SINGAPORE (Jan 17): The last quarter of 2019 was a very busy time for Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne. Within that short span of a few months, he launched the 25th anniversary edition of the Lange 1 watches; launched the Lange 1 Tourbillon “25th Anniversary” edition; introduced a new timepiece concept, Odysseus; and finally officiated at the reopening of the A. Lange & Söhne flagship boutique at ION Orchard after a three-month closure for renovation.
It was for the last reason that Schmid was in Singapore and Options managed to get some face-time with him. He tells us that the reopening of the Singapore boutique holds a special meaning for him. He says: “This is not my first time [attending] the opening of this boutique as I officially opened this same [boutique] in 2012. Over time, we have changed our boutique concept and this concept is a lot more educational in many ways. You now see more of our history and technical abilities.”
The boutique has always been a special place for watch collectors as it invites them to explore the world of Saxon watchmaking. In keeping with the German heritage of the maison, the boutique uses utilitarian steel, natural stone and colours that closely resemble the Ore Mountains in eastern Germany, home of the watch manufactory. Along with the various shades of grey, which is the official colour of the maison, a warm tone was added in the form of gold and silver. The shade is important to A. Lange & Söhne as it represents the colour of traditional German silver, which is used in all the movements for all the timepieces.
Schmid says in a statement: “The aim to reflect the brand’s personality through every aspect of our retail spaces is an integral part of our international communication and sales strategy. We have chosen to adopt a concept which lies at the heart of our unique approach to watch design. By uniting fine art and functional design, Lange focuses on creating practical timepieces with an artistic sensibility, while at the same time integrating craftsmanship, technology and an assortment of select materials into one single universe.”
Some may be surprised that A. Lange & Söhne is only celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Lange 1 collection, this from a brand that has its beginnings in 1868. The history is a complex and intriguing one: It all began when Ferdinand A Lange started as a clockmaker’s apprentice at the age of 15 in Germany. Upon completion of his apprenticeship, Ferdinand travelled to France, England and Switzerland, and recorded his horological insights in a journal that served as his workbook which is on display at the manufactory in Glashütte.
Ferdinand chose Glashütte because he wanted to create jobs for the town’s residents, who had lost their livelihood when ore mining was discontinued. He introduced the metric system for creating timepieces and developed the signature three-quarter plate, which is still used today, to ensure stability for the movement.
In 1868, Ferdinand changed the company name to A. Lange & Söhne when his son Richard joined the business. A few years later, his younger son Emil joined as well. Richard and Emil continued their father’s legacy after his death in 1875. In 1902, A. Lange & Söhne brought out a chiming mechanism, minute repeater, split-seconds chronograph with flying seconds, and perpetual calendar with a moonphase display.
Perhaps one of the most important legacies left by Richard is the reworking of the hairspring – an important component found in every mechanical movement. He
added beryllium to nickel and steel alloys that help improve the quality of the hairspring, thus giving a more accurate reading.
From 1948, the manufactory was nationalised by the communist regime until 1989, when communism in Germany ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall that kept East and West Germany apart. It was left to the late Walter Lange to revive the brand – which he did in 1990. Four years later, the iconic Lange 1 was born.
To many of us, 25 years is a long time, but it is different when measured in timepieces. Schmid says: “I always raise this question: Can you remember what you were wearing 25 years ago? Or what car you were driving 25 years ago? Do you remember what cell phone you had? There’s hardly anything you have today that you bought 25 years ago that you still admire.”
Schmid goes on to compare all of this with the Lange 1 and adds that the timepiece has been around for 25 years and is still a best-seller. “It looks as fresh today as it was 25 years ago,” he says.
We put Schmid to the test and ask him about his own significant moments when it comes to timepieces. While many watch CEOs come into the job without much horological background, Schmid remembers the first watch he had at the age of perhaps nine, which was given by his godfather as a present to commemorate his First Holy Communion, an important milestone in the life of a Catholic.
The young Schmid played soccer that afternoon and lost his watch the very same day he received it. It was only at the age of 17 that he bought himself a mechanical watch, which was stolen soon after. He recalls: “The first watch I bought myself with my own money was at the age of 17 – the same year I bought my car.”
He says: “I was living in Hamburg at that time with my then-girlfriend – now wife. We went for a swim in summer and I thought it was a clever idea to put the watch into the boot of the car while we swam.”
It wasn’t such a good idea in hindsight as the car was stolen along with the watch. Schmid says with a laugh: “I still have the box, the paper, the invoice, but not the watch.”
The incident never fazed him nor did it diminish his love for timepieces, which is why this job is the perfect one for Schmid. While he is cautious about letting us into what the future holds for A. Lange & Söhne, he reveals that he is optimistic. “I am a German who has lived in South Africa and the one thing that I have learned is to be optimistic and cautious,” he says.
THE LANGE FAMILY OF TIMEPIECES
Lange 1 Tourbillon ‘25th Anniversary’
The timepiece was launched in 2000 and had an intriguing combination of a tourbillon, an outsize date, a three-day movement and a power-reserve indicator.
Ref 722.066 is powered by the Lange manufacture calibre L961.4, manually wound, crafted to the most exacting Lange-quality standards, decorated and assembled by hand; precision-adjusted in five positions; plates made of untreated German silver; steel tourbillion cock on the dial side, with black polishing; blue intermediate wheel and tourbillion cock engraved by hand, with engraving of the Lange outsize date on the intermediate wheel cock.
With the launch of this timepiece, the A. Lange & Söhne family grows to six and the Odysseus features a tailor-made, self-winding movement with a large dayof-
week and date display. Meant to be a sporty-elegant watch, it runs on the Lange manufacture calibre L155.1 Datomatic, self-winding, crafted to the most exacting Lange-quality standards, decorated and assembled by hand; precision-adjusted in five positions; unidirectionally winding central rotor with platinum centrifugal mass; and balance bridge engraved by hand.