Chronoswiss Everyone has their favourites, and at The Watch Press, Chronoswiss are one of our own favourite watchmakers.
Unlike many of the ‘Old Masters’ which rightly constitute the majority of today’s most illustrious watchmakers and manufactures, the Chronoswiss history does not go back a hundred years or more. In fact, Chronoswiss are only this year, 2009, celebrating the occasion of their first quarter-century of producing their distinctive timepieces.
The company’s beginnings actually go back a little further to 1981, when its’ charismatic founder Gerd-Rüdiger Lang, having been immersed in the watch industry in many guises since the early 1960s, established his own workshop in Munich where he principally concentrated on various concepts based around the chronograph movement.
Chronoswiss founder; Gerd-Rüdiger Lang
Having spent his formative years at the watchmakers bench as an apprentice, Gerd-R Lang worked his way across the industry. On serving his apprenticeship, he found employment with the Heuer watch company where he served from 1964 working on the famous Heuer sports chronographs and stopwatches. This position had a few perks too, as in 1970 he found himself involved on behalf of Heuer with Steve McQueen in the classic ‘Le Mans’ movie - the iconic actor having a long-standing affair with the company’s Monaco chronograph watch, Gerd also shared McQueen’s passion for motor racing (and to this day competes himself in prestigious classic car events in his beloved Jaguar XK120) – indeed his passion for things mechanical would, in time, become his company slogan: “Faszination der Mechanik”.
Following the death of its’ Patron, the Heuer brand had struggled for some years, and it was this period of instability (ultimately culminating in the takeover by Technologies d’Avant-Garde later in 1984) which triggered G-R Langs’ departure, taking with him in lieu of severance a stock of Heuer chronograph movements.
In 1980, having returned to further study his profession in Würzburg, Gerd-R Lang emerged with his new title of ‘Master Watchmaker’ and immediately commenced setting in place the corner stones for what would, in a few short years, become Chronoswiss.
In the same year, 1980, he would also enjoy the distinction of being Official Timekeeper for Swiss Timekeeping at the Moscow Olympic Games. Quite a coup for a German watchmaker!
The first indicator of what was to come was also a world’s first from the Lang werk in Munich.
In 1982, a new mechanical chronograph with moonphase which featured a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback was unveiled bearing for the first time the name Chronoswiss. At a time when most pundits were eschewing the mechanical watch as old hat compared to the new high-tech quartz watches, in the same manner they would later discard their vinyl for the CD, here almost unbelievably, was this eccentric whose passion and belief in his beloved profession had driven him to show that the modern world was missing the whole point of the mechanical watch. And how better to demonstrate his views than with this conceptually advanced debut.
The next year, 1983, saw Chronoswiss move into its’ new facility in Munich. The company name was to symbolise the utilisation of the Swiss watchmaking ethic and the components which were exclusively sourced for the watches. The company was then officially registered in 1984 by its’ founder.
When Chronoswiss unveiled the Régulateur in 1987, it simultaneously showcased the design direction which would become the company signature. Here for the first time was the milled bezel, the oversize ‘onion’ crown, the exhibition caseback and soldered lugs which would become synonymous with the brand.
The Régulateur had the distinction of being another ‘world’s first’ in that it was the first presentation of such a timepiece, with hours and minutes displayed separately, in wristwatch form.
The Chronoswiss Régulateur
World’s firsts were to become something of a trademark which would be associated with Gerd R Lang’s brand, as many of the models which would come to make up the Chronoswiss portfolio were inventive interpretations of the wristwatch which pushed the boundaries of design, layout and functionality.
The distinctive design and function of Chronoswiss watches as well as Lang’s philosophical approach to showcasing and marketing his passion served to catapult the new watch brand into a respect among watch enthusiasts reserved normally for much older and illustrious manufactures.
A succession of new models would follow, each one in its’ own way a breakaway from the traditional, while at the same time still honouring the skills of the early master watchmakers in their functionality and complication.
The Chronoswiss Chronoscope
A browse across the Chronoswiss collection reveals a distinctive and comprehensive interpretation of complications, encompassing virtually all of the recognised watchmaking ‘masterpieces’.
As Chronoswiss matured, its’ following grew beyond the small number of enthusiasts who were interested in a quirky and headstrong German watchmaker.
Although not a ‘manufacture’ (the status afforded only to watchmakers where the entire design and construction of complication movements occurs in-house), here were hand assembled watches, with specialist skills such as the ‘skeletonisation’ of base movements outsourced to the very best craftsmen in their fields.
Due to this network of highly specialist watchmakers and decorators built up by G-R Lang in his years in the industry, the Chronoswiss catalogue could boast an impressive range of hand-assembled watches which offered a diverse array of functionality.
The Chronoswiss Digiteur
The Chronoswiss portfolio accommodates a broad selection of styles and functions ranging from Chronographs and Rattrapante, the Chronoscope, the Delphis (featuring retrograde minutes and digital hour display), through remarkable pieces like the Digiteur (above), which combines the analogue movement with a non-analogue display, its’ complete and perpetual calendars and moonphase watches on to the stunning Régulateur Tourbillon and Répétition á quarts timepieces.
In recent times, an important new addition to the portfolio has arrived and this piece, the fabulous Chronoswiss Sauterelle (Grasshopper!) models, complete with that famous quartz movement signature - jumping seconds – even though the movement is wholly mechanical!
The Chronoswiss Sauterelle 71
The new Sauterelle is noteworthy in that for the very first time, Chronoswiss have created this ground-breaking mechanical movement, from scratch, in-house, thereby becoming Chronoswiss’ first creation as a ‘manufacture’.
As well as paying tribute to the technical genius of his predecessors, G-R Langs’ Chronoswiss also worked with materials such as enamel – as seen on the beautiful Orea Handaufzug (or manual-wound) watch.
Ensuring continuity in the same mould as himself, Gerd-Rüdiger Lang proudly announced in 2003 the appointment as Junior President in the person of Natalie Lang, his own daughter, also a time-served and qualified watchmaker with business management skills.
Chronoswiss saw out 2006 with a December move into its’ brand new purpose-built manufacturing facility in Karlsfeld, a town in the suburbs of the Bavarian capitol, Munich.
A comparative newcomer then by industry standards, but a watchmaker whose naked passion for his craft, with a fine eye for distinctive design and layout combined with the essence of tradition has nonetheless elevated the Chronoswiss name to a level of respect across the industry and with aficionados enjoyed only by the highest echelons of the watchmaking world.
Gerd-Rüdiger Langs’ history may not reach back a hundred years or more, but those whose works so influenced him most certainly do!
We say “Thank heaven for people like Gerd-R!” and strongly recommend time spent delving deeper into his wonderful Chronoswiss brand and its’ philosophy.