125 years of retail business and eight special watches

April 2003

Wempe, one of the oldest jewellery dynasties in Germany and maybe worldwide, is celebrating an important anniversary in 2003. The Hamburg based company 'Gerhard D. Wempe – Feinuhrmacher und Juwelier' celebrates its 125th year.

On May 5, 1878 Gerhard Diederich Wilhelm Wempe took the risky step of becoming self-employed. Nobody could have known then that the young master watchmaker was laying the foundations of an international company that would operate throughout Europe and in New York City.

The Wempe story began in Elsfleth, a small town on the Weser river, some 45 kilometres northwest of Bremen, where the 21 year old Gerhard D. Wempe started his career. He invested the first money that he earned to install large-scale shop windows and showcases. In 1884 Wempe was able to move to Oldenburg, a nearby wealthy residential town and to open a subsidiary there. In those days he was the first to present clocks, watches and jewellery in the same location.

In opening another store in Altona on 17 July, 1907, then a small town near Hamburg but today a part of the city, the proximity of the city significantly influenced the further development of his business. In 1911 he opened his first business in the old city, which is still called Hansestadt (from City of the Hanseatic League), followed by new shops in 1912 and 1913. This rapid expansion also involved Gerhard D. Wempe's son Herbert, who in 1923, two years after his father died, purchased a large house at Steinstrasse in downtown Hamburg, which remains to this day the headquarters of the Wempe company.

Hellmut Wempe, the son of Herbert, took over the responsibility for the company in 1963 and has, together with his daughter Kim-Eva, who joined the management team in 1994, turned the reputable company into an international organization. Today, Wempe has subsidiaries in top locations in Germany, Austria, France, Spain, England, the United States and is also to be found on the luxury liner MS Europe.

Wempe, which now has more than 500 employees, pays a lot of attention to service and customer relations and the watchmaker's workshop in the Hamburg headquarters qualifies as the largest of all European retailers. Wempe only sells top of the range luxury clocks and watches and in the jewellery sector offers only their own products or those specially crafted for them.

On the occasion of their anniversary, the company, which remains a family business, is offering some limited editions of first-class Swiss and German watch of brands that have been Wempe business partners for many years.

“Thanks to our close and friendly co-operation with well known Swiss and German manufactures, and in addition to our special jewellery, we have been able to arrange special limited editions of wristwatches for our customers in this anniversary year,” says Kim-Eva Wempe.

Eight 'anniversary watches' were the result of this unique co-operation. “They are not only modifications of known models, but either technical and or visual innovations. No company before us has been able to achieve this,” Mrs. Wempe explains proudly.

Her father, Hellmut Wempe adds: “We spend a lot of time on time. Already my grandfather, master watchmaker Gerhard Diederich Wempe, committed himself to the watchmaker's trade when he set up his shop when he was only 21 years old. We have followed his concept from generation to generation. That's how we formed our partnership with Patek Philippe some 75 years ago,” says Kim-Eva Wempe, “and Wempe was also one of the first Rolex and A. Lange & Söhne dealers.”

The preparation of the special anniversary watches began two years ago and the eight brands - A. Lange & Söhne, Breitling, Cartier, Chopard, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Nomos and Patek Philippe - have produced 3,900 specially designed and constructed watches with an overall value of some 20 million Euros.

Many happy returns Wempe!