Wempe, with a history of 136 years, is one of the oldest family businesses in Germany. From the original one-person store to a company with about 700 employees today; from the small watch store of the year to 32 branches today in Germany, Europe, New York and Beijing. From individual second-hand watch merchants to the largest and highest-selling watches and jewellers in the European Union today, with their own jewelry brands (Wempe) and watch brands (Wempe Chronometerwerke Glashütte i / SA and Wempe Zeitmeister Glashütte i / SA) It also became the European retailer with the largest watch factory. What is the secret of Wempe’s success? The secret lies in a century-old corporate culture: every employee sees himself as the spokesperson for the Wempe brand, with customer satisfaction as the highest goal. From the first day, the three corporate culture elements of first-class quality, high-end brand and continuation of tradition have been deeply imprinted in the hearts of every ‘Wempe’.
First generation founder: Gerhard Diedrich Wilhelm Wempe: Pioneer in family business
On May 5, 1878, the ordinary watchmaker Gerhard Diedrich Wilhelm Wempe opened his first shop in Elsfleth on the Weser with his 80 mark as the starting capital. This small watch The store is located in the home of Aunt Caroline. As a result, Elsfleet’s first watch shop was launched. Mr Wempe, who started as a second-hand watch trader, had his initial success.
In order to establish the brand logo of the family business, Gerhard immediately reinvested the profits, and he spent a lot of time and energy on designing and building the windows of the watch shop. His efforts paid off, and the shop window attracted a large number of customers, and other local stores are second to none. He established the business philosophy of ‘first-class quality, wide variety, providing customers with the greatest convenience’, which enabled the company to survive the difficult crisis in the following decades.
To expand the store’s premium range, he traveled to Switzerland with her twelve-year-old son Herbert. He established contacts with Swiss watchmakers and helped fuel the company’s future development. The addition of Swiss high-end watches and clocks immediately promoted the development of the business.
In 1907, another landmark event occurred: Gerhard entered the Hanseatic city of Hamburg and opened a branch on Schulteblatt. In big cities, Gerhard’s business philosophy has not changed. In the first year of opening, the turnover reached 100,000 marks. Success did not make him proud and complacent, he was still as diligent and thrifty as when he initially operated in a remote area. He invested his operating profit in the development of the company as always. As Hamburg’s first watch and jeweller, he established a small branch network. In 1914, Wempe increased its number of branches in Hamburg by four. He wanted to have branches in every area of Hamburg, but the outbreak of World War I defeated his plans.
In 1921, Gerhard Dietrich Wilhelm Wempe, 64, died. As a pioneer of German watch and jeweller, he laid a solid foundation for the great Wempe company. In addition, he began to train Herbert Wempe early on to familiarize himself with the business and succeed in succession.
Second-generation successor: Herbert Wempe begins the era of observatory watches
Herbert Wempe started running the family business at the age of 31. He inherited his father’s business philosophy and decisively invested funds into the future development of the company. He standardized all the stores and unified the interior and exterior design of the stores. This is today’s ‘corporate image’, and in the 1920s it was undoubtedly a completely new concept. The unified storefront allows customers to always recognize Wempe. This change, together with the customer’s feeling of being at home in the store, has formed the corporate logo of Wempe.
Another iconic event by Herbert Wempe was the expansion of customer service. As a result, Wempe began repairing various watches, including well-known Swiss brands.
The move was a success: in 1929, Wempe had sales of 3 million marks. As the global economic crisis swept Germany, companies alone survived this severe economic downturn on their own financial resources.
In 1938, the company made another major investment. Wempe bought the Hamburg Observatory Watch Factory Co., Ltd., founded in 1905 from the owners of Hamburg and Bremen, and began producing high-precision marine astronomical clocks under the leadership of famous observatory watchmaker Ferdinand Denker. This laid the foundation for Wempe to successfully create an internationally competitive astronomical clock, and the company began to train highly qualified watchmakers.
