Interview: A. Lange & Söhne CEO Wilhelm Schmid On Scarcity, Odysseus, And What 2021 Has In Store
The head of the Glashütte-based brand reveals that the best is yet to come.
At Watches & Wonders 2021, A. Lange & Söhne debuted subtle updates to some of their most popular models. Our friends at Lange know what it takes to set collector's hearts aflutter from new aventurine dialed Little Lange 1s to a heavy metal solid pink gold Triple Split.
Watchonista sat down virtually with A. Lange & Söhne’s CEO Wilhelm Schmid to recap a very unusual year and took a moment to try and predict what’s next for the famed German watchmaker.
Small, But Subtle Differences
The overarching theme of A. Lange & Söhne’s 2021 releases is, “small but subtle difference that plays the decisive role.” When asked why the brand bucked the trend of bringing out innovations at Watches & Wonders like other brands, Schmid replied, “It's not a completely new topic because I believe Lange, in general, is all about the subtle differences possible within high-end watchmaking.”
The brand has never been hyper-focused on making a splash, which Schmid acknowledged, “We may not be the greatest marketing company on the planet, but that's also not what we want to be.”
A few years back, A. Lange & Söhne made a splash with a unique Datograph Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon. And while the complications alone would cause a fuss on any normal day, it was the dial of this highly complicated watch that set the horological web aflame.
The first color people associated with this unique dial was salmon. Alas, A. Lange & Söhne was quick to point out that the official color of this dial was…pink gold. And though the delicious fish isn't technically a color on Lange’s official palette, it didn't stop us from proclaiming, "I love the salmon dial!"
For 2021, the brand adds more pink gold to their lineup with two new versions of the Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar. One model features a pink gold case with a grey dial, while another features a white gold case with, you guessed it, a pink gold dial.
When I asked Schmid why pink gold was so popular among Lange collectors, he replied, “Well, it's because it's solid gold and it is untreated solid pink gold, and it's a specialty piece. That's why you see it in limited editions and not in the collection.” One can only dream...
Pop quiz, name a mega-complication that can bring a smile to a collector's face with simply the utterance of its name. If you guessed the Triple Split, you would be correct. It’s just fun to say excitedly, “Triple Split!”
For 2021, A. Lange & Söhne released another 100 pieces of the Triple Split in pink gold with a blue dial and silver colored Rhodium sub-dials. It is a piece that needs to be seen to be believed. Luckily for you, Watchonista had plenty of hands-on time!
When I asked Schmid why it took three years to come out with a new version of the Triple Split, he replied, “The first 100 [Triple Splits] took about three years. We managed to squeeze out maybe 30 to 33 watches a year. That's it. Because we only have a handful of watchmakers to work on it, and it's a beast to assemble. So that's why we always limit it to 100 [pieces].”
But does Schmid have a favorite of the two Triple Splits? “The new model is statically louder if I can put it that way. I wouldn't say it’s a loud watch. We don't produce loud watches, but for sure, it's more eye-catching than the first version.”
Joining The Steel Craze
Now, almost two years removed from its launch, and even though the brand wasn’t releasing any Odysseus models at this year’s fair, I had to get an update on one of its talking pieces.
According to Schmid, the polarization of Odysseus was entirely expected: “I always say if something is instantaneously beautiful, there's usually not a lot of longevity in it. It has to be somehow controversial. And specifically, if you consider that we only produce a few thousand watches a year, we obviously are not mainstream nor into the mass market. But this piece has fit our customer profile quite well.”
A Return To Villa d’Este?
Of course, the question on many people’s minds is the return of live events. A. Lange & Söhne does not do many in-person events, even pre-COVID, but one event that always caught my eye was the Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este.
Last year's edition was canceled due to the global health situation but is due to return this October at Villa d'Este in Lake Como, Italy. When asked if the brand would return to the famed Concours show, Schmid replied, ”Yes! In October. So I have a very busy late summer-autumn with the Concours of Elegance Hampton Court Palace at the beginning of September. And then very likely the Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este in October. So yeah, fall will keep us busy after having no events for a long time now. They’ll all come in one month.”