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The Millennium Watch Book
H. Moser & Cie.  - Good things come in twos

H. Moser & Cie. Good things come in twos

Highly innovative timepieces – not least a modular double hairspring tourbillon*

There’s nothing unusual about selling a tourbillon; making one, however, is a much rarer feat. And ‘rare’ is just the right word to describe H. Moser & Cie., which has made this simple word its motto and enshrined it at the heart of its strategy. In taking over the Manufacture, the Meylan family acquired one of the very few firms capable of making its own tourbillon from start to finish, including the hairspring. It naturally uses this critical and much-coveted component for all its own tourbillons, as well as supplying a good many to other brands through Precision Engineering AG, its production unit.

Combining opposites

H. Moser & Cie.’s approach to modernising the tourbillon and making it more efficient may not be the most spectacular around these days, but it is fiendishly effective. It relies on three distinctive features. The first is the double hairspring escapement. Equipped thus, a traditional balance (or one assembled in a tourbillon) sports two hairsprings, one above the other, oscillating in opposite directions. This means that when one is fully contracted, the second one is fully expanded. The staff to which they are both attached thus remains constantly balanced, with the two forces naturally offsetting each other. The HMC 802 calibre that uses them therefore boasts genuine added value in terms of chronometry: thanks to this pair of matching hairsprings, the displacement of the centre of gravity undergone by each spring as it expands is corrected and the effect of friction is reduced, significantly improving both accuracy and isochronism.

Good things come in twos

Modular Double Hairspring Tourbillon © H. Moser & Cie.

Made in-house

The second particularity is that the two hairsprings are identical, ensuring they contract and expand simultaneously, and with the same amplitude. Therein lies the strength of H. Moser & Cie.: as an integrated Manufacture, it can rely on its own production facility, Precision Engineering. Precision Engineering develops and assembles its own regulating organs, using hairsprings for which it possesses all the required expertise – an extremely rare state of affairs for a fully independent firm of such a modest size. This ability is vital when it comes to assembling the double hairspring: it enables H. Moser & Cie. to choose hairsprings that are as similar as possible. An average of eight springs have to be sorted through to find each pair, which can then be assembled within the same tourbillon.

À la carte

The third distinctive feature is modularity. “From the outset, the goal was to make it possible for the same movement to include either a traditional double hairspring escapement, or one in a tourbillon,” explains Édouard Meylan, H. Moser & Cie.’s CEO. “We now have both these proprietary types of regulating organ, fully developed, manufactured, and assembled in-house – and they really are modular, although not yet interchangeable. We have therefore completed two-thirds of our journey: making our own double hairspring escapements, and designing them to be modular. The final remaining challenge is to design a movement that will one day be capable of accommodating either one or the other.”

Good things come in twos

Modular Double Hairspring Tourbillon © H. Moser & Cie.

The holy grail of watchmaking?

This development is more than a mere technical exercise: it offers the promise of real simplification of the production and maintenance of in-house movements, and thus a genuine reduction in costs, benefiting the end customer. After completing ‘only’ two-thirds of its road-map, H. Moser & Cie. has already achieved tangible results, with fully Manufacture-made, modular double hairspring tourbillons starting at CHF 49,000 (including VAT, as of 2021). Successfully designing a movement that could be assembled with or without a tourbillon, as required, would be a first in watchmaking. 

*This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years of the Tourbillon in  The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.

 

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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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