Luxury watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne recently presented their 2014 collection around the world. During the brand’s stop in the Middle East, Haute Time Dubai had the chance to catch up with A. Lange & Söhne’s CEO Wilhelm Schmid. Here is our exclusive interview with the industry leader:
Tell us how the reception of A. Lange & Söhne was at this year’s SIHH?
It’s probably the most exciting moment of the year. Watchmakers like to keep secrets and throughout the year we don’t share our plans with anyone. SIHH is the moment of truth: it is the first time during the entire year that we share our plans with educated people, press, VIPs and our retail partners. It is only then that you know whether your efforts over a great period of time will pay off. This year we were quite happy with the reception of the novelties by press and by the retailers. To be honest, at least over the last four years I’ve attended SIHH, they’ve all be good and I hope that that is exactly what this year will turn out. We hope a good SIHH will turn into a good financial year.
I think this year we surprised everyone because we launched the Grand Complication last year which is the most complicated wrist watch ever produced by us and probably in Germany and a lot of people thought that the following year we would take it a bit easier. But we came again with two complications – the Lange Perpetual Terraluna and the Lange 1815 Toubillon and I think a lot of people were quite surprised that we had a the power to come with two top complications.
One of our favorite pieces this year, was the The Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase. Tell us how special this watch is?
The idea developed quite a while ago regarding how to produce these wonderful moon disks with a strong blue and also with a very sharp stars and dots and we still have the classical Lange 1 Moon Phase and we thought: how can we distinguish between the classical Lange 1 and the Grand Lange 1? Then we thought: why not move the moon in from where it is usually at the second hand into the main dial because we have more space and specifically because it is such a beautiful moon disk and we just have to give it more space. This turned out to be a well-received decision. Everyone thought it was a lovely watch.
It was a broad step for the brand because usually we are very discreet and this really pushed the boundaries as much as we could design-wise for us. Again, we did it to distinguish between a classical Lange 1 and a Grand Lange 1.
Another winner from SIHH was the 1815 Tourbillon. Tell us about that watch?
In every SIHH whenever we come up with our collection of novelties we try and come up with something for collectors and this is certainly the 1815 Tourbillon. It is a watch that will probably only attract people who appreciate how difficult it is to place that zero reserve mechanism on top of a very delicate tourbillion cage. So collectors at SIHH really appreciated the complication of that watch. This is something really important to us since we are a collector’s brand.
How important is the UAE Market to the brand?
I think the opening of the Dubai boutique in The Dubai Mall was a milestone for the brand in the region. Why? If you always talk to your customers through retail partners you are never sure you really get what they like. Now we have first-hand experience here because they come and they talk to our team. Of course the team can give that back to Glashutte and this provides us with access to information we never had before. On top of that I think The Dubai Mall is one of these very rare shopping – it is one of THE shopping malls of the world.
We are really at the top end of the market and the market has been strong for us for the last 10 years or so. Therefore it is very difficult for us to wage just from the Dubai market how the market is doing or how the collectors are growing within the region. Generally, our collectors are pretty international and who travel a lot.
What do you see in terms of the expansion of the brand within the Middle East?
We are also keen to evaluate the region but at the same time we are always careful about opening new points of sale be it with a boutique or a retailer. It is easy to increase demand but difficult to increase our output. We need to be very careful with that. We will take chances if it caters to our long-term goals but we just don’t increase points of sale for the sake of increasing points of sale.
You have cities that have a wealthy population and others that are known as a luxury travel hub. Dubai combines both. There are not that many cities in the world that are both travel hubs and have a wealthy population and that is why Dubai is such a great place to be. Right now we are happy with what we have.
What watch do you wear daily?
I switch my watches quite often. I am privileged because I can choose which watch I wear. If I go for a black tie evening then I will go for a Saxonia thin, something very elegant and discreet. Day-to-day I love to Datograph. I really have a passion for chronographs, I think it is an underestimated complication and it is really difficult to do it perfectly and the movement for that watch is really incredible. I also have this one (that he is wearing), the Lange 1 Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar. This is probably the most discreet way to wear about a quarter of a million euros!
I also had the 1815 Tourbillon around my wrist for three weeks and I really liked that one as well.
Who is the A. Lange & Söhne customer?
The only common nominator I think that really covers everyone is that the Lange customer is very educated. If they buy a Lange watch it is a very educated decision. They know why the want a particular watch and have done thorough research to understand what makes the watch so special. These are clients that go and buy a specific watch and for very specific reasons. Regardless to which collector I speak that is what I would underline as the common denominator of a Lange customer: very knowledgeable people about fine watchmaking. You need people who not only like the watches but like the watchmaking – they must love the technique. And that is why customers always come back: because we have an honest product; they know what they are going to get.
The A. Lange & Söhne boutique in the UAE is located in The Dubai Mall. For more information call +971 43253923.