Helmut Käs: We have been meeting regularly at Lake Como since 2011. Do you also get the impression that the time between our get-together’s flies by?
Wilhelm Schmid: Quite honestly, a sense of time can be deceptive – even I, as CEO of a manufactory that crafts precision watches, can relate. Whenever we meet at the Concorso, it’s hard to believe that another year has already passed. But when I look back at all the events that have happened in the meantime, this period suddenly feels very, very long and is filled with great memories. This apparent contradiction probably can’t be helped if your brand’s ambition is to “never stand still.”
What exactly do you want to express with that?
This was Walter Lange’s personal motto. He said, “There’s something one should expect not only of a watch but also of oneself: to never stand still”. Together with Günter Blümlein, he re-established his forefather’s company in Glashütte in 1990 after Germany’s reunification. Starting from scratch, their goal was to create once again outstanding mechanical timepieces with challenging complications and a clear and classical design line that stand the test of time. Their daring venture turned into an unparalleled success. With 71 manufacture calibres developed since 1990, we have secured a top-tier position among the world’s finest watch brands. This was only possible because of the pioneering spirit Walter Lange and Günter Blümlein fostered. They encouraged our watchmakers to explore previously undiscovered fields to implement innovative technical and design-related solutions, hence our annual motto “At home in unchartered territories.”
This is very impressive. Tell me about your latest achievement that you unveiled at this year’s Watches and Wonders in Geneva.
This is the ODYSSEUS CHRONOGRAPH, which has been very well received because of its cutting-edge mechanisms. Our first self-winding chronograph is driven by the new L156.1 calibre, which took us six years to develop. With the stop hands in the centre of the dial and measuring elapsed times up to 60 minutes, it raises the bar in terms of precision and readability. The timepiece is endowed with a pair of dual-function buttons, which ensure safe and easy operation of the chronograph as well as comfortable setting of the outsize date and day of week. Another innovative mechanism is the dynamic reset-to-zero function, which initiates an impressive spectacle when the chronograph hands are reset to their initial position. Given its horological intricacy, the ODYSSEUS CHRONOGRAPH, which is limited to 100 pieces, perfectly reflects our annual motto.
Does this annual motto also allude to our shared passion for classic cars?
We both know that exquisite classic cars and top-tier mechanical watches are closely intertwined. Both technical masterpieces of their own class, they are an expression of the perfection of form, elegance, and technical ingenuity. One can feel the passion that goes into their creation and restoration. Therefore, we will once again honour the “Best of Show” winner with a special iteration of the 1815 CHRONOGRAPH. A unique piece, it features an 18-carat white-gold case with a pink-gold dial and a hinged cuvette, which is hand engraved with the Concorso d’Eleganza coat of arms. We chose this magnificent column-wheel-controlled chronograph, as it beautifully reflects the historic alliance between motor sport and timekeeping. Measuring elapsed times with the accuracy of one-fifth of a second, the manually wound calibre L951.5 features a snail mechanism for the precise jumping of the minute counter and a refined flyback function. If you open the cuvette, you can admire the mechanical virtuosity and even observe the crucial switching steps of the chronograph functions. The dial is also a feast for the eyes: With its Arabic numerals and the railway-track minute scale, it recalls A. Lange & Söhne’s legendary pocket watches.
What are you personally looking forward to at this year’s Concorso?
Twelve years ago, I attended the Concorso d’Eleganza for the first time as a visitor. Every year, it has been a celebration of timelessly elegant masterpieces in one of the world’s most picturesque locations. As a petrol head, for me this is the pinnacle of mechanical ingenuity. At the same time, it is the perfect opportunity in which to present our timepieces to discerned connoisseurs who appreciate our high-level craftsmanship. Because all in all, it is our craftsmanship that allows us to discover uncharted territories of watchmaking.