A. Lange & Söhne’s managing director for Southeast Asia and Australia on adjusting to his recent move to Singapore, his passion for the German watchmaking brand and his take on the status of luxury in the region.
Options: Welcome to Asia! You must be so excited about this new posting.
Charles Langlois: Thank you. Before this posting, I had actually been living in Asia (three years in Japan and, before that, 10 years in Hong Kong). So, it is a really nice continuity. Being based in Singapore has always been one of my wishes and I am glad I can now enjoy it. The city is vibrant, yet I can find a jungle only a 10-minute walk from my apartment.
What was your last assignment in Japan like?
Other than being a wonderful country to live in with an incredible food culture, it brought me a completely different understanding of an evolving work ethic. From the luxury goods industry’s point of view, the attention to detail and the quality of service are things we can learn a lot from.
Piaget and Montblanc are incredible brands to have been part of. What lessons have you brought from these maisons to this new assignment?
Piaget’s motto is ‘always do better than necessary’. Montblanc is about German craftsmanship and manufacturing. The values we share at Lange are [very similar]. The experience I have gained in Asia is a continuation of this journey — sharing a passion for watchmaking and perfection in execution.
You’ve spent many years in the luxury industry. How do you think it has changed over the years?
We speak a lot about digital transformation and I think it’s true in the way our clients are keeping themselves informed. They inform themselves in the digital world before they enter our boutiques. As a result, the interest in watchmaking is rising and the level of knowledge too.
We see younger clients who have a lot of curiosity and enthusiasm for the brand. Knowledge builds respect and respect builds passion, and that gives us a lot of hope for the future of high-end watchmaking.
Regarding luxury products, there is a clear demand for sustainability, and I find it matches our Lange timepieces very well. The answer to sustainability is using long-lasting materials for a watch whose lifespan is endless. In addition, they are created and assembled by highly talented people in our manufacture in Glashütte, Germany.
Being a responsible buyer, I have over the last decade shifted my purchases towards items with higher quality and longevity. The result is that I appreciate and care a lot more for what I own, rather than consume and dispose.
What do you think the future of watchmaking looks like in this region?
Bright, of course. We have a solid base of very loyal and knowledgeable collectors whom I have started connecting with. And also newer fans of the brand who are curious about knowing Lange more, its history and craftsmanship, the impeccable attention to detail and the quality of our watches. Each group requires a different approach and, with a stronger boutique network that we have reinforced, we will offer them a place to meet and connect with the Lange family.
What is it about A. Lange & Söhne that inspires you most of all?
First, its values and history; how the brand started. Then, consistency in the search for perfection, and this was the motto of Walter Lange — ‘never stand still’ — which continues to shape the manufacture’s culture and business today. And finally, the quest for the highest quality of movement construction and decoration, which I admire the most.
Which Lange watch is your favourite?
The iconic Lange 1 would be my favourite and, in particular, the pink gold moon phase. The design of the Lange 1 is fascinating; the dial is off-centre but displays a perfect alignment of all the elements. The symmetry is captivating and I do like spending time connecting the horizontal and vertical lines from the dial. It feels endless.
Is your family looking forward to the move?
Absolutely. After living 10 years in Hong Kong as well as other big cities around the world, I find Singapore an excellent base from which to travel around the region once the borders reopen.
What do family time and days off look like for you?
A search for healthy grocery shopping and a lot of home cooking. My wife is an inspiration when it comes to cuisine and I try to perfect my technique by observing her. And, of course, some sports around the territory, whether it’s running around the MacRitchie Reservoir, indoor rock climbing or cycling from home to Changi Airport early in the morning.
What does your new home in Singapore look like?
A home where I will be looking forward to welcoming, hosting and cooking for my friends in Singapore and, later, from around the world. It’s a place filled with design objects, which my wife and I have sourced from the different countries we have lived in for the past 20 years.
Once the borders open up, where would be your first port of call for a family holiday?
I would look forward to a short trip to Hong Kong to meet my in-laws and have an excellent Cantonese family dinner together. Family is everything and reconnecting with our loved ones after this episode of confinement is essential.
This article first appeared on Jan 11, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.