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A. Lange & Söhne - The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

A. Lange & Söhne The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

Interview with Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of the brand

For the fifth year, German watchmaking Maison A. Lange & Söhne partnered with the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace, UK. Presenting 60 of the most spectacular and rare automobiles existing, this concours also showcased a unique 1815 Chronograph Rattrapante watch, especially created for the event. On this occasion, we had the chance to chat with A. Lange & Söhne’s CEO Wilhelm Schmid about the Concours of Elegance and the exclusive timepiece.

The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

Wilhelm Schmid © A. Lange & Söhne

The partnership between A. Lange & Söhne and the Concours of Elegance has been on for five years now. How did it begin? What was the first thing that made you think ‘we need to be a part of this experience’?
We started 10 years ago with the Villa d'Este at lago di Como. That was the first event. Then, we realized that, if we wanted this to become part of our strategy, one event was not enough and multiple ones were required. That's easier said than done, because we had to identify the right event, with the right people, in the right territory, with the right reputation. And after screening the market, we came to the conclusion that Hampton Court was probably the one to go for. And that's how we ended up here. We sponsor, yes, but we are a real partner. We want the event to be better with us than without us. I am not talking about the monetary aspect only, but also what we bring from our brand. And over the last five years, we became an instrumental part of that organization.

The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

Concours of Elegance, Hampton Court Palace © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

You mentioned the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este in Italy. How is the Hampton Court edition different from that one?
The cars of course. But the character of the event is also very different. Villa d'Este is all about dolce vita. The Italians say that nobody knows what paradise looks like, but that it probably is very similar to the Villa d'Este at lago di Como. You have that Italian atmosphere, the cars are very close together, there is this 150-year-old five-star hotel, right at the shores of lago di Como. It has his own character. Now, you come to England and there is Hampton Court, which is probably one of the most famous places; there is also Prince Michael of Kent, who gives the event an even more exclusive touch, and the enthusiastic people of England. I think their enthusiasm for vintage cars is quite similar as the one of the Italians. Passion is the common denominator. These events just happen in very different environments.

What’s great withe the Concours of Elegance is that car enthusiasts have the opportunity to show their cars. This is such a great event culture. Why does the watch industry not have that?
We do have it to some extent. I've been to enough dinners amongst friends and collectors were everybody was bringing their watches. It just doesn't have a tradition. With cars, on the other hand, the Concours of Elegance has been existing since 1929. Watches still have a long way to go before they reach this, if they ever reach it.

The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

Concours of Elegance, Hampton Court Palace © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

The energy at this Concours of Elegance 2022 is amazing. The more I talk to the people here, the more I realise that vintage car lovers have more in common with watch enthusiasts rather than modern supercar aficionados. How can you explain this?

If you buy a vintage car, you accept it to be a product of time, this meaning that it is a product that belongs to the era it was developed in. You appreciate that it is different from what we have today. You understand the craftsmanship and that you need skilled people to keep it running. In the end, all of this gives a very different idea about a car. And on top of that, it's not about transportation; it's about the journey. And it’s the same with watches: it’s not about giving time, it’s about displaying your personality.

The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

Concours of Elegance, Hampton Court Palace © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

There is a British company called Electric Classic Cars which is trying to make more sustainable classic cars by replacing the engine with an electric motor. What do you think about it? 
It is not appealing to me, but I am sure this is a good attempt. It's like a quartz watch and a mechanical watch. There is a huge market for quartz watches, but it's just not for me.

For this event, you created a special 1815 Chronograph ‘Hampton Court Edition’ that features a new combination of material and colours (white-gold case and a black dial with sandstone-coloured numerals and scale). Knowing that the 1815 Chronograph was launched in 2004, how would you say it has evolved over the years?
Not that much. The movement is still the same one. We worked on different design iterations, from black dial to argenté-blue dials, argenté dials or black on white dials; about five or six different iterations. At the moment, I think we have about four in the running collection. But the watch we are launching here is totally unique; no other piece will be produced ever again. That makes it so special to collectors.

The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

1815 Chronograph © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

The 1815 Chronograph will be celebrating its 20th anniversary quite soon, in 2024. What can we expect for this model? Can you give us a hint?
Unfortunately, I can't tell you anything, but it will be a great year because it will also be the 30-year anniversary of the Lange 1 and the 25th anniversary of the Datograph.

The Concours of Elegance Is All About Passion

1815 Chronograph © A. Lange & Söhne

At this Concours of Elegance, we can see beautiful vintage cars that belong to collectors that are not the first owners of the cars. The same is happening now with watches. Nowadays, the watch-related secondary market is getting developed and has an impact on the perception and value of a brand. Is this market of particular interest for A. Lange & Söhne?
We are closely observing what is happening in the auction world for sure, because that's an important indicator to know the resale value of watches, even if I think it's overheated at the moment. I don't have a problem with people who buy and sell their watches, the only thing I say is that every August, we bring 12 to 15 new people into our manufacture, and they start an apprenticeship to become a watchmaker, which is what they will be for the rest of their life. So, my duty is to create a business model that will keep us relevant in the next 50 years. Banking on people that buy and sell watches is no business model, at least not aligned with what we need.

If you had to describe this event and the relationship it has with A. Lange & Söhne with only one word, what would you say?
Passion. People that are here are passionate people. I always realize that, if you have passionate people, that spark can easily jump from cars to watches or from watches to cars. If you only have investors, there's no spark that will fly. So, I think passion is one of the common denominators for this event.


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