On the Clock with A. Lange & Söhne’s CEO Wilhelm Schmid

Simone Sutnick

Wilhelm Schmid

Following the prestigious SIHH watch fair in Geneva, Watches & Wonders makes its Miami debut to showcase the latest and most luxurious timepieces from around the world. Cultured sat down with Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of Glashütte’s renowned watchmaking company A. Lange & Söhne, to talk about what makes him tick.

Can you tell me how you came into the world of watches?

That’s a very personal question, of course. I am a very lucky man because I was always passionate about two things in my life: watches and cars. I bought both my first watch and car at the age of 17. Ever since then both cars and watches have been in my life. I think I like mechanical things.

A closeup of the Triple Split

For Watches & Wonders, does the setting of Miami play any role in how you present the products?

Watches & Wonders is more local in a way and I think it is entertaining a clear emphasis on people who are interested in buying a watch. We will bring all the new watches we recently launched at SIHH to Watches & Wonders to make sure that everybody in America who is keen to see them for the first time in the flesh will have a chance to do so. Whoever comes will experience our debuts first-hand.

Last year the company presented some unique and unusual watches. What are some of the products you are particularly excited about presenting this year?

I’m a big fan of chronographs, anything with a chronograph usually excites me a lot. The Triple Split, which is truly the only one of its kind, certainly is a watch that I personally like a lot.

The 1815 Chronograph

These watches sort of represent this intersection of art, engineering and function. How do you hope these pieces integrate themselves into the lives of the people who wear them?

I think the choice of the watch you want to wear is a very personal expression. It’s usually not an accidental decision within the market sector in which we operate. It’s rather at the top of a very educated decision-making process.

Where does the inspiration for these watches come from?

You know, you can almost see Germany’s history if you follow the history of our company, since they have a lot of things in common – with the exception of 40 years behind the Iron Curtain when of course the West and the East went quite different ways. A. Lange & Söhne stands for many things that people will associate with Germany: there is discipline and perfectionism, there’s an engineering and design approach based on solutions. There is a no nonsense approach to all our watches and all of them are very legible regardless of how complicated they are. There’s also that love for detail. Our attention to the smallest details is probably far grater than that of any other watchmaker. This is a German approach to things for sure: we like it precise. We are also not known for being the most ostentatious people, so some of the understatement within our watch designs—specifically on the dial— is probably perceived as German by some people. On the other hand, we have the opulence in the movement. We decorate all the tiny components with different finish techniques like polishing and make them as beautiful as possible. We don’t like to show off with things but aim towards creating things that are beautiful.

Detail of the Triple Split’s inner mechanics

What do watches represent beyond telling time?

Our watches do exactly that very precisely and we are extremely proud of it, but people don’t just buy our watches because they tell time. In a way, watches outlived their usefulness ages ago. Today, you can get the time everywhere and you don’t need a watch for that. Even if you don’t have your cellphone available, you can see time indicators everywhere. At the end of the market in which we operate, you buy a watch as an expression and extension of your personality. It’s foremost the design you like and it’s almost like a hidden code because you know what you buy and why you buy it. And you certainly don’t do it to impress others. You predominantly do it to please yourself. If I talk to our customers, this kind of golden thread goes through the discussion that I have with them.