Lange & Söhne is a brand that stays true to its routes but is not afraid to explore new territories and this year it reiterates that with the launch of the ODYSSEUS CHRONOGRAPH which debuted at Watches & Wonders.
This newly develop timepiece combines the long history of the brand with a new innovative design and features the watchmaker’s first ever self-winding chronograph movement. With a history dating back to the 1800s, Wilhelm Schmid has a hard task on his hands connecting that history to today’s contemporary market, and ensuring that customers old and new, understand the beauty of this brand and its rich history in craftsmanship. But it’s a task he’s willing to take on and has so far succeeded in.
With the introduction of the ODYSSEUS line in 2019, the German watchmaker successfully entered a new category of elegant sports watches, and it has seen the brand go from strength to strength, so much that the demand is even greater than this delicate and complicated watches can be made. But that is not an issue for Wilhelm Schmid, whose priority the sustaining and celebrating the beauty of watchmaking craftsmanship and ensuring the brand’s watches are made by only the best in their field. Here we find out more about the newest novelty and what else we can expect in the coming year.
Congratulations on the recent edition of Watches & Wonders – let’s talk about the novelty…
Our horological journey has once again taken us to a new summit in design and manufacturing with the ODYSSEUS CHRONOGRAPH. This special stainless-steel timepiece is equipped with the newly developed calibre; the L156.1 DATOMATIC, our first self-winding chronograph movement. With its stopwatch hands at the centre of the dial and its ability to measure elapsed time up to 60 minutes, it raises the bar in terms of precision and readability. The timepiece features a pair of dual-function buttons for easy operation of the chronograph and convenient setting of the outsize date and day. Another innovative mechanism is the dynamic reset-to-zero function, which creates an impressive spectacle when the chronograph hands return to their initial position. In view of its horological complexity and the high level of craftsmanship involved, this masterpiece is limited to 100 pieces. As usual, we will be unveiling other new timepieces throughout the year.
This watch continues the new chapter for the brand – tell us how this timepiece fits into the brand portfolio and how it has in some ways changed the perception of what A. Lange & Söhne can offer?
When we launched the ODYSSEUS in 2019, it was the beginning of a new era for us. Our goal was to create a sporty, elegant timepiece for clients with an active lifestyle who don’t want to do without the consummate craftsmanship and the technical refinements of a fine mechanical watch. Although the ODYSSEUS is quite different from all our other models, there is pure Lange DNA in even the smallest detail. From the proprietary movement to the fine craftsmanship to the design elements of the dial, hands, and typography. Much like the ZEITWERK, the ODYSSEUS sparked a sense of astonishment when it was first introduced. Today, both families are an essential part of our collection.
How do you balance offering new watches such as this but also keeping with the heritage and traditions of the brand?
Ferdinand Adolph Lange had the vision of making Glashütte the centre of German fine watchmaking, which he realised over 175 years ago. His great-grandson, Walter Lange, revived the manufactory of his ancestors after the reunification of Germany and inspired A. Lange & Söhne to “never stand still” and push the boundaries of watchmaking. This personal motto has also become the philosophy of the manufactory and of our watchmakers. In this way, we have managed to create something new that has not existed before, without losing sight of the time-honoured achievements. The impressive number of manufacture calibres testifies to our innovative strength and that we are not afraid to explore previously uncharted territories. Each of our new models is distinguished by traditional elements, ground-breaking innovations, and an unparalleled level of craftsmanship.
Who is the A. Lange & Söhne customer today and do you think it has changed or evolved in recent years?
Our clients are well-educated, successful in their careers and enjoy the finer things in life. They like to travel, appreciate art and culture, exceptional craftsmanship and ingenuity, and have a taste for exclusivity. Some share our passion for elegant vintage cars and are also collectors of mechanical timepieces. The pursuit of perfection and the quest for uniqueness is what connects the people who own an A. Lange & Söhne watch with those who create them. Incidentally, this fascination is quite independent of age. However, one of our most important tasks is to educate younger people about our legacy and to spark their enthusiasm for our mechanical timepieces as well.
How does the innovation in this new movement further push the Maison’s boundaries in watchmaking?
