Every year, we get something like closure by racking our brains over, what else, the Revolution Awards. To grease our ruminations, this year we have also created a few categories to be decided by the public. We’ve unveiled a series of timepieces on our prize list; now as we continue our countdown to the end of 2019, it’s time to honour the individuals behind these stellar creations.
Revolutionary of the Year
If it were merely for the launch of the polarising, yet wonderfully daring Lange Odysseus (the word, a sobriquet bestowed upon the watch by none other than Johann Rupert) — a watch whose penchant for striking into unknown territory, rivals only the eponymous Greek mythological hero —you could make a strong case for Wilhelm Schmid, the CEO of A. Lange & Söhne as 2019’s Revolutionary of the Year.
The fact that he did it on top of an already impressive year-long 25th anniversary celebration of the Lange 1, with a seemingly ceaseless series of spectacular events including the Concours d’Elegance at Hampton Court, where he launched the Little Lange 1 Moon Phase, makes him a clear winner.
OK, before we go into the anniversary celebrations and their associated timepieces, let’s talk a little about the Odysseus. Full disclosure, Schmid was kind enough to show me this watch in January, during what it turns out was the very last Salon Internationale de la Haute Horlogerie. And while it took me a while to wrap my head around its asymmetrical case and integrated bracelet, I immediately recognised the significance of what it represented.
Which is not that it is Lange’s first serially produced watch in steel. There has been, of late, a collecting frenzy surrounding steel Lange 1s, but to be fair these watches are quirky anomalies ranging around 20 pieces or so, that vintage dealers and experts have decided to hype up based on their rarity.
The one existing steel Lange Double Split was actually a prototype that was not supposed to leave the manufacture, and I’ve seen a steel Lange 1 tourbillon, which the brand will not comment on. Leaving me to believe it was never meant to leave the factory grounds either.
Anyway, all of this happened before Schmid assumed the helm of Lange. And the point is, these were all dress watches that happened to find themselves with steel cases. The Odysseus is conversely an integrated bracelet sports chic watch but unlike others in its category, which are either designed by Gérald Genta or derived from the school of Gérald Genta — the one exception being the sublime Bvlgari Octo — this is a completely Saxon take on the genre. In the same way a Lange 1 is a Saxon take on a three-hand dress watch (ok, make that four, including power reserve indicator) or that the Datograph is a Saxon take on a dress chronograph.
In that context, the Odysseus is really very cool. OK, now let’s add to this that Lange also launched not one but 10 timepieces, including a Lange 1 Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon, to celebrate the Lange 1’s 25th birthday, held events the world over, and reasserted to the hearts and minds of collectors everywhere that they are a wonderfully original and proudly German brand with the highest level of finish around.
Beyond the simple release of a dozen notable references this year, Schmid made sure he was present at every one of these launch events, enchanting existing clients and forging valuable relationships with a new generation, while broadening his reach to the world of vintage automobile enthusiasts, and all this while retaining his unflappable charm, humor and warmth makes him our undoubted, Revolutionary of the Year.