By KUPLUTHAI PUNGKANON
THERE’S NOTHING that spells luxury better than a classic watch crafted from the finest materials or using a richly embellished fountain pen to sign your name.
A Lange & Sohne and Montblanc are among the biggest names crafting the world’s most coveted possessions and the top executives of these two German brands recently sat down with The Nation to talk about their technical innovations, intelligent movements and high artistic craftsmanship.
A Lange & Sohne
As with other top brands that have chosen to open their own boutiques in Bangkok, Wilhelm Schmid, chief executive officer of A Lange & Sohne, recently jetted into town to talk about the history of the brand and its first free-standing boutique at Siam Paragon.
Wilhelm Schmid, chief executive officer of A Lange & Sohne
“We have a rather unusual history but one that reflects the spirit of Germany. Our founder, Ferdinand Adolph Lange, set up the company on December 7, 1845. His vision was to bring watchmaking to Germany and so he started a school in Glashutter and recruited farmers and mine workers as apprentices, telling them they would be building the world’s best watches. It remained a family company until its main production building was destroyed by a bomb on the last night of the war in 1945. The brand disappeared after that only to be reborn after the reunification of Germany. The founder’s great grandson Walter Lange, who sadly passed away last year at the age of 92, formally reopened the company on December 7, 1990 and his motto ‘never stand still’ reflected his passion for watchmaking. In memory of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, all our boutiques are decorated with a stone from the Berlin Wall including this one in Bangkok. It took four years to develop our first homage movement models. Since 2000, we have been a subsidiary of the Richemont Group,” Schmid explains.
The new Bangkok boutique joins A. Lange & Sohne’s worldwide stable of 25 boutiques and 215 sales points at retailers and is the fourth store to adopt the concept of 360-degree visibility after Dresden, Shanghai and Chengdu.
“In explaining A Lange & Sohne, I really have to cover three areas. The first is the combination of German engineering and craftsmanship. Our watch’s dial is rather subtle and understated, never shiny or ostentatious. It’s always readable, functional, and of the highest quality but also understated. However, as I turn it around, it becomes very different. Its face has a timeless aesthetic appeal and the decoration is optimal, showing as much of the craftsmanship and label as possible. Our unique jumping movement is very precise. Performance and innovation are the second aspect of our company while the third is the crafting of the watches by real artisans not machines. The iconic timepiece, Lange 1, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a Jubilee edition, is a good example. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll see there is the perfect triangle, that’s why it looks very organised.”
The award-winning watch’s 25th Anniversary edition in white gold is limited to 250 pieces. Its special features include a deep-blue printed argente dial with a recess, blue date numerals, a hinged cuvette with an engraving of Lange’s headquarters and a hand-engraved balance cock with blued lines. The asymmetric arrangement of its dial triggers discussions, and its technical facets – such as the outsize date and the twin mainspring barrel – have been enthusiastically received.
The series has been crafted with virtually no changes since 1994. Its movement is what reflects its technical evolution. The manually wound calibre L121.1 introduced in 2015 includes a precisely jumping outsize date display and a freely oscillating Lange balance spring. Paired with a large cam-poised balance, it assures superb rate accuracy. The opulently finished movement features a twin mainspring barrel with a power reserve of 72 hours as well as typical Lange quality hallmarks. Noteworthy elements are the three-quarter plate made of untreated German silver, eight screwed gold chatons, and the hand-engraved balance cock.
The Lange 1 “25th Anniversary”, has another prominent feature: the engraved hinged cuvette crafted from solid white gold. The engraving depicts the Lange headquarters that date back to 1873, the names of Walter Lange and Gunter Blumlein, and a relief engraving of the inscription “25 Years Lange 1”.
Known for their outstanding beauty and German precision, Montblanc’s watches and writing instruments are elaborate pieces that defy imagination. Daniel Kohler, head of Montblanc’s client relations and high artistry, spoke with us about the brand’s special focus of pairing technical virtuosity with boundless creativity.
He explains that the absolute mastery of the artisans at the Montblanc Atelier allows the brand to offer unparalleled pieces of craftsmanship, bringing together the finest precious stone cutting, gem-setting, engraving and gold crafting techniques.
Daniel Kohler, head of Montblanc’s client relations and high artistry
"Back in the 1990s, we introduced the limited-edition concept, then four years ago we launched the High Artistry strategy, which takes it a step further by focusing on high value, high-end pricing and the use of precious stones in the writing instruments and complications for timepieces. Montblanc’s writing instruments are manufactured in Hamburg while the timepieces are produced in Switzerland, and leather goods is in Italy”
“It might come as a surprise but the most expensive pieces are usually those that sell the quickest. Some unique pieces are never seen in our stores and we show them off in road shows like this one in Bangkok, which is where the product is sold and become part of our clients’ collections,” Kohler adds.
He cites as an example the Emperor Kangxi Limited Edition 89, a pen that pays tribute to “the General” as he was known. The cap and barrel in Au750 yellow gold feature a special pattern reminiscent of the ceremonial suit of armour the emperor wore for parades. The birch used on the lower barrel is the wood associated with hunting bows in the Qing dynasty. Lotus plants are lasered onto the thin birch wood using ultraviolet technology to protect the surface. The barrel is embellished with an archer’s ring made of tiger’s eye, while the base of the cone features a yellow citrine cabochon. The top features the Montblanc emblem in mother-of-pearl.
“The clip is also very functional. It is engraved with head of the dragon. It’s a bit tricky to tell the Chinese their history but the way we put the piece together has been a success. They really love it a lot,” he says.
Less ostentatious but no less successful is the sophisticated James Dean Limited Edition 99. Limited to 99 pieces in reference to the year when the American Film Institute ranked James Dean one of the greatest male movie stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, the knife-shaped design of the writing instrument is a tribute to the knife fight from his second film “Rebel Without A Cause”. The writing instrument’s barrel is crafted from precious ebony with fittings made of Au 750 solid white gold. Giving it the appearance of a closed switchblade, a special mechanism hides the nib within the writing instrument when not in use. When opened with a simple flick, the nib automatically extends into position, ready for writing. The handcrafted rhodium-coated Au 750 gold nib is engraved with the racing flag design. The Montblanc emblem in white resin is set on the cap top, and a mother-of-pearl emblem embellishes the cone.
Because the nib is truly the heart of a fountain pen, many of the more than 200 individual steps it takes to create a Meisterstuck remain virtually unchanged since this most iconic of fountain pens was first produced in 1924. Most are still completed by hand – from the intricate engravings for the 18-carat gold nib, through the painstaking tasks of cutting the central slit through which the ink will flow, grinding the nib’s hard iridium point and polishing all its surfaces, to the testing of the finished writing instrument.