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Wilhelm Schmid on the Lange Odysseus, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater and COVID-19

Wilhelm Schmid on the Lange Odysseus, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater and COVID-19

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Usually, we would start by saying “we sat down with Mr Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, to talk about the brand’s most up to date releases” or something like that. Indeed, not today. Last week I met ‘virtually’ with Wilhelm Schmid during a Zoom meeting for an interview about the two curiosities A. Lange & Söhne presented during the (again, virtual) Watches & Wonders of this current year. Only two oddities for A. Lange & Söhne and to be honest, no pivotal curiosities either. Notwithstanding, Mr Schmid gave some knowledge into what’s to come and how the company is reacting to the current COVID-19 challenges in the short and long term. 

A. Lange & Söhne presented what insiders would call ‘animations’. An animation, for instance, could be another dial tone or a case in an alternate material. The two new watches from Lange are the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater that presently comes in white gold and another Odysseus that also comes in white gold . You may presume that gold was on a markdown. Less, as gold costs are at an all-time high. The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater was presented in 2015 in platinum with a white/silver dial, and the new white gold version is a restricted edition of 30 pieces and comes with a drop-dead stunning dark blue dial. A staggering combination and it meant more than basically swapping a repeater development from a platinum case to a gold case. Mr Schmid explains why.

And then there’s the Odysseus, Lange’s first steel sports watch . Presently it also comes in white gold with a ‘groovy’ gray dial and on an elastic or leather strap. I suppose you can already imagine my first question to Lange’s CEO and I can already say that the answer, to me at least, is somewhat of a disappointment. However, more on that beneath in the interview!

Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Looking at the curiosities, there are relatively few technicalities to talk about this year as the models and their ‘engines’ are notable by our readers. Notwithstanding, the principal thing I wondered is whether the elastic strap of the white gold Odysseus will be retrofittable (is this an actual word?) on the Odysseus in steel? 

Wilhelm Schmid, A. Lange & Söhne: No, we stay again extremely clear – you know us – there’s a steel version with a steel bracelet, and there’s a white gold version with an elastic or leather strap. And indeed, you can change the leather strap against the elastic or the elastic against the leather, yet no, you can not swap the leather to the steel or the steel bracelet to the white gold watch.

Unless you change the strap yourself?

Well, no, it’s not even that. I would not recommend it and even I was unable to do it. It’s something for a watchmaker to do on the off chance that you really want to do it. Be that as it may, technically it’s unrealistic to do easily.

OK, so that’s a major no! Be that as it may, maybe it will be planned in the near future or would you really like to keep the steel Odysseus with steel bracelet and the white gold version with elastic or leather?

The future is an exceptionally long timeframe, however until further notice, I believe it’s not in our plans.

That’s somewhat of a pity, I think. 

Well, as I said, you can have either steel or gold. And recall that we’re already striving a great deal to satisfy the demand of the steel Odysseus. From the reactions I’ve seen up until now, we will increase that battle with the white gold version. Along these lines, you know, on the off chance that you start blending everything in with everything, that’s not really us. We have an extremely clear approach, for example, gray dials are the white gold versions. Black dials are platinum versions. And that’s for each of the item families, clearly decided, it’s a strategy, and that’s especially the same here. We want to stay clear, as you probably are aware us.

Any inclination? White gold or steel? 

I personally am a major fan of the Odysseus in white gold because I’m not that large a fan of metal bracelets. And for me personally, I think the Odysseus on an elastic strap is probably my casual watch in the future.

Now that shocking Zeitwerk Minute Repeater… At the start of our conversation, you mentioned that it was not exactly a basic transplantation of the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater development into a white gold case. 

Exactly, and you want to have a particular, distinctive tone. Along these lines, in the event that you just put the development in, it doesn’t work that way. You have to work with the hammers and the gold, you have to calibrate it to really make a distinction in tone. Thus, in the event that you put the watches close to each other and tune in, you will see that the platinum watch is fresh and clear, and the white gold version is softer and warmer. The degree of uproar is exactly the same. And again, in the event that you change things in a minute repeater, you have to work with the acoustics. Unfortunately or fortunately, dislike you can take the one and put it in the other and say all done. It needs and merits a ton of adjusting to really escape a minute repeater what you want it to do.

