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An Opinion on ALS: Why they are not a "trinity" brand

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So right now there's a thread running in which we are asked to identify our favorite "holy trinity" watch brand. Quite a few members have suggested that A. Lange & Sohne (ALS) belong in the "trinity" or if not that explicitly, they've implied that the trinity should become a quartet. Well I don't agree that ALS belongs in the "trinity" (I admit having a bit of an issue calling it a "holy trinity" even if I don't capitalize the terms) and I don't think the "trinity" should become a quartet.

How good ALS is at making watches has nothing to do it. How well made or innovative the others are also has nothing to do with it. If quality were so critical, FPJ, Dufour, and any number of other companies would have to be included and we'd be talking about the "choir" not the "trinity."

ALS don't deserve "trinity" status in my opinion for the following reasons:

History/Pedigree:

ALS' history, especially in the first half of the 20th century is one of perseverance and the family deserves respect for keeping the business going in spite of the challenges caused by WWI, the subsequent domestic depression Germany faced, the global depression that followed that and WWII. Many a lesser company didn't make it through those hard times. ALS finally succumbed in 1949 and although it wasn't ALS' fault necessarily. All that withstanding, the fact remains that they lack an unbroken history of making watches.

(Even though ALS was resurrected in 1994 by a member of the Lange family, it's not clear to me that it's actually the same company. It is the same name, but then it's the man's family name, and nobody had purchased the right to use it, so he was free to use it. Either way, same papers of incorporation or not isn't really the point.)Offerings

Look at ALS's website. Count the watches. Do the same for PP, AP and VC. Each "trinity member" has more different models in one line than do ALS as a whole. Yes, everything ALS offers is excellent, but so is that of the other three, so in terms of their offerings no a matter of quality or capability. It's about having breadth and depth in the standard varieties of watch offered overall as a brand. It's also a matter of scope and capacity. Look at how many different basic styles the other brands offer and look at ALS who offer one: round.

Another consideration is that as far as I can tell, each one of them has something that can compete (on the basis of substance, not price or value, per se) with nearly every single other watch offered in the industry. The only thing I can think of that none of the have is those "way out there" like some of H.Winston's, or "bleeding edge" innovation watches like Ressence's. ALS absolutely does not have that kind of breadth.

Styling: I know that the look, and the extent to which any individual person likes or doesn't like them is subjective, but what's not subjective is that ALS doesn't have so much as one watch that could be considered stylish flair. ALS have instead a few stylish watches -- uncomplicated versions of Saxonia, Zeitwerk, 1815 and R. Lange -- but once they put complications on them, they lose the flair. They don't have one line that manages to be both stylish, refined and complicated.

Instead, every single ALS watch bears the look of Teutonic austerity and purpose. It's just too "Suzy One Note" for a company that aspires to "trinity" levels. Indeed, Teutonic sobriety isn't a bad thing, and it's signature ALS, and having a signature look is a very good thing. Certainly, ALS' watches are good looking, but aside from the several models I mentioned above, there's no stylish panache, which from a "trinity player," one should expect to get a little bit of that.

What I see from ALS is a too too literal revival of some of the key themes of the Biedermeier visual arts. That's fine, but let's be real: Biedermeier was a middle class movement and to my mind, there should be nothing "middling" about anything from a "trinity" watchmaker. From a "trinity" level maker, there's needs to be some "Hapsburg," some "Prussian," or in terms of art, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism or Romanticism.

I know this is a difficult concept to understand; it's even harder to explain, and if the watches ALS make are any indication, it's also pretty difficult to manifest in a watch. I'd suggest that one take a close look at GO's watches. Notice the little details that harken back to the time before WWI when Germany, and Berlin in particular, was "the place to be" as well as capturing the grandeur of the Prussian era. In their Pano-models, they capture the themes of early 20th century modernism. Their Senator lines do that "classic elegance" thing. IMO, if GO and ALS had a "watch-child," it'd be worthy of "trinity" status or converting the "holy trinity" into the "quintessential quartet."

Another way to look at the style thing is to consider it from the other end of the spectrum. Why not admit A&S, or DeLaneau or Romain Gauthier or MB&F. The reason not to, entertain those brands is much the same as the one -- on the basis of styling -- against elevating ALS: they all just do one thing really well, but they don't have the scope to hit multiple types of balls out of the park.Art: I don't care too much what kind of visual art a company opts to deploy and I'm not opining on what is better or worse among the four brands discussed here. I'm just saying that I don't see any, of any sort from ALS. Yes, VC has a ton of "art" and lead the pack on that, but that's not the bar by which I'm measuring. PP doesn't have too much shown on their site, but there's some. AP hasn't gobs of it either, but they have several such pieces in their Millinary line, and they have quite a lot if one considers the whimsy of more than a few RO models. Trinity: There can only be three or "Highlander on Steroids"

A trinity consists of three brands, not four, not two. For ALS to join, someone would have to leave. So, if ALS were to join, considering the above, that basically means that you and I must necessarily have less choice from the makers at the so-called top of the industry. How is that beneficial?

To conclude, I have all the regard in the world for ALS. Their movements may in some ways be superior to those of the "trinity." But the fact is that the "trinity" isn't the "top three movements," it's the top three brands. If ALS grows sufficiently, I could easily "get over" the "history/pedigree" thing I mentioned above. I would get over it for two reasons:

ALS's products are just that good that it'd be stupid to deny them a place on that basis, andThe history/pedigree point was made because it's a common trait shared by the existing three, not because I think it's a requirement That said, right now, ALS have not, IMO, earned the right to displace an existing member of the triumvirate, and they have not earned the right to create a quartet.

EDIT:

I'd be willing to remove "Swiss" from the moniker and create a quartet if I felt "Swiss" were the sole reason.

All the best.

Even after making up one's mind to the sacrifices I had decided upon, there is always left a trace of envy for those who have triumphed in the melancholy struggle for supremacy.

- Paul Bourget

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It is NOT just because they aren't Swiss. It is much more than that, even if they did have their factory across the border Lange would still not be in contention for the Trinity except on internet forums. The Trinity has been the Trinity longer than any of us have been alive.

The Trinity wouldn't bother as many people as it does if the were to accept it isn't just about who makes the best (subjective/objective/whatever) watch.

 

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I think about it like this.

In order to get a good sense of how these companies stack against each other it might be useful to compare them to folk singers.

PP, VC, AP - they're Bob, Nick and John.

Long standing. True to tradition.

Now, ALS - it's Bob Dylan. Could it be considered one of the top three… maybe. On quality of work alone, sure. But when you consider the following video, it's clear that he fell from the purer faith (and much like ALS with their resurrection, is undeniably tainted, and quite unable to be elevated to the next level in folk music / horology):

….

….

I have no idea where I'm going with this.

 

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