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H. Moser & Cie. - One Year, One Watch

H. Moser & Cie. One Year, One Watch

2020 : Streamliner*

Annus Horribilis

One thing is for sure: 2020 really has been an annus horribilis. Whichever language, culture, or country you choose, it’s the same story everywhere: people can’t wait for this terrible year to be over. What more needs to be said? What with the virus, lockdowns, racial tensions, the brink of war, crazy leaders, death, disease, and everything else, 2020 totally sucks. It was all predicted in science fiction, of course – nobody thought 2020 would be a good year. 2020 was the year in which Guillermo del Toro imagined war between mechanical giants and sea monsters, in Pacific Rim. And in both Matrix and Terminator, 2020 was when humankind started to come under the yoke of artificial intelligence. 2020 was also the year in which Tom Cruise repeatedly died and lived again to continue the fight against aliens in Edge of Tomorrow. Worse still, aliens who used their sense of hearing to hunt terrorised a family in A Quiet Place. Now it’s time to find a watch to symbolise this horrible year. Who would like to take on this thankless task?

An annus horribilis needs a suitably deserving watch, one with an awful lot of character. It’s probably a good idea to find a brand with a robust sense of humour, too. And of course, many of you will be wondering what the criteria for such a back-handed compliment might be. But let’s not rush to judgement – you may well be in for a surprise. Let’s start by taking another look back at the period between 2000 and 2020. Our journey through watchmaking time began with the Daytona. And so I’d like to finish our saga with a steel chronograph that is powerful enough to face up to this watchmaking icon. There’s no shortage of other watches between 2000 and 2020. Some people extol the merits of neo-vintage, others point to all the new brands. There was of course the rise in sports watches with integrated straps, limited editions, and new designs. I looked for a watch to sum up these 20 years; one that looks really good and has plenty of character; a timepiece that stands out in terms of its technical excellence, as well as coming from a forward-looking brand.

One Year, One Watch

Streamliner © H. Moser & Cie.

Above all, I wanted a watch that could wear a curse like a blessing. The thing is, words and phrases can sometimes have interesting stories. And sometimes, they can have more than one meaning. Think about how we wish an actor well. In English, we say “break a leg”; and in French, we wish luck with an insult: merde. What’s the story there? Way back when, theatregoers arrived at the venue in horse-drawn carriages – with all the manure that implies. And the more merde there was, the fuller the house.

For the annus horribilis of 2020, the watch in the spotlight thus has to be brilliant, successful, appealing, and forward-looking. It also needs to work a charm; be capable of exploiting the power of a curse to wish us good luck. It has to be able to say merde to us, wishing us better days and happier lives. In 1815, surrounded by the English in Waterloo, Napoleon’s Old Guard stood firm. At its head was Pierre Cambronne, Major of the Imperial Guard, who refused to surrender. Legend has it that his response to British General Colville’s entreaties was to tell him to go to hell, using that one word: merde. Was it merely an insult, a declaration of courage, or a defiant, reckless taunt? Did he really say it? Historians have their doubts, but either way, ‘Cambronne’s word’ has since become the French equivalent of the euphemistic ‘horse manure’ in English. So the 2020 watch needs to embody the spirit of ‘Cambronne’s word’ – a statement of defiance and courage when you’re really in the thick of it.

One Year, One Watch

Streamliner © H. Moser & Cie.

Why H. Moser & Cie?

I have immense respect for this brand – and it has such an unusual story, too. How many people know it was founded in Russia by Heinrich Moser? Or that Lenin wore one of their watches? After being expropriated, the brand faded from view before gradually returning centre stage from the early 2000s onwards, grabbing the headlines at various watchmaking exhibitions between 2016 and 2019. In 2016, the folks at H. Moser & Cie. launched the Swiss Alp Watch, a replica of the Apple Watch – except that it sported a magnificent mechanical calibre. Next came a watch made with cheese (really!), followed by the Swiss Icons Watch, mocking mainstream brands. Not everybody approved of this; I positively loved it.

Then in 2019 came the Moser Nature Watch, a marvel of mechanical poetry – as well as being the equivalent of wearing a small garden on your wrist. In addition to such talkingpieces, H. Moser & Cie. does actually know how to produce fine watches that are simple and aesthetically appealing, featuring magnificent fumé dials, unusual colours, and powered without exception by fine watchmaking movements. The H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner, sometimes referred to as the Joker, has just the right blend of looks, legend, and style. It fully deserves its nickname, as it’s a joker in more than one way: surprising, unsettling, and seductive. Its name is a nod to the super-locomotives styled to reduce drag, giving them a very Gothamesque look. They swished up and down German, Japanese, and American railways, notably between the 1930s and the 1970s. The H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner is a huge, stylish chronograph with an integrated bracelet – and it makes no compromises. Just like those sleek locomotives, you can love it or hate it, but you have to admit it’s going to turn heads!

It sports a smoky grey dial, a central flyback hand chronograph with an inverted oscillating weight, positioned against the dial rather than the caseback, and a bracelet worthy of an Ebel Wave – another brand I really love. Other surprising features include its rather Seventies cushion-shaped case and ‘bullhead’ pushers. With a name right out of the Thirties, a Seventies design, a movement that’s decidedly 21st-century (whilst also bringing to mind the iconic Lemania 5100 of the eighties), and a Nineties strap, the Streamliner really is a piece of time travel in its own right. That makes it a fitting end to our journey through time.

The Take from The Devil’s Advocate

He simply adores 2020. At long last a really rotten year, just the way Lucifer likes them. However, he doesn’t like what this Streamliner stands for – it’s too beautiful, too wellmade, and too attractive. It’s hard for me to find anything wrong with this watch, which I see as an absolute among timepieces: classic, innovative, both sporty and dressy, serious and fun. So just this once, I’ll make do with one word and one word only for the folks at H. Moser & Cie.: merde. Your watch has delivered a virtually flawless performance. (And by the way, it’s a pity there are only 100 of them; you could have sold 2,020).

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.

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The brand

H. Moser & Cie. was created by Heinrich Moser in 1828. Based in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, it currently employs around 60 people, has developed 14 in-house calibres to date, and produces more than 1,500 watches per year.

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