If I had to pick a favourite H Moser & Cie watch, I would be stuck between the Endeavour Concept Tourbillon Minute Repeater, with the gongs on the dial instead of inside the case, and the Concept Venturer Small Seconds, which features a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. I appear to have a type — both watches, unveiled after the Meylan family took over the 191-year-old maison, come with a solid-coloured dial and a noticeable lack of any insignia indicating their provenance. Yet, they are both instantly recognisable as Moser watches, wordlessly speaking a distinct language of design and innovation for which the brand has come to be known.
By detaching itself from the coat-tails of its history and heritage, Moser has eschewed a blind belief in tradition for a more sensible formula that pays homage to the entrepreneurial spirit of its founder. A year after establishing his brand in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1828, young watchmaker and Schaffhausen native Heinrich Moser relocated to Switzerland to ensure the quality of the watches he was making. Fans of his timepieces grew to include Russian nobility, as well as revolutionary and political theorist Vladimir Lenin.
Heinrich’s death and the quartz crisis were but some of the events that dealt the company a cruel blow, but it was resurrected in 2002 as Moser Schaffhausen AG by Dr Jürgen Lange, together with Heinrich’s great-grandson Roger Nicholas Balsiger. But while it was open for business, it was not particularly successful. “It was a company managed by engineers. They loved to make the most complicated and ingenious products, but never thought about how much they would cost and what price they could sell them. Yes, watchmaking is about passion but if you can’t sell anything, you will also die,” says Edouard Meylan, scion of the Meylan family, which acquired Moser in 2012.
This takeover reversed Moser’s fortunes for good — family patriarch and Edouard’s father, Georges-Henri Meylan, was the long-term CEO of Audemars Piguet, and acquired both Moser and Hautlence with the express intent of rescuing them from the brink of bankruptcy. The older of the Meylan boys, Bertrand, runs Hautlence while Edouard is CEO of Moser. It was a tough job from the get-go, but both men have done their father proud.
Upon arriving at Moser, its newly-minted CEO quickly sized up the company and plugged the larger holes — more streamlined operations swiftly increased efficiency, for example — and then the team sought to reinforce the brand’s identity by emphasising its strengths.
“What seduced us as a family was Moser’s history — if you come to Schaffhausen and examine the history of the founder, it’s really wonderful,” Edouard says, commenting on the family’s acquisition of Moser. “Heinrich was very entrepreneurial and he had a substantial impact on the region. Schaffhausen today wouldn’t be what it is without Moser, and for a family involved in watchmaking across a few generations, this history was very important to us.
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