“I do hundreds of interviews a year, but nobody writes anymore when interviewing me,” Wilhelm Schmid remarks, when I put my sharpened pencil to the blank page of my notebook. “Everybody just puts an iPhone in front of me and records everything instead.”
Obviously the man before me is a person who cares about tradition and that is why we are sitting here at a breakfast table at the 104 year-old Grand Hotel Tremezzo on the Azeleas Riviera on the shores of Lake Como in Italy. We are here to talk cars and watches. Classic cars and ditto watches, mind you.
Since 2011 A. Lange & Söhne has been a partner and main sponsor with fellow German company BMW of the Concorso d'Eleganza, which is held at the Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como lake. A prestigious event for connoisseurs and their highly-exclusive classic automobiles.
But why is A. Lange & Söhne involved in an automotive competition held at a classic hotel in Italy?
W.S: A. Lange & Söhne is not shy to support a great event. For a long time A. Lange & Söhne supported cultural events, but I think the connection lacked. So we looked around for a new event that would suit our brand. When BMW approached me I knew right away that we belonged here. BMW is a strong brand with a solid and impressive history. So is A. Lange & Söhne. This event provides a perfect stage for a brand, which seamlessly fits into the overall concept. It creates strong images and lasting memories and ideally reflects A. Lange & Söhne's connection with beauty, aesthetics and lifestyle. Also I have a personal passion for vintage cars and hence could not have been happier when BMW thought of A. Lange & Söhne as the partner of this legendary event.
Schmid worked for BMW in South Africa for four years before taking over the helm at A. Lange & Söhne in 2010. Of course, he drives a BMW as his primary car, but in his garage he keeps not only the very first car he ever bought, an MGB from his birth year, 1963, but also an AC from 1957 that he bought for his 50th birthday in 2013.
We could talk for hours about the truly spectacular Rolls Royces, Packards, Alfa Romeos and Ferraris on show on the lawns of the Villa d'Este, but we are also here to talk watches.
A valuable prize
The winner of Best in Show at the Concorso d’Eleganza is presented with a unique Lange 1 timezone in white gold with a wonderful engraved hunter case back. Last year, the lucky recipient was American fashion designer and avid car collector, Ralph Lauren, whose pitch-black Bugatti, worth $40 million, scooped the most votes from the judges and the public.
W.S: There’s a funny story about the watch made for this event. When we first went into this event three years ago a watch collector approached me and asked discreetly if the winner would consider selling the watch for $150,000. I am quite sure that didn't happen, but I certainly enjoyed the attention the watch received.”
I asked Wilhelm Schmid what his take on silicium is and if we should expect A. Lange & Söhne to introduce this popular material in their movements.
W.S: Silicium is a wonderful material. Great for microchips, easy to produce and not least to replicate. And there´s not even any manual labour involved in the production. But A. Lange & Söhne is a fine watch manufacturer and as long as we have watchmakers who produce and work with traditional hairsprings you'll never find any silicium parts in our movements.”
Certainly A. Lange & Söhne has been making an impact these years, not least with their super complications such as the Terra Luna that was introduced at the SIHH this year. Is A. Lange & Söhne a grown-up brand now, celebrating its 20th anniversary since the revival in 1994?
W.S: Our childhood certainly is over. And with that there is nothing we cannot do. It is simply up to us when we do it. And in terms of partnering with BMW at the annual Concorso d'Eleganza we'll stay involved in this event for as long as possible.