Wilhelm Schmid A. Lange&Söhne CEO Discuss 2024 For The Watchmaker

Emma Hodgson   |   29-04-2024

A. Lange & Söhne is a brand thats so rich in history and legacy, with traditional craftsmanship at the heart of everything it does. But, despite this, the German luxury watchmaker has never let this deter from its ability to constantly innovate and stay relevant for todays customers. Finding this perfect balance is a major task for the companys CEO Wilhelm Schmid, who has made it his mission to stay true to the roots of the company, while ensuring that its products appeal to both existing and potential new clients. With everything the brand does, its watches are the most important factor, and it is this that has allowed it not to distract from the craftsmanship and decades-old methods that make watches continue to remain very special objects today. As the brand reveals its 2024 novelties, we find out whats to come from this exciting year ahead. 

Tell us about the vision and direction for the brand this year. 

This year, we are once again following our philosophy to “never stand still” by taking our craftsmanship to new heights. It is also the year of anniversaries for us. 30 years ago, in October 1994, we presented our first collection, which included the LANGE 1. The 25th anniversary of the DATOGRAPH, our first chronograph, is also coming up. In addition, our company founder, Walter Lange, would have been 100 years old.

What else is in the pipeline for this region, and how are you connecting with customers here?  

I recently had the great pleasure of experiencing a truly inspiring tour of the Middle East, including visits to our boutiques in Doha, Riyadh, and Dubai. I learnt that the appreciation for what the skilled workers in our Glashütte manufacture achieve is unbroken and that our community of Lange friends in the region is constantly growing. In this respect, I am delighted that our boutiques enable these watch enthusiasts to follow their keen interest and passion for the defining characteristics of our watchmaking artistry.

What can you tell us about the watches launching at this years edition of  Watches & Wonders? 

In 1999, a special watch entered the world of chronographs: our DATOGRAPH. In many respects, it was a true pioneering achievement by our watchmakers. It was also the basis for many other chronographs at A. Lange & Söhne. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the DATOGRAPH, we presented two new masterpieces at this years Watches and Wonders: the DATOGRAPH UP/DOWN in white gold with a blue dial, limited to 125 pieces. And the most complicated DATOGRAPH model: the DATOGRAPH PERPETUAL TOURBILLON HONEYGOLD Lumen”. The combination of flyback chronograph, perpetual calendar and tourbillon with a stop-seconds mechanism is now available for the first time in our exclusive honey gold and as a “Lumen” version, limited to 50 pieces. Both models continue our legacy by combining highly sophisticated functions with a well-balanced dial configuration.

As a brand, you have always remained very loyal to your values and heritage – how do you balance this with moving forward to please todays customer? 

More than 175 years ago, Ferdinand Adolph Lange realised his vision of making the remote town of Glashütte the centre of German fine watchmaking. His great-grandson Walter Lange ventured to start over again after the reunification of Germany by reviving the manufacture of his ancestors. With each new model, we are driven by the idea of creating something unique, a timepiece that has never been made this way before and is useful at the same time. Thus, since 1990, we have managed to create seventy-two genuine movements. Every single one is distinguished by traditional elements, ground-breaking innovations, and an unparalleled level of craftsmanship. Our most important strategy is to protect and preserve what characterises A. Lange & Söhne: the way we make watches. If we continue to pursue this strategy consistently, I am certain that we, as a company, can look to the future with confidence.

How do you feel about endorsements and partnerships as a company? 

The focus of our communication is always on our watches. That’s why we choose our partnerships carefully. Classic car events offer us the opportunity to get in touch with people who share our passion for mechanical masterpieces. This year, in addition to prestigious classic car shows on Lake Como, in London and Newport, USA, we are participating for the first time as the main partner in the Concours of Elegance Germany, which will celebrate its premiere on Lake Tegernsee at the end of July.

Whats the biggest challenge you face in your position today?

Managing resources and change is one of the biggest challenges and an ongoing process. I often find myself having to explain that it takes time to make our watches because they are handmade. It takes people to make them. We work in a very specialised field that requires very good training and a high level of expertise. We could never take on as many new watchmakers, mechanics and engravers as would be necessary to meet the increasing demand. But we do our best because we know very well that success and growth can only be secured in the long term through excellent professional training. Thats why, for more than 25 years, we have made it our mission as a company to prepare passionate young people for the profession of watchmaking. We can only lead our craftsmanship into the future if we pass it on to the next generation.

How would you assess the industry as a whole today?

I can only speak for A. Lange & Söhne, not for the entire watch industry. I am delighted that our watches are held in high esteem all over the world. This is primarily thanks to our highly skilled watchmakers, finishers and all the other craftspeople involved in the process. The special proximity to our customers makes it clear to us time and again that our quality standards give us a good reason to look into the future with optimism.

What would you still like to achieve at the brand that you havent yet

Each of our achievements is due to the efforts of several people who have worked well together as a team. In this respect, I am happy to work with highly qualified people who share something very essential: a passion for the way we build our watches. However, only as many watches can be manufactured as there are people available to make them. As we are naturally limited in terms of production capacities, I am sure that the proportion of more complicated timepieces will increase in the future. This opens up great prospects for further innovations and technical achievements. And I’m already looking forward to being involved in the launch of these future masterpieces. There is no better privilege!

What message would you send to our readers?

There is no substitute for the experience of feeling an A. Lange & Söhne watch on your wrist and hear it tick. I therefore invite anyone who is enthusiastic about distinctive design, high-quality craftsmanship and sophisticated innovations to visit our boutiques, because thats the best place to immerse yourself in our world of watchmaking.