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Watches

An Interview with A. Lange & Söhne CEO Wilhelm Schmid

By Sotheby's
Ahead of the second in Sotheby's four-part Masterworks of Time series, which is led by an exceptional group of A. Lange & Söhne pieces, we spoke with A. Lange & Söhne CEO Wilhelm Schmid.

What is so special about the A. Lange & Söhne watches in the Masterworks of Time sale?

They are exquisite masterpieces from the first heyday of A. Lange & Söhne. Some of them feature multiple complications or elaborate case decorations. They belong to the category of watches that established the manufactory’s reputation as one of the world’s finest watchmakers at the end of the 19th century. In terms of ingenuity, aesthetics, rarity and provenance they truly live up to the title “Masterworks of Time”.

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A. Lange & Söhne CEO Wilhelm Schmid

What was it about A. Lange & Söhne that attracted you to the brand?

I indeed still remember the moment when, back in 1994, the LANGE 1 was launched and the watch industry was speaking about it a lot. I was intrigued by its unusual design and evident expression of quality. It soon became clear to me that this meant the successful revival of the legendary A. Lange & Söhne brand. 16 years later, when I was offered the chance, to manage one of the most prestigious German companies that builds on heritage, innovation, performance and design I did not hesitate.

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A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte, A Very Fine Pink Gold Hunting Cased Keyless Lever Watch with Professor Graff Engraved Decoration and Polychome Enamel Portrait of Minerva with Original Box, Numbered Certificate, Spare Glasses and Spring, circa 1906. No. 45762. Estimate CHF 15,000–25,000.

How did your interest in watches first develop?

Watches already cast a spell over me when I was boy. For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the mechanical microcosm. Over the years, my love of watches and my respect for watchmakers has only increased. At the age of 17, at a time when everyone else wore quartz, I purchased a mechanical wristwatch from my first own money, and I was incredibly proud of it.

Why do you think watches are such a covetable object to collect? There’s a certain romance about them.

Because they capture and display our most precious resource – time – in the most beautiful way.

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A. Lange & Söhne, Glashütte, An Extremely Fine and Rare Pink Gold Hunting Cased Perpetual Calendar Minute Repeating Grande and Petite Sonnerie Keyless Lever Clock Watch with Moon Phases, Double Chronograph and Register, circa 1901, No. 41277 Grande Complication. Estimate CHF 400,000–600,000.

A. Lange & Söhne don’t produce as many models as other prestigious brands, why is it important for you to be so selective?

Every watch reflects our ambition to create distinctive timepieces and ideal technical solutions. It is the unique set of design, technology, selected materials and craftmanship that makes our watches unmistakable. Every timepiece is equipped with an in-house movement that often features pioneering advances and an unmatched level of handcrafted decoration. This costs time and limits our production capacity.

What is a collector getting when they buy a watch made by A. Lange & Söhne?

Every collector experiences a sense of connection with the author, be it a painter, a designer or a watchmaker. Collecting is all about exclusivity, passion and expertise. Many watch collectors have made A. Lange & Söhne their first choice because they identify with our take on fine watchmaking. Our timepieces fulfil their desire for distinction, timeless beauty and lasting value.

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A. Lange & Söhne, An Early Silver Open-Faced Keywound Lever Watch, circa 1849. Estimate CHF 2,000–3,000.

Which watches make up your own collection?

Although I wouldn’t call myself a collector, I have a few Lange watches and some others that have grown on me for personal reasons.

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