Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of Lange Uhren GmbH (A. Lange & Söhne) shares with CPP-LUXURY.COM, in an exclusive interview, his vision of fine watchmaking in the 21st century, speaking about heritage, craftsmanship, creativity, retail, lifestyle and marketing.
In today’s fast world dominated by the internet, watches are no longer a necessity. Speaking of luxury watches, what is your view on functionality versus aesthetics?
Our customers buy an A. Lange & Söhne timepiece because they love it, not because they need it. One of the reasons is the symbiosis of form and function. At Lange, you cannot have one without the other. We believe that the creativity of the calibre designer should be reflected by the aesthetics of case and dial – and vice versa. It is for the very same reason, that our calibre engineers and product designers work hand in hand right from the beginning of every new development project.
Many wealthy consumers in emerging markets may buy a watch because of how recognizable its design is, the show-off factor being very important. Please share your opinion. Although a striking design is part of the package, A. Lange & Söhne timepieces are not bought to impress others. Apart from design styles the intrinsic appeal of our timepieces is in the quality that can be perceived immediately when you hold the watch in your hand and the fact that with the purchase of a Lange watch every customer becomes part of the unique history behind the brand.
For a brand such as A. Lange & Söhne, which are the most effective marketing communications tools in reaching out to younger consumers and consumers in emerging markets?
First of all, I am under the impression that there is a genuine interest in fine watchmaking among young people. They have always been looking for true values – in products as well as in communications. Therefore, reaching out to younger target groups is less a question of tools than of content. Both our timepieces and our communication reflect authenticity, consistency and sustainability. This is what our customers cherish – regardless of age.
How important are mono-brand boutiques in your retail expansion worldwide? How do you evaluate the readiness of a market for a mono-brand boutique? Do you operate directly or franchise?
Mono-brand stores take an important part in our distribution strategy. With a representative collection and the best possible advice they offer the best chance to enhance consumers’ experience of of our handcrafted timepieces. We have opened our boutiques in major shopping conurbations of key markets where we have a loyal customer base. Most of our boutiques are operated directly by us.
What is the liaison between A. Lange & Söhne and lifestyle? Tell us more about your sponsorship of Concorso d’Eleganza.
The Concorso d’Eleganza is a good example of the brand’s connection with lifestyle. The competition attracts personalities who have an affinity not only for elegant automobiles but also for exquisite mechanical timepieces. For A. Lange & Söhne the Concorso has created interesting synergies and complements our commitments in the domain of culture. People driving high-end classic cars have a distinct sense of style, elegance and design. It is for the very same reason that we decided to manufacture a bespoke model of the LANGE 1 TIME ZONE which will be presented to the “Best of Show” winner. It is a unique timepiece that perfectly symbolises the art of travelling in style and is sure to become a sought-after collector’s item.
What percentage of your sales is made to collectors and connoisseurs? What does it take for a timepiece to become a collector’s item?
Collectors and connoisseurs have made the brand what it is today: one of the most respected names at the pinnacle of the fine watchmaking industry. Reputation, quality and rarity determine a brand’s success at auction. Therefore, leading auctioneers consider A. Lange & Söhne as one member of an exclusive group of watch brands that are expected to generate a long-term increase in value, especially the limited editions.
Which are, to date, the highest prized collector’s A. Lange & Söhne time pieces?
In recent years, A. Lange & Söhne has encountered increased record sales at auctions. At the main watch auctions, models such as the TOURBILLON “Pour le Mérite”, the 1815 MOON PHASE or the anniversary LANGEMATIK are fetching up to five times their original retail price.
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