What I’ve Learnt: Anthony de Haas, Product Development Director, A. Lange & SöhneWritten by Alvin Wong
“There is never gonna be an easy way out.”
The watch business needs more guys like Anthony de Haas. The 50-year-old Dutch is the driving force behind each new Lange watch, from the brand’s most complex chiming complications, to its ‘simplest’ cosmetic enhancements. Yet, regardless of the type of creation, de Haas seems to imbue each new offering with the same degree of fastidiousness. And he manages it in a manner that isn’t devoid of humour.
"Oh the movement has 900-plus components? Is that what makes a complication watch good? Well, not really. And besides, I am not interested in these sort of figures. They are for the marketing people," he laughs as he opines about the making of exceedingly technical timepieces that Lange is famous for.
Despite his casual air, de Haas does care a lot – and he sweats both the small stuff and the big ones. After all, there is no way that he could have been flippant while at the helm of Lange’s product development, rolling out modern classics that have entered into contemporary horological folklore. Such as the Lange 31 with 31-day power reserve; the Grand Complication that featured the brand’s first chiming complication from 2013 (top); and most recently, the Tourbograph Perpetual 'Pour le Mérite' (below) that houses a quintet of complications.
“I look at each new product and think how it would raise the game in watchmaking, bring Lange forward,” says de Haas, revealing a work ethos that is both forward-thinking and fiercely dedicated to upholding the spirit of the brand that he now calls home.
I started working in a jeweller's shop right after watchmaking school. The shop sold Ebels, Rolexes, Cartiers, Pateks. It was a place where I learnt to solve problems and improvise. People would come in with all sorts of requests, from changing batteries to making engravings. And I loved that because I got to work on all kinds of watches and repairs, and you get a sense of really wanting to help the customer. It is the same attitude that I bring to Lange.
It is human nature to be complacent. After a good showing at the SIHH watch fair, we'd like to pat ourselves on the back and relax. That's why it is even more important, after experiencing some success, to stay on our toes and hit the refresh button.
We always have ideas. But that is the easy part. To build the watches after we get our ideas – now, that is the real challenge.
It would not be enough to make JUST a tourbillon. Not at Lange. The marketing people would be able to sell one, I'm sure, but that's not the point, is it? We are more about trying to do things differently each time, in a way that people will go, 'Yup, that is Lange!'
It is all about the fans. I think it is most important to be consistent and stick to what we're good at. If we were to start making purely commercially driven products, we would lose our fans.
I expect to be challenged with one disaster a day. And most days, there would be one: dials not coming in on time, or they would be in but in a different colour, or a machine would break down leading to a delay. I know that, and I'm at peace with that.
I’ve been with A. Lange & Söhne for 13 years. This is the longest I have been with a brand. Why? Because they haven't kicked me out yet! (laughs) But seriously, I love it here. The day Lange kicks me out is probably the day I quit watchmaking.
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.