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20 Years of Watchmaking - Some things remain the same: Part 2

20 Years of Watchmaking Some things remain the same: Part 2

The two decades also saw the advent of Gen Z, the first iPhone, Facebook, Instagram, satnavs, and the first picture of something invisible – a black hole. It was a score of years characterised by an acceleration in technological breakthroughs, and in their impact. These changes extended to the world of watchmaking, but the latter nevertheless retained a number of its icons and institutions*

Walter von Känel: for ever and ever

Walter von Känel joined Longines in 1969; in 2019, he thus celebrated 50 years of service with the firm, 31 of them as CEO. It could almost be said that Walter von Känel is Longines, and vice versa, so completely does the man embody the brand and the brand, the man. His seniority is record-breaking. He still does not possess a computer. He knows almost all the references by heart, along with their prices and market share in the brand’s main countries. The firm employs some 1200 people, and its revenues have broken the symbolic barrier of 1.5 billion Swiss francs: a benchmark in every way.

some things remain the same: Part 2

Honorary Chairman of Longines © Longines

Omega: the rise and rise

The Seamaster, Speedmaster, and Constellation form Omega’s blue-chip trilogy – one that’s remained unchanged for the past twenty years. Over that period, Omega has been Olympic timekeeper ten times and benefitted from the phenomenal return of the James Bond saga, aided by Daniel Craig, its best ambassador on five occasions in the span of twenty years. In 1969 – and, still, 50 years on in 2019 – Omega could boast the unrivalled distinction of being “the watch that went to the moon”, a legend that won’t die any time soon.

some things remain the same: Part 2

Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 © Omega

Panerai: the big blue

The brand’s last two decades have been the Angelo Bonati years. The father of the modern Panerai was at the helm from 1997 to 2018, and devoted himself to bringing about as little change as possible.

some things remain the same: Part 2

Angelo Bonati CEO Panerai 2000-2018 © Panerai

Aside from the release of the Luminor Due collection, Bonati staked his all on the Luminor and Radiomir – and against all expectations, this turned out to be a winning strategy. Two models; two designs; no renowned ambassador (apart from Mike Horn); watches all designed for the same thing (diving): Panerai kept its head down, compromising nothing. And the firm’s collectors, known as Paneristi, simply loved it, remaining unwaveringly loyal.

some things remain the same: Part 2

Luminor Submersible 1950 Automatic Titanio © Panerai

Lange & Söhne: German stoicism

Time seems to have no hold over A. Lange & Söhne; the German manufacture cultivates a taste for stability. Novices would have a hard time telling the difference between a Lange 1 or a Saxonia from the early 2000s and the 2020 models – the year in which CEO Wilhelm Schmid celebrated his tenth anniversary in the position. In 2015, the firm inaugurated a huge extension to its manufacture, two years before the death of the man who resurrected the brand, Walter Lange. The collections are notably unwavering, but the movements are constantly changing: on average, there are two new ones every year. It’s all about nurturing progress – without making a fuss about it.

some things remain the same: Part 2

Lange 1 © A. Lange & Söhne

Chopard: the family firm

Boasting 22 years of partnership with the Cannes Festival and 32 with the Mille Miglia motor race, Caroline and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele’s firm offers a sense of permanence. The family’s been heading up Chopard for 57 years. Spanning Geneva and Fleurier, the brand looks after its fundamentals with care, precision, and moderation. The main collections for men are L.U.C and Classic Racing. For women, it’s Happy Diamonds, in the catalogue since 1976. Chopard is the embodiment of the manufacture for the mature, tasteful collector, indulging a taste for good workmanship – and a certain independence of mind.

some things remain the same: Part 2

Happy Sport Automatic © Chopard

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.

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