You are currently viewing Depth – The Story of Günter Blümlein, His Role at IWC, Jaeger & Lange

Depth – The Story of Günter Blümlein, His Role at IWC, Jaeger & Lange

The watchmaking {industry}, earlier than being a narrative of merchandise, is in the beginning the story of men and women dedicated to conceiving and producing a few of the most delicate and but pointless objects we will think about. If all should be thought of, some names resonate stronger, largely for the affect they’ve had on this {industry}. You possibly can, for instance, take into consideration A.L. Breguet and his affect on mechanical watchmaking. Or about Nicolas G. Hayek and the way he’s been instrumental in staging the comeback of “Swiss-made” watchmaking. One of many names you possibly can add to this listing is, certainly, Günter Blümlein, a person who has carried out great work to carry mechanical watchmaking again to the forefront, to revive watchmaking to the city of Glashütte and to form the {industry} as it’s at the moment. And since Mr Blümlein handed away precisely 20 years in the past, on 1 October 2001, it’s the good time to recollect one of many {industry}’s giants.

Remembering Mr Blümlein

The story of Günter Blümlein is linked to a few of probably the most important manufacturers of the Swiss and German watchmaking scene: IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and A. Lange & Söhne, all below a division named LMH, which was essential in shaping the Richemont Group as we all know it at the moment. And behind this profitable rise of watchmaking had been many men and women, below the lead of Mr Blümlein.

Günter Blümlein (1943 – 2001)

Günter Blümlein was born on 21 March 1943, in Nuremberg, Germany –  not probably the most nice place to stay, in all honesty. Regardless of being raised in a devastated nation, throughout occasions of division in Germany, Blümlein efficiently accomplished his research and have become an engineer. From 1968 to 1980, he labored for a German industrial group named Diehl (headquartered in Nuremberg, Germany), proprietor of the model Junghans, one of many largest and most important names within the German watchmaking {industry} (and as soon as the biggest clock and watch producer on the earth within the early twentieth century). Blümlein turned supervisor of the Group’s watch division, with a mission of restructuring the watch department. 

Following this expertise, Blümlein moved to VDO Schindling AG, one other German firm that specialised on the time in speedometers and automobile devices. In 1978, VDO bought two vital Swiss watch producers: IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre. Thus, in 1980, Blümlein turned the top of a newly created division, an umbrella firm named “Les Manufactures Horlogères” (or LMH). Blümlein was additionally behind the restructuring of JLC, as he made certain VDO may purchase out 20% of the corporate owned by a neighborhood financial institution and 25% owned by Vacheron Constantin. Proper after, 40% of the corporate was bought to Audemars Piguet, a producer that relied on JLC’s sources for a few of its manufacturing. 

The legend comes again to life” had been the primary phrases of Blümlein on the launch of A. Lange & Söhne in 1994

One other vital achievement of Günter Blümlein’s was his involvement within the resurrection of German watch producer A. Lange & Söhne, along with the Lange household, proper after the autumn of the Berlin Wall. The three firms had been all directed by Blümlein below the LMH umbrella, a part of the VDO/Mannesmann Group. Issues would stay this fashion till Mannesmann was acquired by Vodafone in 1999. The brand new proprietor was ordered to restructure the group and to place VDO and watch actions up on the market. Blümlein had an vital function within the negotiations, main Richemont Group to be the brand new proprietor of LMH, and thus of Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC and A. Lange & Söhne. 

Günter Blümlein was essential on this transition and within the integration of the manufacturers into this new group. He handed away on 1 October 2001, after a short however deadly sickness, on the age of 58. 

Blümlein and IWC

his curriculum vitae is one factor, however what he has carried out for the {industry} and the three watch manufacturers he oversaw for a big a part of his profession, beginning with IWC or Worldwide Watch Firm AG, Schaffhausen, is sort of one other.

