The House Of Lange Kuala Lumpur Exhibition Was An Unforgettable Showcase Of Watchmaking Heritage And Craftsmanship

For two weeks last November, the pinnacle of German watchmaking set up shop in Kuala Lumpur. The House of Lange set up shop as an encompassing display in the foyer of The Starhill, steps away from the bustle of Bukit Bintang, aimed at showcasing the history and quality of the Glashütte-based watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne.

Wilhelm Schmid, the CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, expressed that the exhibition was an opportunity to connect with a market that currently has no official representation and or points of sale. “It’s a country where we know a lot of strong collectors live. It was to create proximity, access to us, the brand, the watches, and to what we do,” he explained, adding that he saw Malaysia as an upcoming market. “It’s an invitation. You start your journey here. If you want to understand more and dig a bit deeper, come to one of the boutiques and they’re going to help you understand even better,” he said. The closest boutiques to Kuala Lumpur are in Singapore and Bangkok.

Wilhelm Schmid, the CEO of A. Lange & Söhne

He also explained that the brand is currently reducing the number of retail outlets it maintains worldwide. “If you are at a point of sale, and there are absolutely no watches to sell, that’s frustrating in the long run for our customers and our employees,” he explained. “We always wanted to have a core collection that always should be there to try, and even if it’s not available, it should become available not in years but in months.”

In addition to displays dedicated to A. Lange & Söhne’s current collection—including icons such as the Lange 1, the Datograph and the Zeitwerk—as well as recent hits such as the Triple Split, the House of Lange delved deep into the brand’s considerable history. Founded in the town of Glashütte in 1845, the early years of the manufacture were defined by pocket watches. Several of these historical timepieces were on exhibit, allowing visitors to see these origins for themselves. Also chronicled was the brand’s unfortunate forced hiatus after being expropriated by communist East Germany after World War II—and the remarkable story of its rise as Walter Lange revived his family business in 1990, amidst a reunified Germany. “If you look at the history, it gives you an idea of how the set of values—that was created over the past 180 years—glues the company together,” Schmid said. “Why we say, ‘never stand still’. How influential the Lange family was, how we bridged what we did before we were shut down to the current time. That set of values actually created a talent pool that could be reactivated after reunification and so quickly brought A. Lange & Söhne back.”

During the exhibition, an engraver and a watchmaker from A. Lange & Söhne were also in attendance to provide live examples of their craft. The manufacture’s watches are lauded for their exquisite finishing as much as their technical attributes, and this was a chance to get to know the craftspeople behind them. “It’s all about people, because that’s the rarest resource that we have today,” Schmid explained. “Some ask us: why don’t you produce more watches? It’s because we can’t.” Across the various disciplines—watchmaking, finishing, engraving and more—he notes that it takes about five years to train someone new.

Schmid has been in his role since 2010, and over time he has seen many changes in the industry—but not so many at A. Lange & Söhne. “If I go back to my first SIHH [Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, known today as Watches & Wonders] in 2011 and compare it to what we do today, it’s a different world. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the way we design and manufacture our watches. Isn’t that interesting?” he said. “It’s still double assembly, it’s still polishing and decoration by hand. It’s still a watchmaker that needs to bring them together.”

“I always believe that deep in the heart of our collectors, they love the idea that a human being struggled heavily in producing a watch,” he added. “And the more they struggled, the happier they are. Because that is really unique in today’s world. It’s not built by a computer or a robot. It’s a human being with love, passion, dedication, education and training that eventually managed to build these beautiful little mechanical miracles. That’s what we stand for. Why would we change that?”

A. Lange & Söhne

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