Capturing the beauty and intricacy of a watch complication on camera is no mean feat. A. Lange & Söhne explores its iconic watches through the lens of a camera in a unique way.
Photography like watchmaking is a refined art. It requires a creative eye and imagination far beyond the ordinary to get the perfect picture. But it’s not limited to these attributes alone. Technology also plays a key role in this process. Realising this potential of technically sound photography, A. Lange & Söhne ventured into a new aesthetic development in 2017.
The brand made use of the collodion wet-plate process in photography for the first time. This process demands the ultimate in patience, care and attention to details. The end result is an incomparable visual signature. And that was the modus operandi of the unique portraits of the new timepieces, which the brand unveiled in 2017.
Everything in the collodion wet-plate process is done by hand. Invented by British photographer Frederick Scott Archer, this process is a painstaking one, allowing only a few photographs each day. The extraordinary techniques involved in this amazing photography comprised the use of glass plates and chemicals mixed by hand. A historic large-format camera and its almost identical counterpart, a SINAR camera, were also used. The herculean efforts gone into photographing the watches with this process has resulted in an impressive array of images that reflect the historic authenticity of A. Lange & Söhne.
Through the lens of time
With the collodian wet-plate process, seven of the new Lange timepieces for 2017 were captured. It was a three-day studio session in early December. The watches that were clicked were:
- Tourbograph Perpetual“Pour Le Mérite”
- Lange 1 Moonphase
- 1815 Annual Calendar
- Richard Lange Jumping Seconds
- Lange 31
- Little Lange 1 Moon Phase
The photography involved two key elements. First was the idea of product position. The way the watch is placed went hand in hand with the lighting, optimum focus and the desired depth of field. Second was the meticulous preparation of the glass plates and the developing process in the laboratory.
Here’s how the chemical process evolved:
In a first step, a glass plate is coated with collodion, a liquid photosensitive base. This is made by dissolving cellulose nitrate in ether and alcohol. Subsequently soluble iodide is added. Around a dozen different chemicals are used in the process before the finished image can be seen.
In the darkroom, the coated plate is dipped into a dish containing silver nitrate solution. The iodine salts are chemically replaced by light-sensitive silver iodide and silver bromide particles. These are evenly distributed in the collodion coating. The wet plate prepared in this way is placed in a light-tight plate holder and slid into the camera.
Exposing the plate to light initiates a chemical reaction in the light-sensitive coating. Its results first slowly appear in a developing bath in the red light of the darkroom.
The process only works while the plate is still wet. Therefore, the exposed plate has to be developed immediately. If the plate dries out, the enormous effort is wasted. Within 5-15 minutes, the photographer is required to complete the entire process – from coating the plate to developing the final image.
After developing, the images must be fixed, watered and dried before they can be coated and made ready for subsequent scanning. The best part about the pictures created using this method is that they can be enlarged to many times their original format. All this without losing their sharpness or clarity. As we said before, the end result is completely worth the efforts. The photographs have a magical aura about them. With an impressive play of contrast and brightness, they seem to be from another age.
A. Lange & Söhne will treat watch connoisseurs with these out-of-the-world photographs on their Instagram handle. We surely wouldn’t want to miss this splendid display. And you shouldn’t either!