Anthony de Haas, a new métier and then a career in watchmaking, who focus on watchmaking. Part of that journey resulted from some parental prompting, he readily admits during a recent conversation at A. Lange & Söhne’s showing at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie fair in Switzerland.
“I wanted to be a drummer, like most of the boys,” says the native of the Netherlands. “I didn’t want to be in school. I wanted to play drums and to be the best and most famous drummer in the world.” His parents let him pursue his dream but insisted he also learn a skill that was readily marketable.
“My dad had the idea to look into building drums,” recalls de Haas. “He said, ‘If your career in drumming does not work out, you can still be in contact with your passion.’”
Unfortunately for de Haas, his hometown lacked drum-making schools nearby. “So I went to tool making school,” he says. He realized his fascination with the mechanics of smaller objects and made scale models at home as a hobby.
After earning a diploma from the tool making school, de Haas completed studies at the watchmaking institute next door. De Haas then adopted a divided schedule for three years: Three days a week he worked as a watchmaker; the remainder he performed as a drummer in studios and toured with bands.
After making “certain attempts at being famous” and achieving “some success” as a musician, “I decided to change,” de Haas says.
Having always been fond of IWC’s watches, de Haas called the Swiss company. He was told to send a resume but figured it might be overlooked and asked for a meeting during his ski holiday in Switzerland. “I interviewed at IWC at 11 in the morning,” he says. While a successful watchmaker candidate normally has a second round of interviews and later returns for a bench test, the managers gave him an ETA 2892 movement and “asked me take it apart, to clean it and put it back together and regulate it.”
The managers inquired, How long would the test take him? De Haas told the managers he needed only an hour and a half or so. “Are you joking?” they said. “Our master watchmakers take three and a half hours.” De Haas’ swift work netted him a job offer on the spot.
De Haas intended to work for IWC just a couple of years. “I planned to open a repair workshop for IWC” back home, he says. But two and a half years later a Renaud & Papi representative called, inviting him to stay in
Switzerland and work at its Le Locle company. Accepting the offer, de Haas gained responsibility over the creation of high complications, including minute repeaters and grande sonneries. His six-year tenure enabled him to work for such famed Renaud & Papi watchmakers as Stephen Forsey, Peter Speake-Marin and Robert Greubel, who now run firms of their own.
In 2004, a client, none other than then A. Lange & Söhne CEO Fabian Krone, toured Renaud & Papi. “Because I speak German, I was his guide,” de Haas recalls. Later that day, “I got a call as he was on his way to the airport, and he asked me to join the team [and] become the director of product development.”
“That was 11 years ago,” says de Haas, who moved to Germany to work for the Glashütte firm. In December A. Lange & Söhne posted on YouTube a video of him playing the drums to explain the rhythm and sound of its Zeitwerk minute repeater. The company even asked him to raise his drumsticks at a recent party.
“Some people ask me, ‘How did you become a watchmaker? Was your grandfather or father a watchmaker?’” de Haas adds. “I say no. My family is completely normal. They have nothing to do with watchmaking.”