Can you describe to us the process your watchmakers go through to attain the level of skill they need to create items that can stand the test of time like these cars can?
A watchmaker does not construct watches. That’s the job of the construction department. They have the ideas. They design and construct the parts. But it is not always straightforward. There is a lot of work to be done to bring these two stages together. Sometimes things work on the computer but not in reality. It is the job of the watchmakers to figure out what works well and what doesn’t.
This is one element, one path, where watchmakers learn throughout their career [through time at the bench] what works and what doesn’t. We aim to give our watchmakers a good start in their career with our watchmaking school, and a three-year apprenticeship program to bring up young people to the necessary level. And then it takes another two years after that apprenticeship before they are really capable of working in the factory.
After that, it is a lot to do with your personal talent and dedication, your passion and patience. It takes the whole package to elevate you to the necessary level.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for a brand like Lange in the future?
That’s a very easy question. We have three challenges. The first challenge is that about 85% of the people working for A. Lange & Söhne live in and around Glashütte, while 100% of our customers do not. So to bring Glashütte and Lange & Söhne to the world, and the world to Lange & Söhne and Glashütte is, in my mind, the biggest challenge.
Because we are the biggest brand in town, it is easy to get complacent, because you do not feel that breath of change and competition upon your neck. This means we must be proactive in reaching new people.
The second challenge is how to share the secret. For a big brand, Lange is also a bit under-the-radar. A lot of people buy Lange & Söhne because they can get a very expensive watch without being identified as a big spender – the American concept of “stealth wealth.” So how do you maintain that? How do you remain a secret while increasing awareness? That is the second challenge, which leads in into the third one.
How do you make sure that young people understand what we do and how and why we do it? That is what keeps me kicking every day. We just have to explain what we do, and it is up to the audience to decide what to do with that information.
Is being part of a luxury group (Richemont) restrictive for a brand with the legacy and reputation of Lange, as it tries to position itself correctly to speak to a new generation of watch consumers?
No, not at all. There are many things that would be very difficult for us if we were on our own. For example, managing cybercrime, logistics, legal matters etc., etc. That whole backbone is dealt with by dedicated professionals that are part of Richemont’s core. So, as a matter of fact, it is a great advantage to be part of a big company.
Being part of a group does warrant a bit of explanation, a bit of communication to the customer. I think Richemont is a great company that gives us, the brand of A. Lange & Söhne, a lot of freedom, as well as a lot of support.
Last question: Beyond the acquisition of beautiful things like cars and watches, what do you think the positive effect of visiting an event like this and being exposed to these mechanical marvels can have on someone who has no previous interest in either field?
It’s almost art. If you are never exposed to art, you will never understand art. If you are not exposed to these cars, these watches, this environment, you will never understand why people are crazy about it. And I think it’s a good side effect that, if you experience it here, then you experience it in a different habitat than you would see it if you went into a shop or if you saw these cars on the street.
Here you can really indulge yourself. That’s why we prepared this marquee – the House of Lange. Because you can really go and see, experience, and touch it. Having the chance to meet so many like-minded people as they go about exploring and sharing in our passion for watchmaking is a pleasure and the thing I love most about my job.
A. Lange & Söhne CEO Wilhelm Schmid spoke to Rob Nudds for aBlogtoWatch at the Hampton Court Palace Concours d’Elegance 2019. Learn more about A. Lange & Söhne and the traditions of German watchmaking at alange-soehne.com.