When recruited by VDO on the age of 38, Blümlein, because the boss of a VDO subsidiary known as Les Manufactures Horlogères, was requested by the German group to supervise two lately acquired firms, IWC and JLC. It’s value mentioning that we’re speaking about one of the difficult eras for the standard watchmaking {industry}, which was nonetheless affected by the competitors of quartz, digital and digital watches from Asia. If in at the moment’s world mechanical watchmaking has been reinstated to its former glory (or a minimum of to an plain degree of success), this wasn’t the case in any respect within the early Eighties. Again then, mechanical watchmaking was dying. However some males, Blümlein included, thought there was a future for this conventional {industry}. And on this occasion, Blümlein was instrumental within the comeback of mechanical watchmaking.

Upon arrival at VDO Schindling AG, Günter Blümlein’s first process was to restructure IWC. He targeted his complete consideration to revive this century-old manufacture situated within the German-speaking facet of Switzerland to its former glory, with a really clear and really private method. He needed to “put an finish to watchmaking boredom“, he as soon as stated, and for that, he utilized his signature model: a clear, no-nonsense method to watchmaking, ultra-focused with clearly outlined collections and a sure sense of humour in promoting campaigns. Tag strains like “IWC. Official provider to males“, “Virtually as sophisticated as a lady, besides it’s on time“, or “Girls, you trip our Harleys, smoke our Havanas, drink our Glenmorangie. Fingers off our IWC” appeared on these usually Eighties, masculine-toned adverts. It could merely be unattainable at the moment, however it labored again then. 

Blümlein’s concept for IWC, an organization famend for its sports activities and army watches, was to draw a brand new viewers. Not the standard over-40 conventional seasoned collector. The thought was to supply youthful, extra energetic, extra adventurous potential purchasers a watch with a transparent message, a daring model, a mechanical motion and a specialised operate. This new technique included teaming up with Porsche Design and creating a number of new collections, in addition to vital improvements when it comes to watchmaking and supplies.

The 1985 Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph wristwatch

Following the PD x IWC connection, which elevated the attractivity of the model amongst automobile fans, Blümlein gave the Portofino assortment a twist. Additionally, throughout the mid-Eighties, he mixed the perfect of watchmaking with improvements and free-spirited designs. And it began with the all-important 1985 Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph wristwatch with a QP module developed by Kurt Klaus and tailored to a Valjoux base calibre. Not solely was it as complicated as fashions produced by {industry} heavyweights, however it retailed at a fraction of the value, permitting a wider viewers to rediscover conventional watchmaking. With this watch, Blümlein additionally launched modern supplies and created the primary ceramic instances… As soon as once more, one thing daring and completely different.

The IWC Pilot’s chronograph ref. 3705 (circa 1994) or “Fliegerchronograph” – it summarises the work carried out by Blümlein, with a no-nonsense look however innovation in supplies and the comeback of mechanical actions.

Underneath the path of Blümlein, IWC additionally revived certainly one of its most vital collections, the Pilot’s Watch. This time with the assistance of Richard Habring, who developed a rattrapante module to be added to a Valjoux base, IWC laid the foundations for what’s at the moment its most recognisable assortment. And naturally, Blümlein was behind the renaissance of the all-time nice Portugieser assortment, in addition to the creation of the GST line. In brief, a few of the biggest watches ever produced by IWC in latest historical past. And as soon as IWC was on observe, Blümlein’s subsequent challenge was to mud off La Grande Maison…

Blümlein and Jaeger-LeCoultre

Opposite to IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre was not a model that may very well be remodeled as simply. Way more conventional, way more targeted on watchmaking capacities and manufacturing operations, the duty of Blümlein was drastically completely different at JLC. Along with being a watchmaking model, with its eponymous fashions, JLC was then a big supplier of actions to manufacturers like Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and others. 

Günter Blümlein with Henri-John Belmont, Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO, looking on the resurrected JLC Reverso.

