This is the second of a three-part series on A. Lange & Söhne’s success as a manufacture today, and looks into what the brand stands for – and ignores.
How does one define A. Lange & Söhne as a brand? It may be easier to reframe the question and first examine what A. Lange & Söhne isn’t. For a start, it isn’t a brand that’s heavily focused or reliant on marketing. In an industry that’s saturated with brand-celebrity partnerships – most of them ephemeral – A. Lange & Söhne is a rare holdout without a single ambassador, endorsee, or friend of the brand. Instead, the brand’s creations are always the priority. Just visit its official Instagram account @alangesoehne or peruse its marketing materials, and you’ll find its penchant for sharing about the watches themselves, and little else. Few other brands let their products speak for themselves so extensively, instead of crafting narratives around them to frame how they are perceived. In this aspect, A. Lange & Söhne is unique.
The brand doesn’t follow trends either, and has repeatedly demonstrated a penchant to go its own way. Take vintage reissues, for example. While most other brands are scouring their archives for inspiration to create retro-modern timepieces, A. Lange & Söhne has stuck to its guns and focused on its contemporary collection. Similarly, it has maintained its watches’ aesthetics in the face of fads ranging from panda dials to smoked dials to sector dials.
This consistency could almost be mistaken for insularity, and extends to business decisions too. Consider e-commerce, long hailed as the next step towards an omnichannel retail experience for the luxury watch industry. Various players from the major groups to smaller independent brands have taken a keen interest in this arena, and many have made forays into the space. A. Lange & Söhne has remained unfazed though, with Schmid opining that the human and emotional connections – crucial elements in the sales experience – do not translate well on digital platforms. In lieu of investments there, the brand is concentrating efforts on its boutiques instead to, in Schmid’s words, “bring Glashütte to [the brand’s] clients”, where its watches can be properly examined and admired.
If there’s one other thing that A. Lange & Söhne clearly isn’t, it’s a preoccupation with growth or market share. That’s not to say that the brand hasn’t been expanding, as its manufactory’s extension in 2015 proved. It’s clear, however, that growing its market share and/or sales figures are not high on its priority list, despite the potential for it to do so successfully. It could conceivably unveil an entry-level timepiece below S$15,000 for higher sales volumes, or adopt any of the myriad strategies that have been tried, tested, and proven to generate and capture new clients and markets. But it hasn’t.
Instead, growth has appeared consistent and organic, insofar as what outsiders can observe, since Richemont does not publish figures on individual brands. Capacity and sustainability, two sides of the same coin, are probably the reasons for the brand’s approach – conceptualising, developing and producing an A. Lange & Söhne timepiece is an involved process, and one that takes time to properly accomplish.
High German Watchmaking
As counterintuitive as it seems, defining what A. Lange & Söhne isn’t has left a clear picture of what it is: a brand that’s fiercely focused on its watches to the exclusion of almost everything else. The common thread running through the points discussed above is proof enough. Marketing and communications? Let the watches speak for themselves. Trendy design features? The watches have a timeless aesthetic that mustn’t be so readily changed based on what’s fashionable. Changing winds in the industry? The watches must still come first. Even the bottom line is considered with the watches in mind.
At A. Lange & Söhne it’s always been about the watches. It’s rare for any brand to be so singularly focused – obsessed, even – with just one aspect of the business, but this approach has paid off handsomely for A. Lange & Söhne. There’s the brand equity that it has built based on its watches alone, and then there are the watches themselves. What’s astonishing is how there are no “better finished” or “better assembled” watches here – every A. Lange & Söhne movement is finished to the same standard, and goes through the same meticulous double assembly process.