There are many perks of working as media in the watch world. The watches, of course! The trips and the access to the designers and teams behind the scenes are excellent. But putting the glitz and glamour of the Monaco press trips and fancy lunches aside (which are great for the gram but not the reason I got into this). The truth is, making friends and sharing a passion is what it’s all about. I don’t care what the subject is; just give me an event with passionate people, no matter what it is, something we can geek out about and be surrounded by like-minded friends. These are the best of days in the watch world. And the day I’m going to reveal today was one of them…
By Justin Hast, London-based independent writer, photographer and consultant who has contributed to MONOCHROME in the past already.
Now I have to confess, my car knowledge is limited – but my god, I can appreciate them from a design perspective. And having attended the Concours of Elegance a few times already, I knew I was in for a treat this year! The event took place from 2-4 September at Hampton Court Palace. And what a setting! The Concours of Elegance began at Windsor Castle in 2012 before moving to St James’s Palace in 2013, Hampton Court Palace in 2014 at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh (Her late Majesty The Queen’s official residence in Scotland, and now King Charles III’s new residence) in 2015 before returning to Windsor Castle in 2016 and Hampton Court Palace in 2017.
The Concours brings together a selection of 60+ of the rarest cars from around the world – many of which will never have been seen before in the UK. Uniquely, the Concours of Elegance winner isn’t selected by a panel of judges but by the Owners of the cars themselves. Each participant is asked to vote on the other models on display to decide which car is considered to be the Best of Show. The lead partner for the show? None other than A. Lange & Söhne – who else? With the CEO Wilhelm Schmid at the helm, it’s a perfect match. Wilhelm worked in the car industry before shifting gears to the watch world in January 2011. A consummate gentleman, it’s always a joy to sit down with him to talk cars, watches and life! On this occasion, I had the opportunity to pick his brain on which cars had caught his eye and how these wonderful machines share an awful lot in common with the watches he makes – enjoy!
Justin Hast for MONOCHROME – Firstly, huge congrats, what a day and what a year it has been for Lange!
Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne – Thank you Just. Listen, if you can’t be pleased now, you will never be pleased.
How are you guys managing at HQ at the moment to meet this insane demand you have generated?
Our lives have changed a huge amount in many ways but stayed exactly the same in the most important ways. In supply and distribution and allocation, we have changed a lot, and slowly but surely, it is paying dividends. What has been hugely powerful to see is the increased appreciation for what we do, which I believe is at the highest level that I can recall in my almost 12 years at the company. The waitlist has become a new factor in our lives for sure. Ultimately what this says is simply that we cannot supply quickly enough simply because they are produced by hand, not machines. Our teams are working at full tilt, and I’m proud of their efforts.
It is great to be back doing these types of events in person! Tell me about this year’s Concours; how has it been going?
I love events and partnerships that grow and get better over time. I can clearly see that every year is better than the last, just that little bit more refined, that little bit more appreciated. I believe the collection of cars this year is second to none…I mean, wow. That Ferrari collection is unbelievable! It’s just great to be back seeing people face to face, laughing, sharing stories and driving.
Now, there is a very special watch going on auction this year from the Concours.
Yes! In the past, you will know that we have given a watch to the Best of Show. This year we discussed internally that actually, it might be nice to, instead of giving something to someone who is already very privileged, we would auction a watch with Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo and all of the proceeds will go to The Princes Trust. The Prince’s Trust is a charity in the United Kingdom founded in 1976 by Charles, Prince of Wales, to help vulnerable young people get their lives on track. It supports 11 to 30-year-olds who are unemployed and those struggling at school and at risk of exclusion. This will really make a difference. If you think about it, what would Glashütte be without Ferdinand Adolph Lange and Günter Blümlein? So if there’s a company that knows about the importance of education in society, it’s us.
Now looking around, we are surrounded by truly some of the most incredible works of art, both in terms of your watches and the cars! It’s fair to say that coach-made cars have a lot in common when it comes to manufacturing with Lange watches?
Absolutely right. These cars around us are not made in an industrialised manner. It was frame, engine, often an engine he/she may have brought somewhere, coachwork he/she then put around it, or did it themselves. It’s not like you have a home design team to help with cars of this era. And at the end of the day, it’s people that were doing it. All these components, these fenders, for example, are hand-built; they aren’t pressed by a huge machine. That is very close to what we do today, with the big advantage that watches don’t have to fulfil homologations or things like that. There are no environmental regulations or passenger safety criteria to meet in watches.
Where do you see direct similarities?
Most of these cars are purpose-built, whether for racing or impressing! Let’s not forget most of these cars were hugely expensive when new, so it was not about transportation but a status symbol. That’s just like watches – built for purchase. You don’t need it to tell the time, but not wearing a watch is a strange thing. Wearing a great, handmade watch is a very special thing. I can’t help but feel that anything touched by the human hand has a soul to it, the artistry that can’t be disputed.
Could you get us a few highlights from the show?
I love these battle-horse Ferrari. The ones you can see were used in anger. They were just pulled together somehow to make the next race. That’s appealing to me. I love that they are untouched. I ran into a guy with a 250 short-wheelbase which he has had for 40 years. I love that because he didn’t buy it at the time as it was a high-value car, more because he realised how special the car was. A great friend had brought a Maserati Zagato in burgundy over from San Diego. And it’s very special. All I can say is that I am glad I’m not on the jury of owners! I couldn’t decide this year.
Now, which watches would you pair with which cars here? Let’s start with the Lange One.
With a Lange One, I’d take the Mercedes 300SL. A classic always works; great legibility with time and a date – that’s all you need. And they are German, of course.
How about the Datograph? Which car would you say pairs well?
It has to be a racer. If you want a chronograph, you clearly have an interest in timing. The short-wheelbase Ferrari or the 330 Mondial would work nicely.
And finally, the Zeitwerk – what’s the pairing?
It must be something completely different. A quirky, unusual car, probably the Hispano-Suiza. Can you imagine showing up with that car in the 1930s? They would have thought an alien ship has landed! This would be the vibe I would expect.
Right, finally, tell me what’s on the wrist, Wilhelm – this shut the internet down a few weeks ago.
This is the second iteration of the 1815 Rattrapante, now in platinum. It’s very clean and very legible. I showed it to a lady on the tour, not a collector, and her response “wow, that’s an elegant-looking dial.” I then turned it over, and her face dropped, “wow that’s incredible!” And that’s what I love about it, the competing sides, simplicity, and complexity. The question we had in our heads while designing this was how do we make the most complicated thing… simply? Because if we can nail this – great! But if not, it just will not work.
For more details, please visit www.alange-soehne.com.