Long known for their classic and elegant timepieces, H. Moser & Cie. finally unveiled their first steel sports chronograph with an integrated bracelet, the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph, in early January. We are only a few months into 2020, but I suspect this will be a name that will come up repeatedly when the “Best of 2020” lists are drawn up later this year.
The luxury steel sports watch with an integrated bracelet has been a category of keen interest for a lot of watchmakers in recent times (Read our feature on Page 90). And it can be a notoriously slippery slope as contenders from A. Lange & Söhne, Chopard, and Bell & Ross found out. No sooner had the first images of these debutants hit the ether than comparisons to the big two – Nautilus and Royal Oak – begin on cue. However, the sports-chic Moser chronograph, with its neo-retro vibe and hot new movement, was understandably spared the outrage.
“The first Streamliner model had to be very different from what is available now and many of the designs we looked at initially very similar to four or five iconic chronographs. I think it is important to stand out even if it even means some people don’t like it. If it means you create your own codes, you need to own it. And that’s what we have achieved with this timepiece,” says Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie.
The conceptualization of the bracelet was the first stroke on the proverbial blank canvas. Design was key – it had to be ergonomic and supple enough to wrap around even small wrists very well. According to Meylan, the product team studied the design of mono-link bracelets made by some brands in the past (there is a palpable resemblance to the Ebel Sports Classic from the late 1970s) and finally settled on a design that they found comfortable. The design of the bracelet was more or less formalized about four or five years ago.
The chronograph uses two needle hands that move around the same axis as the hands that indicate the hours and minutes. The red one marks the seconds while the other notes elapsed minutes. The elapsed minute needle of the chronograph jumps instantly using the energy accumulated and then released by a snail cam. It really is a unique and uncomplicated way of measuring short intervals. Though Moser makes its own calibers, it chose to go with movement specialist Agenhor for its first chronograph. The Meyrin-based Agenhor is best-known for the Agengraph, used in Faberge and Singer Reimagined chronographs. “The obvious answer to why we went with Agenhor would be because it is the best chronograph movement out there at the moment. When it was decided that the first Streamliner was a chronograph, we had two choices really - one was to spend millions of dollars in R&D and create our own movement. The second was to source the best that was available out there, and Agenhor is best.”
Meylan says integrating the bracelet into the case was the trickiest bit in the production process. “We see a lot of brands taking a standard bracelet and putting it on an existing case and then calling it an integrated bracelet. No, that’s not an integrated bracelet. With an integrated bracelet, in all aspects, there needs to be a connection to the case. The design codes of the bracelet are a continuation of the ones you see on the case, the lines carry on seamlessly on to the bracelet as well,” he explains. The chronograph is the first watch of a new family and Meylan says they will be blooding new models into the family although he declined to give any specific timeline.
Meylan has used SIHH time and again as a soapbox to broadcast his misgivings about the industry and then backed it up with a timepiece that symbolized this protest. From trolling the industry’s obsession with Apple’s smartwatch to producing a watch with a case made of Swiss cheese to protest the relaxing of “Swiss Made” regulations to highlighting another uncomfortable truth about the industry - that Swiss watchmaking relies far too heavily on marketing to push its products, Moser has in the past presented itself as a bit of a problem child to old guard of the industry.
However, this year the indie brand finds itself in the main hall of the newly christened Watches & Wonders Geneva (the watch fair previously known as SIHH) alongside the historic and long-established players of the industry. Meylan reckons their move from Carré des Horlogers section reserved for the smaller independents to the main hall is a concretization of a lot of the work they have done in the past few years.
“It is like going to the next level at school. You are now part of the Big Boys Club. We have always said that we don’t want to be biggest of the independent brands, we want to be the smallest of the established brands. We have worked hard to get the respect and legitimacy we have now,” says Meylan.
He is hoping that this will also help answer questions that are often asked of independent brands - are they going to be around after five years. What about after-sales service? “To the people who ask I say no, we are not a small brand anymore. We are independent, yes. We are family owned, yes, but we are an established brand.”
Does this mean they will have to behave now?
“A little bit,” he smiles wryly. “We were teenagers. We are young adults now.”
Update: The Watches & Wonders Geneva show in 2020 was cancelled on the back of Covid-19 outbreak in Europe.