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Wempe, a Hamburg-based family company, is not only a renowned chain of luxury shops in the area of watches and jewelry, but meanwhile has become a watch manufacturer and a meritorious promoter of the high-quality mechanical watch in Germany.
From watch store to shop chain
The trained watchmaker Gerhard Diederich Wilhelm Wempe ventured on May 5, 1878 with 21 years to start his own business with an initial investment of 80 marks in Elsfleth, a small town near the North Sea, located on the lower Weser. Wempe is a marketing talent. He puts the watches decoratively on homemade velvet-covered boards, the “cartridges”, and builds large display windows and display cases in the room of his aunt.
When the shipbuilding goes through a crisis in his homeland, in 1894 Wempe changes to Oldenburg, where he founds a shop for watches and jewelry. It expands rapidly. 1907 Wempe dares to take the plunge into the city of Hamburg, where at the street “Schulterblatt 141” he opens what is now called a “flagship store”. On the facade attracts a large watch with three dials. In just seven years arise four other shops in Hamburg.
The “Seagull” pocket watch is produced exclusively for the first time in the vicinity of Geneva for a German retailer. When the war starts, revenue drops abruptly by 75 percent. The ailing soldier Herbert Wempe, son of Gerhard D. Wempe, who entered the company already with only 15 years, is not sent to the front and can take care of business in the evening. Company founder Gerhard D. Wempe dies on May 4, 1921.
In the year of inflation 1923 Herbert Wempe buys the house at the Hamburg stone street, that is called “Haus Gülden Gerd” and becomes the company's headquarters. 1925 the good relations with the watchmaking in Switzerland bear fruit the company receives the exclusive Hamburg representative for the Swiss watch manufacturers Omega, Longines, Movado and Zenith.
On January 1, 1938 Herbert Wempe takes over the Hamburger Chronometerwerke (Hamburg Chronometer Plants), which had been founded in 1905 by the great German shipowners from Hamburg and Bremen. 1942 Wempe developes a patent for a unit chronometer, which today is still produced in Hamburg.
After the war, the son of Hellmut Wempe takes over the corporate management. The company expands again and in 1953 has five branches in Hamburg. 1960 more stores are opened in Lübeck, Bremen, Berlin and Hannover. A decade later with the branch in Frankfurt follows the step beyond the borders of northern Germany. In the style of Tiffany and Cartier operations are now located in the prime downtown locations of big cities.
The venture abroad
1980 Wempe, with the opening of an office in New York's Fifth Avenue, dares to go a big step, and some time later he opens also in Paris on the Place de la Concorde, one of the best and most desirable locations at all. His approach is proving to be a success and ensures the company a place among the major providers of luxury goods. In Vienna and 1997 in London at the New Bond Street shops arise in the best city locations.
Expansion and new impulses in East Germany
After the fall of the wall, it is obvious for a Wempe, to expand also into the east. So between 1991 and 1996 shops open in the Maedler Passage in Leipzig, at the Old Market in Dresden and in central Berlin at Friedrichstraße.
Wempe as manufacturer of high quality mechanical watches
In cooperation with Nomos Wempe develops an own series of watches, which he brings on the market under the brand name Wempe Chronometerwerke Glashütte i/SA. It is presented on 16 October 2006. So for the first time after 36 years there is again a German wristwatch chronometer.
Wempe presents two watch series Wempe Zeitmeister (time champion) with round cases and Wempe Chronometerwerke in tonneau form (Wempe Chronometerwerke Handaufzug, Calibre CW 1, Wempe Chronometerwerke Tourbillon, Calibre CW 2).
As of 2018, Wempe operates 26 branches in Germany plus locations in Beijing, London, Madrid, New York, Paris, Vienna, and stores on two MS Europa cruise ships.
Wempe stores carry many major watch brands, including Richemont (A. Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Panerai, Piaget, Roger Dubuis, Vacheron Constantin), LVMH (Hublot, TAG Heuer), Swatch Group (Breguet, Glashütte Original, Longines, Rado, Tissot), and other brands (Rolex, Patek Philippe, Breitling, Chopard, Junghans, Mühle-Glashütte, Nomos Glashütte, Parmigiani Fleurier, Tudor, Tutima, Ulysse Nardin). Notably absent are Audemars Piguet, Zenith, Omega, and others. Wempe also sells their own Wempe Glashütte brand.
Gerhard D. Wempe Kommanditgesellschaft
Tel. +49.(0)40.334 48-0
Fax. +49.(0)40.334 48-666