Wilhelm Schmid has two passions: cars and watches. The former BMW executive and classic roadster enthusiast is CEO of Saxony-based watch brand A. Lange & Söhne, one of the main partners of the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este since 2012. This year, the exclusive classic car and motorcycle meeting on the banks of Lake Como took place under the heading “Hollywood on the Lake”. Schmid took time out to go on a tour of the extensive park grounds especially for BMW Group Classic. Needless to say, the assembled BMWs were part of his itinerary.
Even after more than sixty years, the BMW 507 roadster is still as peerlessly elegant and racy as ever. The glitterati of the Golden Fifties soon latched on to its appeal. Stars such as Elvis Presley, Alain Delon and Ursula Andress were among the owners of this design icon, of which only 252 examples were built. Wilhelm Schmid is fascinated by its inspired combination of technical finesse and lucid design: “Its creator, Count Albrecht von Goertz, was driven by the quest for the perfect shape. He was particularly captivated by the correct ratio of generous surfaces and curved lines. But he also systematically introduced small incongruities to avoid the merest hint of boredom, all without jeopardising harmony. This is comparable with the configuration of an A. Lange & Söhne watch, which presents the designers with a similar challenge. Only in this case, a fraction of a millimetre can completely change the statement being made.”
With its classic ponton shape, the BMW 503 ‒ also designed by Count Goertz and likewise presented at the 1955 Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) ‒ constituted a deliberate riposte to the BMW 501 “baroque angel”. Like the BMW 502, this sports car (available as a coupe or convertible) was powered by a 3.2-litre V8 engine. Deeply impressed, famous Italian designer Battista “Pinin” Farina declared the BMW 503 to be the most beautiful car of the entire show.
Another car that Wilhelm Schmid cannot pass with comment is an Aston Martin DB5 that starred in a James Bond movie. Sean Connery was the king of the car chase in Goldfingerat the wheel of the 1964 car exhibited at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2018. This Hollywood legend on wheels recently changed hands for 4.5 million dollars.
The BMW E9 celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In the late 1960s, the coupe version of the E3 model was arguably the most elegant and – thanks to its powerful six-cylinder in-line engine – most potent way to travel. The BMW 3.0 CS, in a fashionable orange hue, unmistakably dates back to the early 1970s. At that time, BMW stood at the vanguard of a movement that translated brand personality into consistent design with distinctively contoured model ranges. “At A. Lange & Söhne, we work according to the same principle,” says Schmid. “Each of our five watch families has its own characteristic profile. But every Lange watch is still immediately recognisable as such, even without a logo.”
Bertone caused a sensation at the Turin Motor Show in 1970 with the Lancia Stratos 0 – and made the wedge shape respectable in the process. The uncompromising design study fascinates Wilhelm Schmid even today. In his opinion, the concept car quite rightly earned class victory in the category “Hollywood on the Lake. Stars of the Silver Screen”. Italian designer Giorgio Giugiaro was another automotive titan unable to resist the allure of the wedge, as the body of the Giugiaro-designed BMW M1 from 1971 clearly testifies. The super-sports car, of which only 453 were built, was the first developed by BMW Motorsport and, to date, the only one featuring a mid-mounted engine.
Wilhelm Schmid shares an interesting story about the BMW 321. The father of Walter Lange, who established A. Lange & Söhne, owned such a car. The family travelled to Switzerland and Bavaria in it, memorable journeys that Lange jnr. treasures deeply. “The BMW 321 awakened Lange’s passion for beautiful cars, which he retained all his life,” explains Wilhelm
Schmid. “Even decades later, he would enthuse about the elegant design of the bodywork and the car’s perfect craftsmanship, down to the very last detail. It matched his passion for precision, which he would later put into practice with mechanical watches.”
As a tribute to Walter Lange, the company’s founder, who passed away in January 2017, A. Lange & Söhne added a new timepiece to the 1815 family – one endowed with an unusual quirk: the 1815 “Homage to Walter Lange” features a jumping sweep-seconds hand with a start-and-stop function that harks back to an invention conceived in 1867 by his great-grandfather Ferdinand Adolph Lange.
Courtesy of A. Lange und Söhne