Soon after, Herbert Wempe and Otto Lange began a fruitful collaboration in Glashütte-the latter was the grandson of the well-known Saxony watch industry founder Ferdinand Adolph Lange. The two co-founded the ‘Glasutti Observatory’ joint trade union, with the goal of establishing a research and training center for young watchmakers and the establishment of a watchmaking precision adjustment institute.
Unfortunately, the war once again sapped plans. In 1939, Wempe was taken over by the National Naval and Air Force Department and lost its right to self-decision.
In 1945, Hamburg was in ruins, and all Wempe branches were destroyed. Her eldest son, Herbert Wempe jr., Who was originally designated to stay in business, failed to survive the war. At the beginning of the difficult reconstruction phase, the younger son, Hellmut Wempe, only 13 years old, also assumed responsibility. In 1950, at the age of 18, he entered the business.
The third-generation successor: Hellmut Wempe on the international stage
After the war, the enterprise was successfully rebuilt. Hellmut Wempe’s first branch is directly located in Hamburg’s Bamback district. By the early 1960s, Wempe had firmly seized the historic opportunity of the German economic miracle and rebuilt ten stores.
In 1963, Herbert Wempe died and Hellmut took over the business. Hellmut is also development-oriented and more daring than his father. He will take a step forward in Hamburg and open a branch in Lubeck. In 1967, Wempe entered Bremen. A year later, Wempe stores opened in Berlin, Hanover, Frankfurt, Cologne, the Virginstrasse in Hamburg, Stuttgart and Munich. In 1979, corporate branches were located in more than ten cities.
In 1980, Wempe opened its first foreign branch in New York. When choosing the site, Mr. Hellmut Wempe upheld the idea of ’only considering the most prosperous location’ of the former owner, and chose Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. After running in the first few years, Wempe finally established a foothold in this American metropolis. Encouraged by this success, Wempe began to make inroads in Paris, Vienna, London and Madrid. As a result, Hellmut Wempe successfully transformed Wempe from a local family business into an international company.
In the early 1980s, daughter Kim-Eva Wempe entered the company. As a result, the company ushered in the fourth generation of the head of the family.
The fourth generation heir: Kim-Eva Wempe leads the way
Kim-Eva Wempe studied business management. As a businessman, she inherited her grandfather’s love for watches and jewelry. Through several strategic initiatives, she has introduced the company into a new development track, laying the foundation stone for the continued growth of the company.
On May 5, 2003, the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the company, Kim-Eva Wempe officially took over the company from his father Hellmut. In 2005, she acquired the then-defunct Glashütte Observatory, completing her grandfather’s grand plan. The observatory was subsequently rebuilt at her initiative. Today’s observatory is a perfect combination of science and watchmaker craftsmanship, a training base for young watchmakers and the birthplace of new ideas.
Since 2006, the Observatory Watch Factory has begun manufacturing ‘Wempe Chronometerwerke Glashütte i / SA’ and ‘Wempe Zeitmeister Glashütte i / SA’ series watches, and has been tested and certified by the first German Observatory Watch Testing Center directly under Wempe. As the largest watch factory owned by a European retailer, the Observatory Watch Factory also repairs and maintains all major brand timepiece products. Wempe watches quickly became successful. In 2011, the watchmaking factory expanded again, which doubled the company’s output and service capacity.
In just a few years, Kim-Eva Wempe has transformed the Wempe family business from a precision watch and jewelry retailer into a well-known brand with independent innovations.
In 2013, the first Wempe branch in Asia was opened. The store is located in the bustling shopping area of Parkview Green in the center of Beijing. The full-experience shopping area covering nearly 600 square meters can provide guests with the most professional technology and the most comprehensive services. . Like all Wempe stores worldwide, a large, fully-equipped watchmaker’s workshop is located in the service area to provide WEMPE’s most expensive Chinese customers with high-quality after-sales service.
As the fourth generation of the company, Ms. Kim-Eva Wempe has always emphasized that ‘we are laying the foundation for future success. Even after the company was founded 136 years ago, we are still growing and paving the way for the next generation.’