It’s January 2016 and the excitement mounts as SIHH draws ever nearer. Meanwhile, the mere mention of the words Apple and Watch in the same sentence is ruffling Swiss feathers. This was the not so tranquil mood when a certain video hit YouTube. H. Moser & Cie, whose production doesn’t exceed 1,500 watches a year, had the Cupertino firm squarely in its sights when it launched the Swiss Alp Watch. In the film, and with just a hint of a Swiss accent, CEO Edouard Meylan is promoting a revolutionary smartwatch: one that doesn’t need to be electronically charged, needs no updates and, most importantly, works without a phone. All that thanks to the magnificent mechanical movement seen through the sapphire back of a case that looks suspiciously like the Apple Watch. By taking this dig at the electronics giant, Meylan put the whole smartwatch business into perspective. The film was also a major publicity coup for H. Moser & Cie, which clearly didn’t intend stopping there.
In what seems like the sweep of a dial, a year has passed and SIHH is once again preparing to open its doors. And once again, there is plenty of talk going on behind the scenes. Talk of the state of the industry, the impact of smartwatches and, most of all, new legislation which requires that at least 60% of a product’s value be created in Switzerland for it to qualify as “Swiss-Made”. H. Moser & Cie is keeping schtum. Until, that is, another video turns up on YouTube. This time, Edouard Meylan has a bone to pick much closer to home, namely the new law which in his opinion, despite tightening the screw, is still too lenient on the big brands that use and abuse the Swiss-Made label in order to boost sales. And so Meylan is back on-screen and, watch out, he has a crossbow!
Robin Hood meets William Tell
Meylan isn’t tender as he delivers a clichéd view of the Alpine nation when suddenly, like milk from a cow, a watch appears. Wrapped in cheese. Yes, the case is a subtle blend of Vacherin Mont d’Or – a typical Swiss delight – and an artificial composite. Inside this unique piece, which answers to the delightful name of Swiss Mad Watch, is a HMC 327 manual-wind manufacture movement that keeps its 100% Swiss heart beating. However, in a singular protest against this “dumbing-down” of legislation, the brand has dropped the “Swiss Made” one-liner. Apostasy has its limits nonetheless. With its red and white dial, a subtle evocation of the country’s flag, the Swiss Mad Watch retains a patriotic air. The video made waves even beyond the industry and was quickly picked up by the general media, sparking huge interest in this “cheesy” watch.
Like a modern-day Robin Hood, Edouard Meylan isn’t afraid to take on the American giants, speak out against politically motivated “good governance”, and level a shot at a lethargic watch industry. Which from time to time probably needs a bout of provocation to shake up routine and kickstart flagging sales. Whatever the case, Edouard Meylan’s gamble has paid off and his unconventional efforts largely contributed to (re)positioning H. Moser & Cie on the watchmaking stage. Rendezvous at SIHH in January 2018 to see who will be the next target of Switzerland’s very own Robin Hood!