Times have certainly changed for the luxury timepiece business. “Five years ago, the average age of our clients was 55,” says Edouard Meylan, the good-looking, dapper and youthful Chief Executive Director of Switzerland’s H. Moser & Cie. “Today, we are selling watches to people in their twenties. “Three or four years ago, we were selling a couple of watches a year in Dubai. When we went back there this year (2017) in search of new clients, we sold 50 pieces in two days – mostly to watch lovers aged between 25 and 45.” Millennials with serious money to spend are looking for craftsmanship and quality, Meylan asserted during a visit to Jakarta last November.
“They want elegant watches. But they want edgy designs, not the boring watches their fathers bought,” he said in an interview at Independent, Eurobutik Bangan Indonesia’s new timepiece store in Pacific Place. Edouard Meylan is the great grandson of Octave Meylan, who became a partner in H. Moser & Cie in the 1870s. Edouard’s father, Georges-Henri Meylan, was CEO of Audemars Piguet for almost a decade and was responsible for the brand’s meteoric rise. He subsequently set up MELB Holding and has acquired brands like Hautlence and H. Moser. H. Moser is based in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland, not far from the Rhine Falls, mainland Europe’s largest waterfalls, and Schaffhausen, the home of IWC.
The company employs 55 people in its manufacture. It has eight of its own calibres and produces 1,200 watches each year. MELB Holding, which bought H. Moser in 2012, is located in the legendary Vallee de Joux, along with famous names like Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. Meylan said young watch collectors admire his company’s creations because they often exhibit a sense of humour and irony that’s quite rare in the staid world of Swiss watchmaking – “the unmistakable H. Moser style of irreverent haute horlogerie,” as he puts it. Prominent among his mischievous pieces is a “million-dollar watch” made of Swiss cheese, and a timepiece that outwardly resembles the Apple Watch but is a totally mechanical 18k white-gold beauty.
The former, a one-off known as the Swiss Mad, is housed in a case made of hardened Swiss Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese and a carbon composite material. The latter, the Swiss Alp, comes with an in-house Moser calibre HMC 324 movement and a handwound four-day power reserve.
Meylan gave the Swiss Mad a notional price of 1,081,291 Swiss francs (referencing the date of the signing of the Swiss Federal Charter on August 1, 1291) as a joke. “We ending up selling the Swiss Mad, along with a prototype of the Swiss Alp, for 125,000 francs in a Christie’s auction,” he said. “A Singaporean collector bought the Swiss Mad.” The auction’s proceeds were donated to the Fondation pour la Culture Horlogere Suisse with the aim of creating a fund to support independent Swiss suppliers to the watch industry. The latest H. Moser models include the Endeavour Tourbillon Concept, a white-gold model with a funky blue dial and a hand-stitched and buffed kudu leather strap. It comes in a limited edition of 20 pieces.
“We have extracted the essence of a complex mechanism and combined it with a minimalist design to emphasise the visual impact of the tourbillon,” said Meylan. “The idea is to create an unexpected effect and make the traditional sexy.” In addition, there is the Venturer XL Stoletniy Krasniy (Centennial Red), which was created to mark the centenary of the Russian Revolution in 2017. Featuring a red fume dial displaying the company’s original Cyrillic logo, and stripped of any indices, this bold timepiece comes in a limited edition of 17 pieces Moser & Cie was founded in Saint Petersburg in 1828, and is mentioned in works by Dostoevsky and other Russian writers. “Heinrich Moser (the founder) supplied the Imperial Court and the Russian Army,” said Meylan.
“His company became a byword for quality and elegance in Russia. Carl Faberge put H. Moser movements in his table clocks.” After the Revolution, H. Moser & Cie was nationalised. The brand went into decline and eventually ceased trading in the 1970s. “This watch is not a celebration of the Revolution,” said Meylan. “Far from it. But it does mark the brand’s return to its origins.”