We often find that A. Lange & Söhne is particularly valued for the development and manufacture of its own movements. Since the re-founding of our manufactory in 1990, we have created 71 distinctive movements. Each of these calibres is in a class of its own, combining technical innovation with the highest level of craftsmanship. From the very first idea of the ODYSSEUS, we recognised the great potential of this watch family and had future variations in mind. We started the development of this chronograph six years ago, even before launching the first ODYSSEUS model in 2019. The new L156.1 DATOMATIC calibre is our 13th chronograph movement, however, it marks a premiere as it is our first self-winding one.
Tell us about the positioning and direction of A. Lange & Söhne today and in your opinion, what does it take to be a successful watch brand today and to sustain that success?
I think what sets us apart from other brands is our unique history which is divided into two parts. The first part began in 1845 and ended in 1948 with the expropriation after the Second World War. The name A. Lange & Söhne nearly vanished until German reunification enabled Walter Lange to re-establish and re-register the company on December 7, 1990. After four years of development, we launched the first four watches, each equipped with a dedicated calibre. This was a monumental moment, which laid the foundation for success in modern times. Today, we are one of Germany’s leading luxury brands, dedicating all our passion to precise timekeeping, as well as aesthetics, intricacy, and complexity. The commitment to providing the highest quality and meeting our client’s expectations is the cornerstone of our success. Understanding them is essential to improving our customer service. We have learned that the best way to connect with our customers is through face-to-face contact in our own boutiques, where we can best present the special characteristics of our timepieces and our brand’s universe. By increasing our global network of boutiques, we are creating the necessary infrastructure to make this happen.
The industry seems to be thriving since the bounce back of COVID – how would you assess the industry today?
Thanks to the extraordinary commitment of our employees in Glashütte and our teams worldwide, we are very well positioned. The strategic decision to shift sales more into our own hands and to expand direct customer contact has also contributed to this success. Obviously, our devotion to the highest standards is also key. We can only remain successful if we continue to focus on the highest quality and meet our customers’ expectations. I can only speak for A. Lange & Söhne, not for the entire watch industry.
With this high demand for watches, how do you as a watchmaker ensure you can meet the needs of the customer without overstretching your craftsmen and watchmakers?
Our watches are handmade, so everything revolves around our watchmakers. They are our most valuable asset. It’s a simple calculation: Without them, we could not make watches. Working in a highly specialised field requires excellent training and an exceptional level of expertise. That is why it takes so long to make a Lange watch. We could never hire as many new watchmakers, mechanics, and engravers as we need to meet the growing demand. But we do our best because we know that the only way to ensure long-term success and growth is through excellent training.
What does A. Lange & Söhne do to sustain traditional watchmaking techniques and to ensure this lives on for future generations?
We see it as our duty to do all we can to preserve and perpetuate, with the help of future generations, the art of watchmaking and the craftsmanship associated with it, as it is a unique cultural asset of our region. As I said earlier, the very existence of our manufactory depends on highly skilled watchmakers. Walter Lange was aware of this early on. That’s why he initiated the training of apprentices as early as 1997. In October 2022, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of this commitment to vocational education and on this occasion officially renamed the institution “Walter Lange Training and Further Education Centre.” We are proud to have trained 228 watchmakers in the last twenty-five years.
What can you tell us about the brand in the Middle East today and what’s coming up for the region?
I believe that the passion for classic design, coupled with the technical ingenuity that endures, is deeply rooted in the hearts of connoisseurs in the Middle East. We are delighted that A. Lange & Söhne has so many friends in this region who cherish our vision of fine watchmaking. We are experiencing this to a great extent in our boutiques in Dubai. The number of enthusiasts and collectors who appreciate our heritage, our technical expertise, and our commitment to the highest level of craftsmanship continues to grow.
What else is coming up for the brand this year – can you give us a preview?
As always, we will introduce more new products over the year. I can’t reveal any details just yet. The next event on our agenda is this year’s Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, which will take place on the beautiful shores of Lake Como from May 19 to 21. We have been a partner of this prestigious classic car competition since 2012 and are very much looking forward to it. This year again we have created a one-of-a-kind 1815 CHRONOGRAPH which will be awarded to the owner of the “Best of Show” car. Having also been a sponsor to the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace in the UK since 2018, we are now proud to partner with one of the most important classic car events in the US for the first time: the Audrain Newport Concours d’Elegance taking place from September 28 to October 1, 2023. Classic cars and mechanical watches both represent values that are important to us.