While the watchmaking industry as a whole might be a tad more cautious due to the pandemic, H. Moser & Cie. is growing. DA MAN chats with CEO Edouard Meylan to find out how.
For some of us—and perhaps “all of us” is more accurate—2020 is definitely a tough year, to say the least. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we are living in truly unprecedented times. For the watchmaking industry, it was clearly time for reevaluation as brands are looking closer at the way it presents itself and its novelties to the public. Compared to previous years, everybody in the industry seemed to be a bit more cautious.
All that being said, H. Moser & Cie. seemed to be doing well. Even better, perhaps. Highlights of 2020 for the independent brand includes the launch of the Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon timepiece in collaboration with MB&F along with the release of the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic and Streamliner Centre Seconds. In short, H. Moser & Cie. is the talk of the industry this year. And taking us through the brand’s game-changing strategy, the story behind the its latest collections and more, is the man who quite literally is the center of H. Moser & Cie.: Edouard Meylan.
DAMAN: I’d like to start with a question about a particular collection—the Streamliner. This year, one of the biggest highlights from your brand is definitely the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic. What’s the story behind the creation of this new collection?
Edouard Meylan: We wanted to expand our offerings in the sport chic integrated steel bracelet segment since 2012. It took us multiple iterations to create a unique design which we felt was sufficiently unique to stand out in this very crowded market. The key moment in this process was when we found the design of the single link bracelet. We then designed the case, the movement and finally the dial and the hands.
DA: Given that this is the first integrated automatic chronograph with a central display to offer a fly-back function, how long did it take for you to design and create this new watch? Could you please give us a brief behind-the-scenes look into its development?
EM: It took at least seven years, but it’s not a linear process. As I said before, there are many iterations and many different stages. For example, when you decide to stop, to erase and to restart or when you take a break, take a step backwards and look for new inspiration. It’s a complex process.
DA: Everything is new in the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic. To that end, what were some of the major challenges in conceptualizing a new creation like this?
EM: The biggest challenge was to be different. There are many icons in this segment and it’s not easy not to be influenced by them. We always try to look beyond what exists. We tried to be modern while respecting the Moser codes and DNA.
DA: You also launched a staple classic in this collection with the Streamliner Centre Seconds. This time around, the watch only focuses on the core essentials that most people think about when talking about watches: the hours, minutes and center seconds hands. What was the creative process behind the development of this watch and how important is it to H. Moser & Cie.?
EM: When you design a new line like the Streamliner, you have to think of it as a whole and not only create the first model. We have already designed the next four models in the Streamliner line, at least. You can’t develop a chronograph and then only consider about transforming it into a Perpetual Calendar. You have to do this in parallel and to see the collection in its globality and coherence. To be honest with you, we designed the Streamliner Centre Seconds before the Chronograph, but we felt it was better to launch a sport chic collection with a chronograph movement. The Streamliner Centre Seconds was the first design we have worked on because it is the purest interpretation of the design. For me, the Centre Seconds is the biggest test for a new design. You can’t rely on the three hands indication to stand out, so it’s really your design and your codes which will make the difference.
And that’s how you test whether you have managed to create a singular design.
DA: The watch itself is equipped with a steel case on an integrated steel bracelet. On top of that, it is also paired with a brand-new and uniquely elegant fumé dial in Matrix Green. Any specific reasons why you chose this combination for the second model in the Streamliner collection?
EM: Again, same approach and challenge: We wanted to stand out. There are many blue dials on the market. The green felt more natural to us. Now, collectors call the Streamliner Centre Seconds Matrix Green “The Green Dragon.” For me, it shows that we were right.
DA: With the new Streamliner collection, do you have a specific message you want to convey?
EM: The message remains the same: With Moser, expect to be surprised.
DA: Aside to the Streamliner collection, another highlight from the brand is the collaborative pieces with MB&F. How did this collaboration come about?
EM: [MB&F founder] Maximillian Busser asked me if we would be open to let him use our Concept fumé dials in one of his creations. I agreed, but proposed to do a bi-directional collaboration. He liked the idea and that’s how it all came about. I think the results show that this was a smart decision.
DA: More importantly, what was the creative process between you and Maximilian Busser like?
EM: Basically, it was many discussions and a lot of fun. He has a very creative mind; I have a very pragmatic mind. The combination of the two worked well.
DA: In what ways does the Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon represent the best of both H. Moser & Cie. and MB&F?
EM: I think this watch is a mix of both Moser and an MB&F creation, as well as our DNA, which is exactly what we wanted. It features the cylindrical hairspring, which is at the core of our capabilities as a manufacture of regulating organs and hairsprings. Our collaboration with MB&F started with the hairsprings 10 years ago, as our sister company—Precision Engineering—has been supplying MB&F with hairsprings for more than 10 years and developed the cylindrical hairspring specifically for Maximillian Busser and his LM Thunderdome. H. Moser & Cie. had never explored the third dimension until today. The result is amazing. And thanks to the beautiful fumé dials, it remains very Moser.
DA: How would you say was the general reaction towards this collaboration between H. Moser & Cie. and MB&F?
EM: They loved it. Showing that brands can collaborate together, especially in the middle of a worldwide crisis, was a very strong message and I believe that it will inspire many others.
DA: Furthermore, H. Moser & Cie. has grown rapidly in recent years with innovative as well as iconic creations like the aforementioned Streamliner collection and the Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon, the Endeavour Centre Seconds Concept and also the Vantablack editions. In terms of market positioning, do you think the brand has finally come to where it deserves to be and where you want it to be?
EM: As Simon Sinek wrote: “This is an infinite game and we are in constant evolution.” I believe that H. Moser & Cie. is where it belongs today, but the brand will continue to evolve and to adapt. Stagnating brands eventually disappear.
DA: Speaking about the market, considering the slowdown of the global economy this year due to the pandemic, how is H. Moser & Cie. doing in terms of business?
EM: It’s doing well, we are actually growing … which is crazy. But, we had amazing launches this year, so we have been very lucky. We don’t take it for granted, so we are being very conservative for 2021.
DA: We are clearly living in unprecedented and challenging times. How do you and H. Moser & Cie adapt to current situations?
EM: We accelerated our digital transformation. COVID-19 pushed us to launch our e-commerce platform faster than we had scheduled. We have also launched a totally new website. But, we have always been responsive, reactive, lean and agile, so there was not much to change.
DA: How do you see the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the watch industry? Do you also think that the industry as a whole will have to change? And if so, what kind of changes do you think should happen?
EM: There will be a reshuffling of the brands’ powers. Not at the top, but in the middle. The top brands will increase their gap, but some smaller brands will suffer, while some independents will emerge … like H. Moser & Cie. Digitalization is accelerating, but for some it’s already too late.
DA: Last but not least, we understand that it’s impossible to accurately predict the future, but we would love to hear what you and H. Moser & Cie. are expecting. Will things return to where they used to be? And how do you expect people’s attitude towards luxury watches to change over the next few years?
EM: I see an acceleration of the demand for independent brands. Customers will be looking for the unique, the special and the rare. Watches are pieces of art. More and more people will realize it. The secondary market of Moser watches is drying up, prices are going up as well—and it’s a good sign. Limited supply with a real human connection is the recipe for success and only independents can offer that.
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