Have there been technical changes or does this absolutely come down to fine-adjusting by a generally excellent watchmaker?

That’s actually tweaking and that’s actual watchmaking because it’s nothing you can technically ‘construct’. It merits a watchmaker with a decent ear and great fingers to adjust it. Be that as it may, again, it wasn’t a basic transportation from the development into another case, and presto it works. It was actually significantly more work and detail to get the fine tone that we wanted.

By the way, it looks incredibly, great, this white gold minute repeater with a blue dial.

I’m not certain which one I like more. I love the platinum one, I have to be completely forthright with you, however you know, they are totally unique. And indeed, the blue looks shocking, I agree.

Do you plan anything, as far as activities or occasions this year, or are all your plans on ice for the present and the remainder of this year?

We do have a clear plan, yet we also realize that this plan is based on what we know today. We know without a doubt that the Concours d’Elegance in Italy at Lake Como won’t take place in May. No one knows right now whether the Classic Days at Schloss Dyck in Dusseldorf will take place in early August. The vast majority accept the probability isn’t high. Thus, it’s not possible for anyone to reveal to us right now whether Hampton Court will take place or not. We claim as on the off chance that it will take place and, we have to change the second we realize it doesn’t happen. There is without a doubt one occasion that will take place and that’s the 175th anniversary of watchmaking in Glashütte. Whether that’s an occasion or something digital we don’t have the foggiest idea yet. Again, it’s too soon to say, however there is more in the pipeline. We accept that in today’s environment it’s extremely hard to plan.

The 175th anniversary of watchmaking in Glashütte? Please advise me more. 

In 1845, Ferdinand Adolph Lange established Lange & Söhne, and that was exactly 175 years ago. Along these lines, it’s a major day for Glashütte. And that’s really the anniversary of fine watchmaking in Glashütte, so it’s overall A. Lange & Söhne. Obviously, it’s our author that initiated fine watchmaking in Glashütte, so we will take that occasion to celebrate a tad. How? We don’t know yet. It’s too soon to really say. Be that as it may, have confidence, there is more to come all through the year!

Are the occasions like Hampton Court, Classic Days and the 175th Anniversary meant to showcase the upcoming launches for this year? 

That’s the idea, at least if these occasions take place. If not, we’ll have to discover alternatives.

We as of late did a story on what could change for the business, because of the Coronavirus , and what we can learn from it. How would you see the impact of COVID-19 on the business, especially on A. Lange & Söhne, its customers, ways of working with genuine retailers, yet in addition with providers and everything?

You know what, Frank, I can’t offer you a decent response on that. I accept that once the emergency is managed, we will see two things. One thing is we will come out significantly more digital than we got into this challenging time, and the second thing I accept is that we will all value personal relationships considerably more than previously. These are the two things and I know they’re almost inverse. On the one hand, you have as we talk now, a digital encounter, yet on the other hand and to be honest, as much as I appreciate seeing us on the screen, I’d rather see you in person, have a coffee and a chat.

I think what we experience with social distancing right now is exactly what we’ll appreciate once it’s finished. Along these lines, we will value personal relationships and at the same time, we’ll become more digital.

Any chance that online business will play a job for A. Lange & Söhne? 

Well, our main aim is to create beautiful watches and produce them. At the point when my customers want to get them online and presently don’t like to come to a physical purpose of sales with human interaction, then we will accommodate that. Right now, I accept there’s still much more individuals wanting that personal interaction, yet I also admit that given social distancing and that we probably have to live with that challenge for some time, it will change. We are prepared for both, however as I said previously, I actually accept that later on certain individuals will in any case favor the personal interaction and maybe some more individuals will want to go web based business and we will accommodate those.