On the Art and Aesthetics of Mechanics: A. Lange & Söhne at Hampton Court Concours of Elegance 2018
An alignment of values as Lange takes over the main sponsorship of the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court
It’s almost that perfect time of year in London; that moment when the sun shines just long enough to feel the warmth and yet sets spectacularly in the western sky. This year, for the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court, Lange Sohne took over as the main sponsor of the event. And a spectacular event it turned out to be.
Lange’s commitment to mechanical aesthetics and form is now underlined by their involvement and sponsorship of two out of three of the top Concours competitions on the circuit. Both Como and Hampton Court are regal, and truly divine settings: both locations (Villa D’Este and Hampton) being once owned and occupied by Cardinals of the Catholic Church. The Cardinals certainly knew how to select a location and design a palace; plus in this instance, the grounds in which they sit.
This year the Concourse at Hampton was notable as a watch brand had taken over as principal sponsor. Lange’s commitment to mechanics and aesthetics continues through the right approach to projecting the brand image. For a watch company that takes pride, not only in the horological mastery with the movements: this year’s triple split chronograph (a notable first) comes to mind, but in classic and timeless looks, this is an ideal event.
For a start, Hampton Court is one of the few palaces near London with the type of ornate grounds that allow the vintage cars to be parked and admired. Since 2012, when the Concourse was bounced around a number of palaces in London over the years, the event has now settled on Hampton Court. Over the short span of six years, the event has become one of the most important on the Concours circuit.
2018 Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Winner
Evidence of this was reflected in Hampton Court’s winning car this year. Fittingly a German car with British connection won the Overall Prize: a 1929 Mercedes Benz 7 liter supercharged grand tourer with coachwork by Barker of London. The same car won the Pebble Beach Concours last year.
Lange watches are a natural compliment to vintage cars. The reasoning is fairly obvious as it harks back to George Daniel’s over used quote concerning watches, cars, and the size of the hammer! Which is strange as the watches, as with cars of Concours quality, have more hand construction and finishing in common, than any form of hand tools. Equally, watch brands often make too much of a connection to justify another a co-branding arrangement between the watch and the car. But that is not the Lange & Söhne way!
There is no car co-branding here: just an emphasis on mechanical aesthetics and precision done correctly! And that is where Lange’s sweet spot lies. Watches that are designed and made to not only tell the time of day; some with considerably more functions than that, but also with a view to lasting not only this generation but the generations to come.
Most of the cars on display were either already deemed classics or future classics-in-waiting. Cars ranged from a 1903 Panhard et Levassor O4R right up to a modern day 2018 Ferrari GTC4 Lusso ‘Tailor Made’ Aranci Rik.
Some of the cars in the competition were stunningly rare – and valuable for that matter! Although any selection is subjective, the cars that caught my eye (but did not win!) were a 1936 Lancia Astura Bocca Cabriolet, a 1949 Ferrari 166 Inter Superleggera, a 1954 Jaguar XK120 Pinin Farina Coupé, a 1958 Maserati 300S, a 1962 Ferrari 250 SWB Berlinetta, and a 1992 Jaguar XJ 220 Coupé.
And that is the lesson to be learned from a Concourse of this kind. The quality is in the cars that comprise the Concours. The cars on display were not only designed for their time; but to stand the test of time. Although careful preservation is still needed by very skilled individuals, the point of the Concours – of any Concours – is to showcase and preserve rare cars that will stand the test of time.
A Ferrari 250SWB or a Jaguar XJ220 was as much an aesthetic and mechanical machine when it was first produced as it is today. Cared for, the car will continue to be a source of beauty and admiration for years or generations to come.
The same can be said for watches. Mechanical watches will hold not only their monetary value, but their personal or intrinsic value for years into the future. Lange & Söhne philosophy on the quality of the movement and the design of the watch means that the watch will last and won’t suffer any of the vagaries of fashion.
It will last: it will look as good in years into the future as it does today. Lange movements are noted within the luxury watchmaking sector because of their finish and construction. Taking the time to screw chaton-mounted jewels into the plate with small blued screws, the use of German silver for the plates, the exactness of the Geneva stripes (that protect against corrosion), the champfering around the plates and the polish on the gears: all ensure that the movement looks stunning, but that the movement can be overhauled and maintained. With care, the watch will look as good now as it will in the future. Which is the aim of the Concours competition for cars: maintaining the car’s originality.
Chatting with Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of Lange, about being main sponsor of the event, he noted that in terms of raising the profile of the company in the UK, the Concourse had been a great success. The number of visitors to the Lange booth – just next to the palace itself – had seen more visitors than expected and had the watches been for sale (they were display only) then a number of “sold” stickers would have been needed.
Schmid, who was exhibiting his own 1954 Frazer Nash Le Mans Coupé at the Concourse believed that Lange’s own approach to watchmaking, and what collectors and enthusiasts saw in the cars were closely aligned: “Ultimate craftsmanship, technical innovation and timeless elegance are the key values behind the Concours of Elegance and A. Lange & Söhne’s approach to watchmaking. Car and watch connoisseurs are united by their passion for technology and art.”
Understanding such values are part of what makes Lange watches so intrinsically valuable – both in terms of collectors and for those who want just one watch to last them a lifetime and beyond. It is the commitment to excellence in mechanics, so the watch (or car) can be maintained and enjoyed throughout its use, that separates Lange as a watch manufacturer.
The Concours is a reflection of that philosophy and both cars and Lange watches were on display at Hampton Court for all to see and enjoy.
(Photo Credits: Author unless otherwise noted)
Andrew K. G. Hildreth is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, and Freeman of the City of London. A lifelong enthusiast and collector of watches – it was the first thing he asked his parents for when he was four years old. He has written for a number of publications on watchmaking and haute horlogerie (along with photography, fountain pens, and vintage cars – especially Bentley).
When not writing and talking (endlessly) about watches, he travels around the world occasionally indulging in his favourite tipple: a gin and tonic. His watch articles can be found in Revolution, The Rake, The Telegraph, GQ, MensHealth, Hodinkee, WatchesbySJX, Watch Journal, PuristsPro (AndrewH_219), QP, iW Magazine, The Hour, Twelve, or Calibre.
His gin article was published on AlphaLuxe!
You can also follow him on Instagram: @andrewh_219