How should a small, exclusive watch brand engage its clients? A. Lange & Söhne may just have the answer, with events such as the Connoisseurs’ Akademie.
A.Lange & Söhne hosted the latest edition of its Connoisseurs’ Akademie in Singapore for the media and select VIPs of the brand late last month, as part of the activities for the brand’s House of Lange exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.
Long a staple for A. Lange & Söhne, the Connoisseur’s Akademie is a series of workshops where small groups of participants are introduced to specific topics in watchmaking. The masterclass this time was themed on power transmission, and looked into how the energy stored within the barrel(s) is regulated as it makes its way through the gear train. As usual, each session began with a short presentation, before the attendees were given a practical task to – this time, to assemble their own gear trains for a movement.
A deep dive into mainsprings and gear trains may seem boring at best, but A. Lange & Söhne’s take on the topic was anything but.
Like previous Connoisseurs’ Akademie sessions, the workshop was hosted by a master watchmaker who offered insights into the subject while sharing his knowledge candidly.
For example, why regulate the mainspring’s energy in so many different ways, from the remontoir d’egalité to the fusée-and-chain?
The answer offered by the watchmaker was a nuanced one: space, design, and production considerations had to all be accounted for, and the best solution was chosen for each watch during its development process.
Of course, the practical session also offered invaluable experience for participants, who got first hand looks into how “everything fits together” by assembling the gear train, while also gaining some additional perspectives along the way.
Picking up the tiny, fragile escape wheel, for instance, is already a challenge in itself. The assembly process, however, also demands that it is seated into its jewel bearing at the right height, then secured with its bridge, all without breaking its miniscule pinions or scratching its decorated surfaces. No mean feat, for sure.
For an exclusive brand with limited production like A. Lange & Söhne, such private events are perhaps the best way to engage with its clients and watch afficionados.
Mass marketing isn’t the objective here; creating a learned, involved community of connoisseurs is.
To that end, A. Lange & Söhne has succeeded admirably, with its regular updates to the modules that are presented, with each one offering something new for the seasoned collector, while also anchoring the basics of the brand for the newcomer.
In conversation with A. Lange & Söhne’s CEO Wilhelm Schmid
On this House of Lange occasion in Singapore, we caught up on A. Lange & Söhne’s brand philosophy towards its clientele and engagement processes with CEO Wilhelm Schmid.
Curatedition: How would you describe the A. Lange & Söhne client?
Schmid: This question is often raised, but there really are no clear answers. I’d say this though: in Europe our clients are a little bit older, whereas in Asia and the Middle East they are a lot younger.
What I realized is:
…that if you spend so much money on a brand that’s pretty unknown; with watches that have very understated designs – at least on the dial – then you probably did it because you like watches, and have a good idea of what fine watchmaking is.
Most of these people did it to please themselves, and not to impress others.
There are people who buy certain brands to show who they are or how successful they are, but this wouldn’t work very well with our watches.
Curatedition: Where does one begin, when considering watches from A. Lange & Söhne?
Schmid: Many collectors have told me that their first watch from the brand is the Lange 1. I believe the Lange 1 is often the first pick of watch collectors because it epitomises everything that we stand for, and it’s been around for so long.
More recently, I’ve been hearing from clients that the Saxonia Thin is their first Lange watch, because it’s a very attractive timepiece at that price point.
These would be the two most typical “first time watch” references for us, and for very different reasons.
Curatedition: The post-sales connection is something that’s very different for A. Lange & Söhne, with your brand having programs such as the Connoisseurs’ Akademie. Could you share more about how clients can grow with the brand?
Schmid: Not everyone can come to Glashütte – it takes a bit of effort to reach us. But we do have a keen interest to share our passion, and the House of Lange is one such execution. If we can’t bring Singapore to the manufactory in Glashütte, then we’ll bring the manufactory from Glashütte to Singapore.
The next step, is to have you come over to Glashütte. In fact, we host around 3,500 visitors at our manufactory annually.
There’s also the option of coming to our boutique to speak to our staff, who will answer all your questions. We are very much a one-to-one brand, and the human connection is central to it all. Programs and settings are just ways to help us connect.
We also organise small scale events in our clients’ respective countries. Our customers deserve to be treated like individuals – you didn’t buy a mass product, so why should I treat you like a mass customer? There’s more interaction in smaller groups, and that’s important.
Curatedition: It looks like one of the privileges of a Lange client is to have direct access to its CEO. This doesn’t just allow more intimate sharing of knowledge and information, but also allows the client to give direct feedback. How does this get funneled back into product development?
Schmid: Well, some of the feedback has helped us to improve our watches. I got feedback once that our deployant buckle was too massive, so we developed a second, butterfly-style buckle that’s slimmer for a better fit on smaller wrists. It’s a comfort thing. The Saxonia Datograph Up/Down is another example. It’s actually a bigger watch than the Datograph, but is more comfortable because it sits better on the wrist. That was also a learning point based on customer feedback.
As for watch design and functionality… no.
Our product development cycle stretches for years, and I don’t think clients think about the kind of watches they want to be wearing in five years’ time. They leave that to us.
Curatedition: What are your plans for engaging female clients?
Schmid: I need to preface my answer with an observation: first of all, many ladies don’t look at who a product was designed for.
If they like it, they’ll wear it, and there are quite a few ladies out there who wear our watches because they like them, even if they are very masculine.
Having said that, we are still looking for the right approach to this, to make the brand more inviting for ladies.
It’s partly a (production) capacity issue – we focus on what we are, and, we are a very masculine watch brand.
I promise that we’ll do better, but it’s a slow process.
Curatedition: Is there anything that female clients can look forward to from the brand?
Schmid: Well, last year we launched a true ladies watch that was developed for women specifically – the Little Lange 1 Moon Phase.
We followed up this year with a thinner model without the moon phase display. There will be more like these in the future, slowly but surely.