Ultra-Rare A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 In Stainless Steel To Be Auctioned At Antiquorum
Antiquorum is holding its upcoming Geneva auction on May 9, 2021 at the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, located along the famous quay of Lake Geneva. But there will be no audience in attendance at the auction, which is set to be broadcast digitally on the Antiquorum website.
Which is a darn good thing because the scheduling has it partially running at the same time as the second day of Phillips Geneva Watch Auction XIII, which will take place live and in person (with very limited capacity) at Geneva’s La Resèrve. This way, I would think, bidders might be able to take part in both auctions. In a non-pandemic year, auction week in Geneva is generally timed so that the auctions staged by Phillips, Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Antiquorum do not run in parallel, but rather staggered.
Boasting 535 lots, there are several interesting timepieces on offer at Antiquorum like at Phillips. The auctions never have a shortage of interesting watches – like this tasty Omega tourbillon at Antiquorum our pals at Fratello unearthed earlier this week and Richard Habring’s personal prototype of the IWC split-seconds chronograph that Phillips is auctioning in conjunction with Habring2 for charity.
Today, I’d like to take a quick look at lot 434 in the Antiquorum auction: an ultra-rare A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 in stainless steel.
What is so special about the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 in stainless steel?
A. Lange & Söhne never officially launched a stainless steel watch before the Odysseus arrived in late October 2019.
But that does not mean that that there are no stainless steel examples of the flagship Lange 1 and a select few other models in existence. There are some – a very few made for certain early Lange retailers, as you can learn about in detail here – though they are so few and far between that they have an almost mythical standing among watch collectors. We estimate there to be about 25 examples of the steel Lange 1 in existence.
At least some of these rare A. Lange & Söhne stainless steel watches have originated in Milan’s premier watch retail store Pisa Orologeria.
“When A. Lange & Söhne was re-founded in the 1990s, Pisa Orologeria was one of the first retailers to believe in their rebirth,” Fabio Bertini, one of the store’s now-retired owners, confirmed to me in answer as to how these watches came to be. “Therefore, at the time I had an ongoing working relationship with [co-refounder of A. Lange & Söhne] Günter Blümlein and I initially proposed to make a Lange 1 in stainless steel.
“His reply was very rational: he explained to me that the different case material wouldn’t have generated any change in terms of price from the gold-encased version. But my motive wasn’t related to price; I was tickled by the idea of having a steel version of a product usually crafted in gold – this was something outside the box, especially considering it contained an important complication inside. And Mr. Blümlein accepted my offer.”
These watches are so underground that it is still difficult to find information about them. And Pisa likely wasn’t the only retailer with a small handful of them.
Stainless steel Lange 1s don’t come up often at auction – collectors generally keep them safely in their collections – and when they do, they cause something of a ruckus.
What can we expect this steel Lange 1 to go for?
Antiquorum has set the estimate for this lot at CHF/$100,000-200,000. But is that really where the bidding will land?
If the recent past is any indicator, I would boldly say no.
Recent auctions show a steady incline in the value of these decided rarities. A black-dialed example showed up in June 2016 at Christie’s and was set at an auction estimate of $200,000–400,000; it hammered at $233,000. The black-dialed variant is assumed to be the much rarer, with possibly only three in existence.
Later that same year, a silver-dialed version showed up at Christie’s fall auction and went for “just” CHF 143,750 – well above its estimate, though.
Perhaps the big daddy of recent results concerned a mint-condition, unworn example with silver dial that hammered at Phillips’ pre-pandemic Game Changers auction in December 2019 well above its estimate. Granted, this particular model had never been worn and had never even had a strap attached to its lugs, making it pristine new old stock. It was delivered to Cellini jewelers in New York City in 1999 and had been in the vault there ever since.
The watch came accompanied by the original invoice indicating purchase on November 29, 1999 for – get this – 17,271.93 German marks (or about €8,830 today). Phillips set the auction estimate at $150,000-$300,000, and it went for a whopping $343,750.
And just last year, in June 2020, an example with silver dial showed up at Dr. Crott, the first German auction of the pandemic era. The auction house set the estimate at €220,000-€300,000; it sold for €275,000.
And then there is the way that the public has been buying expensive timepieces during the pandemic – the auction houses have never earned so much on watches, currently setting record upon record.
The stainless steel Reference 101.026 offered at Antiquorum comes with a full set, meaning its original box and papers. Antiquorum writes that it is being consigned by its original Italian owner; the watch was sold to them in Milan in 1997 – which probably means it is one of the Pisa Orologeria lot. This is its first appearance at auction.
In case bidding on the stainless steel Lange 1 doesn’t quite work out for you, you can perhaps try bidding on one of A. Lange & Söhne’s only serial stainless steel watches: the hard-to-get, waiting-list-only lot 435: Odysseus.
For more information, please visit www.catalog.antiquorum.swiss/en/lots/a-lange-sohne-ref-101-026-1-lot-339-434.
Quick Facts A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 in stainless steel
Case: 38.5 x 10 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound Caliber L901.0 with two serially operating spring barrels, 72-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, 53 jewels, screw-mounted gold chatons, swan-neck fine adjustment, hand-engraved balance cock, three-quarter plate
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; large date, power reserve
Year of manufacture: approx. 1997
Auction estimate: CHF/$100,000-200,000