Lange luxury watches disappeared for nearly half a century. The A. Lange & Sohne factory in eastern Germany was flattened by Russian bombs in its centennial year in 1945, and the company's property and technology was confiscated by the new communist government three years later. The Langes fled westward.
Mr. Lange, 66, great-grandson of founder Adolph Lange, returned to his tiny hometown of Glashutte and relaunched Lange watches in October 1994, with financial and technical backing from Swiss watch group IWC International Watch Co.
Although he has moved from pocket watches to wristwatches and added new features like a large date indicator, Mr. Lange plays the heritage card in his marketing.
The German relaunch in October 1994-including a reception at a castle in Dresden and a print ad campaign-is the model for other markets. Print ads featured old and new Lange timepieces with the copy "The economy in East Germany starts to tick differently. A. Lange & Sohne has returned. A legend has become a watch again." Lange watches sell for $10,600 to $106,400.
Swiss agency GGK Basel, which handles Lange's $700,000 account, has also produced a 60-page catalog titled "When Time Came Home," detailing the history of the Lange family and their watches. The company prints 10,000 copies of the catalog in German, and recently added English and Italian versions. Swiss rival Philippe Patek spends $2.4 million on advertising in Germany, where it is a leading luxury brand.
At the end of 1995, Lange had sales of $14 million and 700 watches had been snapped up. The company's market research shows that its clients are mainly affluent men over 40 shopping for themselves or buying a gift for a wife or girlfriend. Mr. Lange said he hopes to boost sales to 1,200 watches a year and eventually 2,000.
"We are entirely out of stock," said Mr. Lange, who is recruiting new craftsmen to increase production.
After starting with four models-the Lange Tourbillon, Lange 1, Saxonia and the womens' Arkade-Lange chose to launch the latest Lange 1815 watch in New York in January.
Lange ads broke in Italy in November. The company is talking with jewelers about co-funding a U.S. ad campaign soon, he said.
"This year you can also buy our watches in Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur," he said. "We will have to boost our ad budget in the years to come and prefer to have no profit [in order to fund expansion] for the time being."