What labored with IWC couldn’t work with the extra conventional profile of Jaeger-LeCoultre. Blümlein modified tack and capitalised on present belongings, quite than ranging from a clean web page. And the main target for Blümlein was on one of many oldest and most important watches of each JLC and the {industry}, the Reverso, which he revived and made the cornerstone of the model’s portfolio. Certainly, it’s arduous to consider at the moment, however the Reverso was out of manufacturing for many of the second a part of the twentieth century (with uncommon exceptions throughout the Nineteen Sixties). 

An early advert for the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso – Europa Star 140, 1983

The Reverso turned an instantaneous hit for Jaeger-LeCoultre, a lot in order that by the top of the Nineties, the gathering accounted for 65% of the model’s manufacturing. This allowed two issues for JLC: one, having a robust mannequin that was immediately recognisable and instantly affiliated to the model, giving JLC an unbelievable aura; second, it gave the model the mandatory sources to revive its conventional Haute Horlogerie credentials and to spend money on the event of a few of the most superior actions and rarest of issues. By the flip of the 2000s, the curiosity in conventional high-end watchmaking was at an all-time excessive and rising, and Blümlein determined to make use of JLC as his vector to satisfy the rising demand. This technique resulted within the creation of the Grasp Management sequence – watches with rigorously examined and extremely correct actions – and the invention of shows such because the Geographic, the a number of Alarm watches (Memovox) or masterpieces such because the Grand Réveil of 1989 (combining a QP with the model’s signature alarm operate).

The 1989 Jaeger-LeCoultre Grand Reveil, a Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch with Alarm – picture by Christie’s

However in 1990, an occasion modified the face of Europe without end, an occasion of explicit significance for a person born and raised in divided Germany: the autumn of the Berlin Wall. Blümlein was now on a mission, which could have been extremely private, to revive conventional Saxon watchmaking within the city of Glashütte.

Blümlein and the resurrection of A. Lange & Söhne

Günter Blümlein ranks among the many main rejuvenators of the Swiss and German watchmaking industries. With the restoration of IWC and Jaeger-LeCoultre achieved, in addition to making main contributions to the renaissance of mechanical watchmaking generally, Blümlein determined to carry again the concept of “Made in Germany” watches as a real hallmark of high quality. Following German reunification, which formally came about on 3 October 1990, issues had been potential. Throughout these occasions of division, A. Lange & Söhne had been below state possession and absorbed into Glashutte Uhrenbetriebe, following its seizure by the state in 1948. 

Günter Blümlein and Walter Lange in entrance of the Ferdinand Adolph Lange memorial, Glashütte, 1994.

However in 1990, and along with Walter Lange, Blümlein laid the primary stone of what would grow to be certainly one of his most excellent achievements, the revival of the A. Lange & Söhne model, basically from scratch. It took 4 years and about EUR 20 million to develop an built-in company, product, and advertising and marketing idea that might later propel the title A. Lange & Söhne again to the top of watchmaking, and never solely in Germany. 

In 1993, Blümlein and Lange set the cornerstone for the restoration of the Lange I constructing (the Lange IV manufacture was inaugurated in August 2015), the historic website of the model. And inside these partitions, Blümlein got down to make a few of the most complicated watches potential, with the best degree of high quality. 

Günter Blümlein, Walter Lange and Hartmut Knothe throughout the first presentation at Dresden Royal Palace on 24 October 1994.

As a newcomer, we can not afford to indicate any weak point. Our merchandise must be good right down to the final element” Günter Blümlein

He’s additionally identified for saying: “The Swiss make the world’s finest watches. So do the Saxons.” And 1 / 4 of a century later, we will say, certainly, that he was proper. With out Günter Blümlein, Glashütte wouldn’t have grow to be the centre of the German watchmaking {industry} once more. On 24 October 1994, on the Dresden Royal Palace, Günter Blümlein, Walter Lange and Hartmut Knothe unveiled the inaugural assortment of the brand new A. Lange & Söhne manufacture. Alongside the Saxonia and the Arkade had been two extraordinarily vital fashions created by Blümlein.

First is the Lange 1, an emblematic mannequin that also at the moment completely encapsulates the model’s mission in 1994, revealing a mixture of magnificence, typical German design, a signature off-centred dial structure, the primary outsize date in a frequently produced wristwatch, and a motion adorned with excessive consideration to element.

The second was the Tourbillon “Pour le Mérite”, probably the most complicated of the 4 inaugural watches, and one of the sophisticated wristwatches out there on the time, with its mixture of a tourbillon regulator and a fusée-and-chain transmission, a constant-force mechanism that had by no means earlier than been built-in right into a wristwatch. 

In 1999, A. Lange & Söhne offered a watch (and a motion) that showcased Blümlein’s legacy when it comes to product improvement: the Datograph. The thought of an in-house, Haute Horlogerie chronograph was merely distinctive within the {industry}, as not one of the massive gamers of the period may do the identical. “The legend comes again to life” had been Blümlein’s first phrases when the corporate was again on observe… And certainly, it’s nonetheless going sturdy.

At Baselworld 1999, Günter Blümlein and Walter Lange current Lange’s first chronograph calibre – the Datograph

With out Günter Blümlein, A. Lange & Söhne would now not exist – and Glashütte wouldn’t as soon as once more be the centre of German high-quality watchmaking.” Walter Lange

From LMH to Richemont

In 1999, the watch division of VDO Les Manufactures Horlogères was extremely profitable (a minimum of relative to the competitors again then), with an estimated turnover of over CHF 300 million, in response to Le Temps. Nevertheless, in 1999 Vodafone acquired Mannesmann (which acquired VDO earlier than that) and instantly put VDO up on the market. A extremely invaluable asset in a rising marketplace for watches, this announcement led to an intense bidding conflict between PPR (to grow to be Kering) and LVMH. The result was that none of those teams was capable of purchase LMH. This is able to grow to be the property of the Richemont Group and Johann Rupert. The Group did issues discreetly and approached Audemars Piguet to accumulate its 40% participation in Jaeger-LeCoultre for CHF 280 million. And with this participation within the books, Richemont loved a beneficial place for buying LMH, which was finalised on 21 July 1999, for a value of CHF 2.8 billion. 

Once I met Günter Blümlein for the primary time, I knew he was the reply to all questions associated to watchmaking.” Johann Rupert, Richemont SA

Günter Blümlein oversaw the sale of LMH and the transition into the Richemont Group, by the way turning into head of its watch division. A person identified for his 80-90 hour work weeks and his sturdy character, he “was conscious of his nice talents, and subsequently his typically explosive character was not completely devoid of self-importance. Dialogue with him took power, braveness and, above all, excellent arguments. Blümlein was all the time open to them,” stated Peter Chong of Deployant on remembering him.

Günter Blümlein handed away on the age of 58, on 1 October 2001, after a short however deadly sickness. He leaves behind an unbelievable legacy within the watchmaking {industry}; he was instrumental within the renewed curiosity of the general public in mechanical watchmaking, and he mentored men and women reminiscent of Jean-François Mojon, Richard Habring, Robert Greubel, Jérôme Lambert, Anthony de Hass and Max Büsser. He is not going to be forgotten.

Just a few phrases from those that knew Günter Blümlein and labored with him

To finish this retrospective, we’ve requested a few of the {industry} leaders who’ve been working with Blümlein to handle a number of phrases on this vital man.

Anthony de Haas, Director of Product Improvement at A. Lange & Söhne

Mr Blümlein was a formidable, charismatic man with a great deal of constructive and provoking vitality. He had a deep information about watchmaking, technical understanding however not solely that, he was an actual genius in product advertising and marketing. An ideal visionary man! He had a giant affect on my skilled life. Once I was about to depart IWC to APRP, he tried to persuade me to return to A. Lange & Söhne, for me not an choice at the moment since I signed a contract. Anyhow, this may have been the second he “contaminated” me, in a constructive means, in fact, with the “Lange virus”.

I’ll always remember this second when he confirmed me a Datograph prototype attempting to persuade me. You possibly can think about what that watch did to me… It’s a huge honour for me to proceed the work he, and Mr Lange, began in 1990; at the moment we nonetheless work with the identical philosophy and spirit as to start with.

Maximilian Büsser, founding father of MB&F

There’s a lot I’d like to inform you about Mr Blümlein. I owe him a lot.

Günter Blümlein was, alongside Henry-John Belmont, crucial mentor determine in my skilled life. Throughout my seven years at Jaeger-LeCoultre (1991 to 1998), I used to be continuously in awe. His tremendous sharp strategic considering, his unquenchable ardour for high-end watchmaking, his capability to reinvent himself and the businesses he was heading and his aptitude to elucidate probably the most sophisticated concepts into easy phrases. And, in fact, how he recreated the twentieth and twenty first century A. Lange & Soehne from scratch. A masterclass on reinvention by no means equalled in our {industry} since.

Two anecdotes amongst so many come to my thoughts. The primary was a 5 minute “sparring battle” between him and me (younger junior product supervisor in my mid-twenties) on some future product attribute throughout a gathering when, in some unspecified time in the future, he stopped me in my tracks by a “Mr Büsser! Creativity shouldn’t be a democratic course of” BOOM! Positively amongst the highest three most vital items of recommendation in my life.

The second is Baselworld 1999, I’ve simply taken over Harry Winston Timepieces, which was in a really dire state of affairs. I’m 31 years previous, feeling fully insufficient, battling to attempt to save the corporate towards excessive headwinds. The one one who got here to see me from my JLC days is Günter Blümlein. To my nice shock, he took a couple of minutes of his insane schedule to stroll as much as the primary ground and say hiya. I used to be a determined prepare wreck, and his phrases, “I’m certain you’ll do nice. If somebody can save this firm, it’s you“, in all probability saved me from falling off the cliff. Bluemlein had by no means given me any explicit reward in my seven years at JLC – he couldn’t have chosen a greater timing for his first time. It was, very sadly, the final time I’d see him. I nonetheless sorely miss him at the moment, twenty years later.

Richard Habring, Co-Founding father of Habring²

Günter Blümlein appreciated sayings. We do now and again discover ourselves (Maria & me) repeating a few of these. This one he appreciated: Was interessiert mich mein Geschwätz von gestern. ( It’s within the sense of “Who cares concerning the bullshit I stated yesterday!” Mr Blümlein used it repetitively, and in the long run, his reminder was solely: “Keep in mind Andenauer!”

One other one was “Der Wurm muss dem Fisch schmecken!” within the sense of “the fish wants to love (and chew) the worm, (not the fisherman)!” He appreciated to make use of it when he was sad with a product and or its communication (I used it lately in the direction of a younger German watchmaker who spend some days with us and talked about his product concepts for the long run… laughs)

I consider he thought of himself (even on the peak of his profession) extra of an engineer/technician than the chief/visionary/advertising and marketing genius we see at the moment. The product (and its technicalities) was all the time first, then got here advertising and marketing, communication, and so on…

Mr Blümlein appreciated unconventional options, instructions, approaches, and his management model was not essentially democratic. It took me a while to understand how a lot (inner) opposition he should have been confronted with throughout his profession. I bear in mind lunch and dinners (in Schaffhausen and Glashütte) when he was invited at brief discover simply to spend a while to speak on each technical/merchandise in addition to enterprise/politics. Particularly in Glashütte, I usually had the impression he appreciated to flee Knothe’s stiff constructions.

I should have someplace a handwritten (on ALS-paper) observe from him with feedback on Mr Knothe’s meeting-culture: “Should you don’t know what to do subsequent, you arrange a working group” and “It isn’t removed from the spherical desk to the lengthy bench“.