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Interview: Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne

Anthony de Haas has been Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne since 2004 and is responsible for the creation of all new timepieces, from overall concept to product design.

Time and Watches interviews Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne

Before joining the Saxon watchmaker, the native Dutchman worked with other prestigious watch brands, where he held leading positions in technical departments as well as in sales and marketing. He is a qualified watchmaker, having completed six years of micromechanics studies.

He lives in Dresden, is married and has two daughters. He loves to play the drums and ice hockey.

Alessandro Mazzardo, founder and executive editor at Time and Watches, recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions. Here are Anthony's answers.


Time and Watches: When and how did your passion for watchmaking start? What came first, the watchmaker or the drummer?

Anthony de Haas: The drummer came definitely first. Being a famous drummer was my boy’s dream. My parents let me pursue my dream but insisted that I should also have a decent job. My first idea was to learn building drums, so I could keep in touch with my passion. Unfortunately, there was no drum-making school near to my home. So, I went to tool-making school as I always had a fascination with fine mechanics. After graduating, I completed my studies at the watchmaking institute next door. That’s how I became a watchmaker, but I never gave up playing the drums. I still play in a band in Dresden.

Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne

Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne

The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater by A. Lange & Söhne


Time and Watches: Would you tell us something about your working experiences before joining A. Lange & Söhne?

Anthony de Haas: I spent the first years of my career as a watchmaker in the after sales service of Seiko in The Netherlands and at IWC in Schaffhausen, before I became head of the minute-repeater and complications department at Renaud et Papi, in Le Locle. Later, I was heading the company’s department of sales, marketing and human resources. During that time, a client from Germany toured the company and I was his guide because I speak German. It was none other than the former Lange CEO, who later asked me to join his team as Director of Product Development.


Time and Watches: I know that you worked with Günter Blümlein (the man with whom Walter Lange relaunched the Saxon company in the early 1990s, Ed.), a true legend for any watch enthusiast who had the luck to live during the 1980s watchmaking renaissance. Would you please tell us what is your strongest memory of him?

Anthony de Haas: That’s right, during my time at IWC I had the pleasure of meeting him. I met him on the stairs in my second week. I had never seen him before, and he answered my salute by saying: “Good morning. So, you must be the new Dutch guy?” I nodded before he replied to my amazement: “Welcome to the company. I wish you every success here.” There were hundreds of people working at IWC and the big boss knew every single one of them. By the way, he predicted that I would one day work at A. Lange & Söhne. Unfortunately, he had died a few years before I joined the company in 2004.

Gunther Blumlein and Walter Lange
A picture portraying Gunther Blümlein (on the left) and Walter Lange in the early 90s, when they cooperated to bring the Lange watchmaking tradition back to life by relaunching the Saxon brand  


Time and Watches: Which achievement do you consider the first milestone in your watchmaking career?

Anthony de Haas: When I was working on the grande sonnerie during my time in Switzerland I really had the feeling of entering a whole new world, the world of complications. It was then that I understood the true meaning of the term “Haute Horlogerie”.


Time and WatchesWhich was your first project at Lange?

Anthony de Haas: When I started, we were working on a whole bunch of projects simultaneously, like we always do. Among the upcoming launches were the LANGE 1 TIME ZONE, the TOURBOGRAPH “Pour le Mérite”, the DATOGRAPH PERPETUAL, the RICHARD LANGE and the LANGE 31. We got load of work, and from the very first moment, I had the good feeling of being needed, which, by the way, has never left me since.


Time and Watches: I am always amazed when I consider that, in just 26 years, A. Lange & Söhne has been able to bring to the market truly iconic timepieces like the LANGE 1, the DATOGRAPH and the ZEITWERK, just to name only three of the ones that I love more. Working in a company with such a strong identity is – I am sure – exciting but it also poses several challenges. Do you set well-defined boundaries for your designers when you start a new project or do they have more freedom to experiment and then you start a selection process? Would you please tell us more about the creative process at Lange?

Anthony de Haas: We believe that, in a good creative process, free thinking should know no boundaries to allow innovative ideas to thrive. Developments like the ZEITWERK or the ODYSSEUS would not have been realized without lateral thinking. During the implementation phase, we let ideas compete with each other to filter the better from the good. During this process, we make sure that the design is in line with our codes.


Time and Watches: I am curious to hear how you got to design that uniquely shaped bridge on the dial of the ZEITWERK. I do not think that it was placed where it is for technical reasons but rather for aesthetic reasons, is that correct? 

