When the Meylan family first acquired watchmaker H Moser et Cie in 2012, part of the inventory they inherited were a series of unique, rectangle-shaped mechanical movements leftover from a previously unsuccessful business venture. Run by engineers in its pre-takeover years, the manufacture had shown incredible skill in manufacturing, but not necessarily business acumen. It was three years later that the opportunity to use these movements presented itself. Moser CEO Edouard Meylan took the chance with both hands, and put the brand on the map with the Swiss Alps watch.
But this is why it was a big deal. In 2015, Tim Cook had just unveiled the Apple Watch to critical acclaim. Everyone wanted one, and there was talk about how this would be an incursion into the watchmaking industry. In some ways, that turned out to be correct – sales of Swiss watches dropped by 4%, with quartz watches hit particularly hard. But Meylan didn’t think that mechanical watches would be affected by the advent of smartwatches, and responded accordingly.
His first move was to refer to Moser’s Endeavour Perpetual Calendar as the original smart watch in a pitch-perfect, tongue-in-cheek launch video littered with jabs aimed at Apple. His second was to unveil the Swiss Alp Watch the following year, its tablet-shaped case directly reflecting the Apple Watch’s own form but powered with the rectangular movements already in its possession. Although this watch would go down in history as it was born as the punchline to an industry in-joke, this was a very serious piece of mechanical watchmaking. The HMC 324 is a hand-wound movement that features a plug-and-play modular escapement and a power reserve indicator on the movement side, keeping the watch’s dial uncluttered.
“People were saying ‘oh look they are taking on Apple’ but we were not! At the end of the day, this was a small company expressing what everyone in the traditional, high-end watchmaking industry already believed in,” Meylan told Options in 2019. “We made it to Bloomberg and CNN because of that watch, which would not have happened otherwise. We are about running out of the movements but we’re not making any more – we want the people who bought it to see it as an investment, and to remember that at one point in the history of watchmaking, this happened.”
Meylan and Moser are now calling time on this legendary timepiece with a 50-piece collection that closes the chapter for good. The stunning Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade takes the design’s mimicry of smartwatches to its conclusion with a dial coated in Vantablack, the darkest artificial substance ever created. While silvered hands record the passing of hours and minutes, the seconds are tracked via an indicator reminiscent of a digital loading symbol, which sits at 6 o’clock. It’s made up of a series of rectangular apertures with a seconds’ disc painted in white gradient rotating underneath, which perfectly recreates Apple’s spinning wheel loading graphic.
In an industry that isn’t known to take itself very lightly, Moser’s sense of humour (a reflection of Meylan’s charismatic personality and leadership) is indeed polarising. But little they do isn’t – for example, rare is the watchmaker who releases a watch with no brand name on its dial. Selling this horse with no name wasn’t easy, but the hard-won victories are often the most satisfying and Moser’s fume dials are an industry hit. But when you dare to make noise in an industry that doesn’t have a lot of sensationalist news rocking it, everyone will be watching your next move. Fortunately, Moser seems to be making all the right ones.
Watch the video of the Original Smart Watch below: