The watch industry lost one of the greats. Gerd-Rüdiger Lang passed away on March 3rd in Munich at the age of 80. Gerd-Rüdiger has long been a fixture in the horological industry and is considered as a pioneer of the mechanical renaissance. In 1983, during the quartz crisis, Gerd-Rüdiger founded his own brand, Chronoswiss, in Munich. From the beginning, his ambitions were exclusive, mechanical watches in best Swiss Made quality. Hence the brand name which combines the Swiss provenience and the name of the Greek God of Time.
His passion, genius and dedication led to some trailblazing timepieces inspired by fine 19th century tradition, such as the world’s first mechanical chronograph with moon phase indication, the wristwatch with a regulator-style dial and retrograde displays as well as jumping hour mechanisms.
Distinguishing design features included a fluted bezel, onion-shaped crown and guilloche dials. Gerd-Rüdiger is also credited with the introduction of the sapphire case back revealing the sophisticated heart of a mechanical watch, he was so passionate about, and reviving old handcrafts, such as skeletonizing and engraving.
In 2012, the Swiss entrepreneur family Ebstein took over Chronoswiss. Oliver Ebstein became the new CEO and continued Gerd-Rüdiger’s philosophy. On Instagram, he recalled the watch pioneer’s achievement:
“As a watch revolutionary, his work changed the industry forever and continues to define the distinctive design of our timepieces today. In times when no one believed in the renaissance of mechanical watchmaking, he dared to reawaken it and laid the foundation of Chronoswiss, which still serves as an inspiration to us all today. His passion will shape generations to come, his pioneering spirit will drive our ambition to innovate and push boundaries. His legacy lives on. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
I was honored to meet Gerd-Rüdiger personally several times. Our first encounter took place in Munich in 2003 where I was invited to a company dinner. At that time, I was a newcomer to the world of watches and instantly impressed by his charismatic personality. His book Zeitzeichen – Buch mit dem Tick (“Signs of the Times – Tick-Talk: A Timely Book”), including the bookmark in the form of a Chronoswiss Régulateur, was instrumental in the growth of my fascination for sophisticated watches and has a special place in my collection.
The last time I spoke with him was four years ago, when I researched about a feature on the 50th anniversary of the automatic chronograph. As he worked at Heuer at this time, he was the perfect person to ask. As always, he was happy to share his wisdom and knowledge and provided valuable first-hand information. I also recall that he told me that an immaculate movement is a code of honor and it would be every watchmaker’s pride if some decades later another watchmaker opened the case and found it perfectly working and perfectly finished.
The watch world will remember Gerd-Rüdiger Lang as one of its greatest, who introduced so many people to the sophistication of mechanical watchmaking.