You seldom get a chance to meet people who have strived hard for their passion and made it a success. Mr Walter Lange is one of them. In this rare interview, we have a short conversation with this gentleman, who revived A. Lange & Soehne at the age of 66, when most people retire
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: December 15, 2012
You seldom get a chance to meet people who have strived hard for their passion and made it a success. Mr Walter Lange is one of them. In this rare interview, we have a short conversation with this gentleman, who revived A. Lange & Söhne at the age of 66, when most people retire.
During our recent press trip to A. Lange & Söhne, we were on our way back from trying our hands on engraving and chamfering, when we stopped at their manufactory. One of our companions had left his diary there. This turned out to be a boon in disguise as we saw Mr Walter Lange materializing from the door.
Though we had heard that he was in town, we didn’t know we would get an opportunity to shake hands with him so soon! Striding up to our car humbly, he asked if he could get a ride home with us. As he sat, we three journalists started salivating at the prospect of interviewing him and prodded the public relations officer with us to ask him for permission. Listening intently to our request, he gave a quick nod!
What makes Mr Walter Lange so legendary is that he is the one who revived A. Lange & Söhne in 1990s, the watch company being shut down after World War II, and gave it a rebirth.
After the company was expropriated by the new East German authorities, Mr Lange had to fly to the West. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he didn’t hesitate to come back to his home town and, together with Mr Günter Blümlein of IWC Schaffhausen, he started reconstructing the watch brand. Rebuilding a team of watchmakers, training them, coming out with a new collection, and also reviving the German watchmaking industry in the process, Mr Lange commands immense respect owing to his dedication towards the craft. His humbleness and modesty had already charmed us.
Glashütte being a small town, we reached his home very quickly. Inviting us inside, we walked into a huge room where the walls sported large photographs of Lange watch mechanisms. No better ambience to talk about watches… Keeping it a short tête-à-tête, we three asked him a few questions about his opinion and thoughts.
Do you think in the past 20-30 years, the ideals of watchmaking have gone under a change? What is difference between when the brand was there earlier and when you revived it in 1990?
Walter Lange: There is no ground breaking change in watchmaking. I have just taken forward the heritage of my great grandfather. The techniques were already present. We have just put them together with new technology to build the world’s best watches.
Most people think that Swiss watches are the epitome of watchmaking. Do you think German watches are better?
WL: In Switzerland, they have advantage. They did not have any break after World War II. They continued to make watches which we in Germany could not do. Although they have 40-50 years advantage in building watches, Lange has managed to fight back after 1990 and shown how German watchmakers can build perfect watches.
Do you think it’s better to be part of a conglomerate? Do you miss being a family owned company?
WL: There are several advantages to be a family owned company and several to be a part of a conglomerate. Before the acquisition by Richemont, we were a part of Mannesmann AG, who then also owned IWC Schaffhausen and Jaeger-LeCoultre. After the Vodafone group took over Mannesmann, they were spinning off operations that were not part of their core business. In the ensuing bidding competition Richemont emerged as winner. But it’s still like we are a family owned company despite being part of the Richemont group.
What has been your greatest contribution to the German watchmaking industry?
WL: My contribution to the German watchmaking industry mainly was that I came back to Glashütte and revived this city, revived the tradition, revived the skills of the watchmakers here in town, and therefore revived the German watch industry. But it was teamwork of all the people here in the town.
Which is your favourite watch out of the current Lange collection?
WL: The Tourbillion “Pour le Merite” (said with twinkling, smiling blue eyes). This was a part of our first collection in 1994. That’s why it is so special.
(The interview was done through Mr Clemens von Walzel, the Senior Press & Public Relations Manager, as a translator. Hence the words are not exact, but the best approximation of Mr. Lange’s answers)