Smart Dressing

SIHH 2018: Meet the Frankenwatch 

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Moser’s swipe at Swiss watchmaking is the ugliest and most provocative thing you’ll see in watches this year

How can you unsee that? The image you’ve just clocked is quite possibly the ugliest watch ever made, a bastardisation of all that’s good and pure in watchmaking and a slight on the respectable business done by China Town sellers the world over.

So what is it? Is it even real? The answer is that it’s independent micro-watchmaker H. Moser & Cie’s latest protest to the Swiss watch industry, dubbed ‘The Swiss Icons Watch: Frankenstein Homage to Authentic Watchmaking’ – and yes, it is real. 

Of late, Moser has taken to registering its objections to what it says is the watering down of the ‘Swiss Made’ quality stamp (only 60 per cent of the value of a Swiss Made watch has to be added in Switzerland) by producing subversive one-off watches and peddling them with some incendiary PR and marketing. It’s all very un-Swiss – and jolly entertaining it is, too.

Frankenwatch, Jackal magazine

Watch aficionados will self-affirm ticking off the many influences in the watch – from the Breguet hands to the Rolex Pepsi bezel to the pseudo-Panerai crown protection device and on – and draw breath reading the accompanying diatribe issued by the company’s young, attention-seeking chief executive, Edouard Meylan.

This, verbatim: ‘Many brands, even historical ones, create and produce nothing but substitute substance with artificial hype to stay relevant. Reinforcing their efforts with prestigious events and paying ambassadors who have no links to watchmaking; these tactics are just artifice that serve as smoke and mirrors. It’s all about who has the longest history, the most famous celebrity ambassador, or influencer with the most followers.’

He continues, channelling his inner Trump: ‘Their efforts are in vain. The essential lies elsewhere: with the product. We should show our creativity and we should refocus on the product. We need to come back down to earth, roll up our sleeves and create unique ideas. This is the only way that we can make Swiss Made great again.’

Ouch. And ouch again when you see ‘HMC’ on the dial and remember both that IWC has a high-yield ambassador programme and that it is Moser’s Schaffhausen neighbour. Fire in the hole!

Here’s a little film they made to make sure we get the point. 

Moser’s open-mic policy isn’t isolated to this time of year, but it is fast becoming a traditional precursor to Geneva’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), which opens on Monday. 

Two years ago it made the Apple Watch parody, the Swiss Alp Watch, and last year it made a watch with a case made of a cheese-based composite and asked for a million Swiss francs for it. In the end it fetched a tenth of that, auctioned for a Swiss watchmaking charity, as the Frankenwatch will be after SIHH.

Moser novelty watches SIHH

Moser’s recent stunt watches include the Swiss Alp Watch (left) and the Swiss Mad Watch, which had a case made of a Swiss cheese composite

Moser is one of the 35 presenting brands at the show, and everything else it launches will be rather more conventional – although as one of the industry’s leading independents, nothing it does is exactly run-of-the-mill. None of it, mind, will carry the Swiss Made stamp. Swiss watchmaking does protest. Spicy. 

The Jackal will be reporting online and via Instagram and Twitter at SIHH next week. Check back and follow us for news of this year’s new watch crop from brands such as Cartier, IWC, Panerai and Audemars Piguet.