Deployant caught up with the travelling Wilhelm Schmid in Singapore over lunch today, and we share some of his views on the company, the industry and life.
I first met Wilhelm Schmid about a month before he began his assignment as CEO of A. Lange & Söhne in December 2010 in Dresden. Through these 4 years, we have met fairly often, in Dresden/Glashütte, in Geneva, in Tokyo and in Singapore, and our discussions have always been wide ranging on all topics. Today, being just hours after Germany beat Brazil at the 2014 World Cup Semi Finals by a whopping 7-1, the conversation naturally steered towards football. But it was not long when we were talking about heart rate monitors, Instagram, hand written letters and selfies.
But the most interesting discussions were those which centered around the Lange company, and the watchmaking industry. These last few months, he has been particularly busy with the preparations for the new building in Glashütte, to be ready for occupation by 1 April 2015. As a fully hands on manager, he is personally involved in the planning and execution. The natural question was with the increase of nearly 5400 square meters of manufacturing space, whether the number of watches being produced will increase. “Glass and concrete will not produce more watches. We are not building the new factory to increase production, but the new space is to streamline operations.” Currently, the production life cycle, from design to development to prototyping to final production and assembly and QA is done across some 4 buildings in the Altenberger Strasse area in Glashütte. With the new factory, this will bring all manufacturing processes together under one roof, making it a more efficient process. The existing buildings are refurbished from old buildings some nearly 100 years old, and the new factory will provide the opportunity to incorporate better control of humidity, temperature and dust, while at the same time reducing the environmental impact. The new building will incorporate a geothermal heat pump, which will provide more than enough heating and cooling than it requires, and will supply to the older buildings as well.
We then moved on to markets…and Wilhelm told Deployant that currently 40 of the total 220 (total worldwide) points of sales for Lange watches are in Germany. Germany, being the home market remains to be a very important one, and he continues to focus on its growth and well being. When asked about the impact of the Chinese market now that it has swung from super boom to moderate, he replied that the impact on Lange is less than some brands as they are just about to start ramping up point of sales and advertising in China. The USA and the Middle East continues to be very fast growing market as is the South East Asian markets like Singapore.
We touched a bit on brand awareness, and how Lange has become almost a house hold name within Germany, but outside of the homeland and outside of the haute horology circles, it is still relatively unknown. We came to agreement that the principal reason for this is exposure and advertisement in the market. He illustrated this from an example he drew from his days in the automobile industry. Castrol is a major player in automotive lubrication and had been advertising heavily and involved in Formula 1 for several decades until they stopped in 1983. In the late 1990s, Wilhelm and his BMW team conducted a survey and found that even after some 15 years since cessation of advertising, Castrol is still reaping benefits of the investments. The “man in the street” still maintain sufficient heart share that Castrol still comes up as top 3. The power of advertising.
Finally, we also touched on what was coming from A. Lange & Söhne later this year as the company celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Lange 1. For SIHH 2014, they released the Grande Lange 1 Moonphase, but celebrations are being planned for October 24, 2014 in Dresden/Glashütte, and the obvious new Lange 1 which will be presented. However, Wilhelm kept the new watch absolutely close to his chest, and refused to disclose more than a new watch will be presented. We look forward to being seeing the new watch being unveiled, and the Deployant team will be there to provide first hand coverage. Stay tuned.