Anthony de Haas: The time bridge, as we call it, is in fact a part of the movement. On the right you can see the sapphire bearing for the arbor of the tens and units discs. Like all frame components it is made of German silver. By integrating it into the dial we were able to kill two birds with one stone: we reduced the overall height of the watch and, at the same time, we created a dynamic design detail that frames all time indications, the digital hours and minutes as well as the analog small seconds.

The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater by A. Lange & Söhne

The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater by A. Lange & Söhne


Time and Watches: When I first had the new ODYSSEUS in my hands, just after admiring the refined dial, my attention was caught by the fact that you decided to maintain your typical case lugs even in presence of an integrated metal bracelet. Do you consider the lugs one of the distinctive elements of the Lange design code? 

Anthony de Haas: After having developed and rejected many alternatives we decided to keep the typical lugs as they are an essential element of our design language, but we made the bracelet wrap around them to give it the desired integrated look.


The Odysseus by A. Lange & Söhne

Anthony de Haas inspecting the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus


Time and WatchesBy the way, when did you actually start to work on the ODYSSEUS project? Which was the main motivation for developing it? Reaching new targets or rather providing your loyal customer base with a sportier model that could be used in any environment and season?

Anthony de Haas: The idea of a sporty-elegant Lange in stainless steel is not completely new. In fact, it goes back to the initial phase of A. Lange & Söhne’s modern era, when Günter Blümlein came up with the idea to make a steel “sporty” watch one day. The project gained momentum about ten years ago when, spurred by customers’ desire for a sporty Lange, we felt that the time was ripe. We were often asked by watch connoisseurs with an active lifestyle when we would come up with a timepiece that they would not have to take off during leisure activities. This is the audience we had in mind when we developed the ODYSSEUS.

A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus

A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus


Time and Watches: Technically speaking, which is the solution that you and your team developed that you are most proud of?

Anthony de Haas: The opportunity to work on the GRAND COMPLICATION, featuring a grande and petite sonnerie, a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar with moon phase and a rattrapante chronograph in addition to flying seconds was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. This project marked the beginning of a new era at A. Lange & Söhne – the era of striking watches that we took to a new level with the decimal strike of the ZEITWERK MINUTE REPEATER.

The Grand Complication by A. Lange & Söhne
The Grand Complication (2013) and, below, the Zeitwerk Minute Repeater (2015)

The Zeitwerk Minute Repeater by A. Lange & Söhne


Time and Watches: Is there a technical solution or invention of other watchmakers – of today or from the past – that you particularly admire?

Anthony de Haas: I am often amazed by the technical marvels of our forefathers and by the completely new approaches they already adopted in the early days of mechanical watchmaking. You may be aware that we developed a certain expertise in the field of constant-force drives. Once you dig deeper into the matter you will discover that already in the early 17th century the Swiss watchmaker Jost Bürgi conceived the idea of interposing a remontoir d’égalité between mainspring barrel and escapement to compensate the decreasing force of the spring. By the way, one of the watchmakers who further developed the initial achievement was Ferdinand Adolph Lange who designed a so-called “seconds remontoir”, which resulted in an even amplitude of the balance and a jumping seconds hand.


Time and Watches
Every decade or so is characterized by specific trends (ultra-thin movements, adding complications, tourbillons, using new materials, et cetera). Do you envision any particular trend in watchmaking for the near future?

Anthony de Haas: The trends you are mentioning are recurring themes. If you follow developments over a long period of time you will notice, for instance, that the race for the thinnest movement is reanimated every once in a while. Our ambition is to build watches that stand the test of time, without having to keep abreast of the zeitgeist. Watches like the LANGE 1 or the ZEITWERK were made to inspire our most demanding and knowledgeable customers. When an idea like the outsize date or the decentralized dial layout becomes a trend, all the better. But if we stand out from the crowd by a unique technology, we are equally happy.

Suggested reading:
- Inside the A. Lange & Söhne manufactory in Glashütte
- History of the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1
- A. Lange & Söhne mechanical movements: what makes them so irresistible?

Find more about the A. Lange & Söhne timepieces at alange-soehne.com

COMMENTS

BLOGGER: 5
  1. He's a lucky man. Mechanical marvels and music. What to ask more?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice reading. One of the brands that I respect more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This man is a great asset for ALS. Good questions by TaW

    ReplyDelete

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Time and Watches | The watch blog: Interview: Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne
Interview: Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne
Time and Watches interviews Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Development at A. Lange & Söhne responsible for the creation of all new timepieces, from overall concept to product design.
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