Coveted Watch Brand A. Lange & Söhne Debuts Anniversary Datograph and VIP-Focused NorCal Store

Wilhelm Schmid learned long ago that the best way to get a new A. Lange & Söhne watch to a city teeming with collectors of the coveted German luxury watch brand was to strap it on and deliver it personally.

“There’s no way in today’s world to ship a watch quickly from Geneva to [our headquarters in] Germany to America and wherever we might need the watch, so I carry them on my wrist,” Schmid, who has been the CEO of A. Lange & Söhne since 2011, tells The Hollywood Reporter.

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His latest sojourn to the U.S. brought Schmid to San Francisco, where the brand has just opened an intimate boutique in the city’s popular Union Square district. But anyone looking for a traditional storefront should search beyond ideas of an expected retailer: A. Lange & Söhne’s new 1,539-square-foot salon is located on the third floor at 140 Geary St. — still a public space, but one that must be accessed by making a reservation (the preferred method) or ringing the doorbell before entering, a notion that was by design.

“It’s not by invitation-only, but it’s not designed for street traffic,” Schmid explains. “We have quite big flagships in the U.S., [but] we wanted to give a home to collectors in and around the Bay area. It’s about the convenience of an intimate showroom; when you’re there, you really have it all on your own.” The brand also offers a boutique at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

A Lange & Sohne boutique - San Francisco
A. Lange & Sohne’s lounge-like new boutique in San Francisco.

Dubbed “Salon San Francisco,” the new boutique indeed has been designed as an elevated lounge space, offering a curated selection of A. Lange & Söhne timepieces alongside collector-friendly elements that include exhibits diving into the history and DNA of the brand. “It’s almost like a journey into A. Lange & Söhne, with different highlights and different stories giving you all the room and the time to explore the brand probably better than you could in a [boutique] with foot traffic,” Schmid tells THR. “When you have an appointment there, you can rest assured it’s yours.”

A. Lange & Söhne's new Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen”
A. Lange & Sohne’s new Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen”

A. Lange & Söhne was founded by Ferdinand Adolph Lange in 1845 in Glashütte, the German town that also is the home base for watchmakers including NOMOS and Glashütte Original. The brand shuttered in 1948 amid the country’s post-World War II challenges, but in 1990, the founder’s great-grandson, Walter Lange, revived the brand and put it back on the path to its coveted status today among watch aficionados. Today Schmid admits that A. Lange & Söhne sometimes must negotiate both its original and reborn history but always with an eye toward the art and handcraft of watchmaking.

“If we celebrated every anniversary, it would be a very full year,” he says. “But we decided to take care with [one model] because we believe it’s a very important watch for us.” With that, Schmid reveals the watch on his wrist, the Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon Honeygold “Lumen”, designed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Datograph and which beautifully blends a one-minute tourbillon with stop seconds alongside a perpetual calendar and a flyback chronograph with a jumping-minute counter. “Even in my fantasies I would struggle to find a more complicated Datograph,” Schmid says of the piece.

That 41.5mm Honeygold case, surrounding a semi-transparent dial with luminescent displays, also was pointedly crafted for this anniversary piece. “[Honeygold] is a metal that changes color all the time, from white gold to pink gold,” Schmid notes. “I wouldn’t wear a gold watch necessarily, but this one is perfect because it changes color and works for many occasions.” A white-gold Datograph model with a blue dial, meanwhile, was designed with collectors in mind: “We don’t work too much with color — and when we do it tends to be gray — so it’s something collectors have been asking for from us for a long time,” he adds. The Honeygold and white-gold models are limited to 50 and 125 pieces each, respectively, and are priced upon request.

The new A. Lange & Söhne boutique in San Francisco.
Inside the new A. Lange & Sohne boutique in San Francisco.

The brand indeed seems firmly rooted in adhering to its long-standing principles, from how to allocate the limited number of pieces it’s able to handcraft each year to how A. Lange & Söhne traditionally demurs from red-carpet placements. “We have a very strict policy: Whoever wears one of our watches is either an employee, or he or she bought it,” Schmid says of the latter. “If you produce watches at the level and price point that we do, then how do you explain that some people get money just for wearing the watch? I just don’t think that’s for us.”

Wilhelm Schmid, A. Lange & Sohne's CEO (left), at the opening of its new boutique in San Francisco.
Wilhelm Schmid, A. Lange & Sohne’s CEO (right), at the opening of its new boutique in San Francisco.

Ultimately, anyone who longs to wear an A. Lange & Söhne should exhibit a decided affinity and history with the brand — not only because Schmid says collectors remain a priority, but also because he wants to guard against a desire to flip a coveted watch on the open market.

Among the high-profile names who have collected and worn A. Lange & Sohne are Ed Sheeran, Michael Jordan, President Bill Clinton, Luke Combs, Elton John and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

“How do you create a history with someone?” Schmid asks. “You meet, you do business together, you go out to dinner together. We just want to ensure that we don’t fuel the gray market [of timepiece flippers]. We don’t have the capacity to fulfill the demand in the market, and that’s accepted by our collectors. But that acceptance would disappear if they can’t find the watch, but they can find it in the [secondary] gray market at a premium.”

In other words, any watch fan true to his or her passions should be successful. “We treat everybody fair and equal,” Schmid says. “We’re not a company that only wants to sell; we just really want to make sure [A. Lange & Söhne watches] go to collectors.”

A. Lange & Söhne's Datograph Up/Down in 18-carat white gold with a blue dial.
A. Lange & Sohne’s Datograph Up/Down in 18-carat white gold with a blue dial.

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