC). What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. U: I knew Fabian personally and he was very good to us collectors. I am sure he had his thoughts and left Lange and will do very well wherever he goes next. I just wish him the very best. I haven’t met Mr. Lambert personally yet, but he seems more open about new collector/brand relationship ideas while Fabian was a bit more traditional. I am very much looking forward to building a good relationship with Mr. Lambert as well.
KIH: What is your next target to acquire?
Mr. U: I would love to have Lange's minute repeater if and when it is introduced. And among the current and past line-up, if I have an opportunity, I would like Tourbillon PLM in Platinum. I have YG version, but I just think that it would be interesting to have three types of PT case/Blue hands PLMs (KIH – I guess he meant Tourbograph, RL PLM, and Tourbillon PLM). YG number says xx/150, but actually they made 100 YG and 25 WG and 25 PG. I once saw 36mm version of PG Tourbillon PLM and that is my Holy Grail. If I got Tourbillon PLM platinum version, I will be happy to sell you the YG version.
KIH: I have to seriously consult my bank account, sir… (I wish my wallet were that deep…sigh…)
KIH: How do you acquire watches?
Mr. U: As for the current production line, I purchase them from my AD. As for the discontinued, vintage, or antique ones, I have made friends with many collectors around the world through this hobby and I have acquired or traded many vintage pieces from and with them. Of course, some of them were acquired through dealers and auction houses.
KIH: What are you going to do with this massive valuable collection?
Mr. U: Since I don’t have anyone to leave these, I am thinking of building a small museum for my Lange collection. The Patek part of the collection will be used to fund that project.
(I was screaming inside “please adopt me!”)
KIH: Thank you very much for your time, Mr. U.
Mr. U: Thank you for coming. Please come again. I want to emphasize one thing here. I acquire watches simply because I adore them. I love and cherish each one of them and in fact wear every one of them. To me, watches are not “investment” or to be kept unworn in the sealed boxes, but just a hobby to give my life lots of joy. I also like to attend those watch related events or parties, or plan myself events such as “History of Lange – with the sound of minute repeaters” event, or “Limited Edition display” event at the boutique with cooperation from Lange Uhren Germany. My joy or goal is to meet many watch loving people through these events and let them touch and play with Lange so that more people find and got attracted by Lange watches. Through this hobby and Lange I have acquired many friends and it is my pleasure and responsibility to share the passion with many people. It is really fun to discuss and talk with fellow watch lovers in front of these watches and that is another reason why I am attracted more and more by this hobby and Lange, thus acquire one after another.
Please feel free to wear any one of them and actually handle them while you are here.
- End of interview -
Now the photos – he has lost count but the last time he counted while ago, the total number of his watches was 130 to 140, of which about 60 is the so-called modern watch and of which 20 are Patek and 40 are Lange. Of the vintage/antique watches that include pocket watches and converted-to-wrist watches are mostly Lange. Of which, he says he focuses on “A. Lange” label which is said to have made only about 9000, meaning BEFORE it became A. Lange & Sohne, mostly way before 1900.
Enjoy his collection and some of MY wrist shots!
The Lange 1 variations currently at the display of Tokyo Boutique
Only one in the world
”Night Owl”? Nooo. Cellini special PT case & Enamel dial
Carlson (HK) LE
When his collection surpassed 100, presented by Fabien Krone
Close-up (Perpetual is only dial)
And beneath it was “real” Perpetual in YG (notice the Meissen panel behind it!)
From here on, just breath taking
This is the “Dresden Set”
With “real” deck watches
Not bad on my wrist
Now the pocket watches
Converted to wrist watches
Reminds me of something..
Lange made for Tiffany
Another “Tiffany” movement, but unmistakenly Lange (Lange Certificate available)
Patek minute repeater pocket watch
And now Patek wrist watches
Huber LE 5053, 5004, 5016......
I could live with this
His most worn watches these days
Well, that is about it..
He DID study
Fake clock, just for fun
Again, I am grateful for his hospitality and openness, and passion for Lange watches.
Thank you for reading this lengthy post.
This message has been edited by KIH on 2009-12-06 20:45:26
Edited at poster's request.This message has been edited by SJX on 2009-12-08 22:31:33