Wilhelm Schmid was 17 when he bought his first mechanical watch and began collecting timepieces.
Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of German watch-makers Lange Uhren GmbH.
Thirteen years later he lost that treasured original item in his collection which he had hidden in the boot of his BMW while he was out swimming in one of Hamburg lakes.
"In fact both the car and the watch were stolen," he said. "Men may not have many hobbies... mine are cars and watches. I wasn't worried about losing the car because it was insured, but my first mechanical watch meant much more to me. Unfortunately, I didn't get either of them back."
In his professional life, Schmid has been fortunate in finding jobs that relate to his hobbies. He worked in sales and marketing at BMW prior to taking up the post of CEO at Lange Uhren GmbH, manufacturer of A. Lange & Sohne watches.
Datograph Up/Down in a platinum case.
"I'm the son of a car dealer so I was naturally attracted to BMW. When I got a job there, I said to my wife in all seriousness, 'That's it for my life'. I would have stayed at BMW if a fantastic challenge like A. Lange & Sohne hadn't come up," he said.
"Founded in 1845, the company has been through many struggles, surviving World War II, then closed down behind the Iron Curtain for some 40 years before it was revived in 1990. We have made a strong comeback and it's a privilege for me to help write its next chapter."
While Germany is well known for its high-quality cars, machinery and computer software, it doesn't have a name for making fine watches, Schmid noted, adding that it was this absence of a manufacturing reputation that first interested him in the home-grown watch industry. After his appointment as CEO in January last year, he observed that it was not important for real connoisseurs whether a watch came from Germany, Switzerland or elsewhere, since such individuals are very knowledgeable about timepieces and tend to get exactly what specifications they want while ensuring they also get the best value for their money.
"One of the challenges is to translate elements of our 167-year-old heritage into contemporary timepieces and we steer our efforts towards making watches of the highest quality and craftsmanship that carry on the Lange legacy."
The watches are still crafted at the brand's birthplace in Glashutte, a town in the state of Saxony, where the firm's founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, first earned a reputation for his exceptional pocket watches.
"We looked at old Lange pocket watches to work out a design for what they would look like today as wristwatches, incorporating their DNA, so to speak, into valuable timepieces crafted according to traditional watch-making methods," said Schmid.
Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar and its calibre L082.1 with the overhead calendar module.
"One example of this DNA is the three-quarter plate introduced by Ferdinand Adolph Lange to ensure resistance to distortion. It is made of untreated German silver [aka nickel silver], an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc which, over time, acquires a beautiful, gold-coloured patina. The older the alloy, the nicer this patina. The plate also allows for our traditional engraving and decorations; it takes several days to create these 3D works of art."
The original Lange pocket watches also featured a hand-engraved balance cock that supports the staff of the balance wheel. New models made by the firm also boast this beautiful feature which, as an alternative to the traditional floral engraving, can be personalised with the owner's initials, coat of arms or any other motifs to make a one-of-a-kind timepiece.
"The engraving can take several days to complete. Likewise, the most sophisticated and time-consuming type of [finish], the black polish, requires five days of work and you need somebody who knows how to do it. You literally compress the surface of the metal in order to let light go in and out at the same angle, and this makes it appear black," he explained.
Released in 1994, Lange 1 was the first watch of new era that followed the reunification of Germany when Walter Lange re-established his great-grandfather's business. With an off-centre arrangement of displays and the patented outsize date, the model became a classic that encouraged the creation of such sibling models as the 2012 Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar and the new Grand Lange 1.
Other new editions that came out in 2012 include the Datograph Up/Down which has a stopwatch function. Found in very few chronographs, the technically complex flyback mechanism makes it possible to perform instantly consecutive time measurements by combining three steps _ stop, reset, restart _ into one.
Since its comeback, the brand has been marketed in a total of 56 countries and its CEO places great importance on efficient distribution networks.
"At Glashutte, we produce precious timepieces for watch connoisseurs," Schmid said, "and from this little village we want to connect to the world."
A. Lange & Sohne timepieces are available at Pendulum boutiques at Siam Paragon, Emporium, and Gaysorn shopping centres.
In an 18-carat white gold case, the new model of Lange 1 Time Zone with luminous hands and markers.
Grand Lange 1 with new aesthetic dimensions and proportions.
About the author
- Writer: Kanokporn Chanasongkram