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The motto of H. Moser & Cie, which makes only about 1500 watches per year, is “Very Rare.” And the Streamliner, Moser’s first chronograph, comprises just 100 examples of that production run—each one already sold.

Behind such exclusivity, however, is a watershed moment for the brand. Its CEO, Edouard Meylan, has taken up the defense of Swiss watchmaking because, he figured, somebody had to. And from a watchmaker as audacious, cult-like, and technically impressive as Moser, the first of anything is going to make an impact. 

It took Moser five years to develop the Streamliner. At 42.3mm in diameter, it is a hefty boy, yet the cushion case wears comfortably, with intricate metal-shaping on both sides. Four exposed screws on the back add a rugged dimension to the caseback, which exposes the automatic chronograph movement that doesn’t look at all like an automatic and is possibly the most advanced in production today. (More on that later.) This case is attached to a beautifully finished bracelet that’s sectored like a lobster’s tail, incredibly comfortable and form-fitting even to my (and Meylan’s) small wrists. Some might say it resembles the most forgettable, mired in ‘90s-excess designs that have not withstood the test of time: resembling the Ikepod, Meylan’s favorite, or the Ebel Sport Classic, two watches you’ve probably just had to Google. 

The Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic with an integrated stainless steel bracelet with articulated links with satin-brushed surface. Photo courtesy of H.Moser & Cie.

But the design works—because it hides its revelations well. Here is a chronograph that doesn’t resemble a chronograph at all: other than checkered-flag markings, and the slightly superfluous tachymeter bezel, there is nothing that denotes timing function. No sub-dials, no small-seconds, nothing in the way of the brushed semi-matte look, which turns from gray to black to brown under the light. “I like the idea that it’s not a watch that has a chronograph function,” said Meylan, “but it’s a chronograph that gives the time.” It makes its presence felt with its mighty heft, like a knight’s sword, reminding you of some fundamental destiny you must fulfill. It imbues a feeling of power to its wearer, absurd and meaningful all at once. 

The H.Moser & Cie Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic; Photo courtesy of H.Moser & Cie.

That aforementioned movement hails from Agephor—another independent Swiss brand, founded by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, working deep in the shadows of the Swiss watchmaking empire. The HMC 902 movement is derived from Agephor’s signature AgenGraphe movement, which previously appeared in the Fabergé Visionnaire and the Singer Track 1, so Moser is in rarefied company. When Meylan discovered the AgenGraphe two years ago, he fell in love: “Wow, this is the dream movement,” he told Watch Journal. “This is what I could spend millions of years on developing, and this watchmaker—independent as well—has done it. I believe this is the best chronograph in the world.”

Here, Moser upgraded it to a flyback chronograph. The dual slender hands on the dial—the seconds hand tipped in red—tick the seconds and minutes with precision, and they have a nice little flicker when the flyback action is reset. All of the hands are on a central axis, and its rotor lies against the dial. The chronograph functions are integrated neatly into the central plate, at the same level as the escapement and balance, which makes for a high level of technological function, as well as a slew of tiny parts.

 “It’s a very complex watch, with a lot of details, elements,” said Meylan. “We need people to understand it.”

H.Moser CEO Edouard Meylan working on the design of the bracelet. courtesy of H.Moser & Cie.

Is this the age of the sports watch? Well, this seems to be the year where every watchmaker rolled out an integrated-bracelet sports watch that can go from yacht to cocktail bar, so to speak. Alongside the Moser, two more unusual sports watches debuted this year. “Time for sports!” Nomos says in a cheery press release, denoting the Tangente Sport and Club Sport, while Hublot’s first-ever Big Bang with an integrated bracelet is called, appropriately, the Integral. 

The NOMOS Glashütte Tangente Sport neomatik 42 Date. Photo courtesy of NOMOS.

Both of these two companies took different approaches. Nomos has taken their popular Tangente and Club models—both 42mm in diameter, both with the watchmaker’s DUW 6101 in-house movement, and both with minimalist numbering and small-seconds subdials—and added a solid-link stainless-steel bracelet with a matte finish and rectangular links. The individually delineated shapes of these links are reminiscent of the Streamliner, whose lines also run horizontally to the length of its bracelet. Meanwhile, Hublot, celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Big Bang, opted for an entirely new model to incorporate its integrated bracelet. The Big Bang Integral, available in three variations, features a handsome segmented bracelet with the same depth and contrast as the sides of the case—which is echoed in the meticulously machined, with both brushed and polished sides, of the Streamliner.

An illustration of the new NOMOS stainless steel bracelet with a deployant clasp. Drawing courtesy of NOMOS.

Nomo’s integration is very straightforward and deceptively simple, keeping in step with the brand’s aesthetic. Hublot, meanwhile, reshaped the case and pushers of the Big Bang to fit its intricate, three-dimensional bracelet. And, of course, Moser had to introduce a new watch.

The Streamliner is the first of a series, said Meylan. “There will be more chronographs, more complications. It’s the beginning of a new line. It was so important to use such an amazing movement to make a statement.”

The Big Bang Integral All Black from Hublot. Photo courtesy of Hublot.

This will be a departure from Moser’s dress lineup, a dramatic expansion of its lineup, and different from its exclusive in-house movements. There’s a good foundation, thankfully. Moser’s handsome, profoundly understated lineup—with their astonishing in-house movements and their colorful, gradient-like fumé dials, minimally decorated, which has carved out its niche among a motley crew of understated innovators and haute-horology independents. Just 55 people work in its atelier; there is room for experimentation. For what it’s worth, 95 percent of its watches get sold internationally. “We’re either the biggest independent or the smallest of the established brands,” said Meylan. “I prefer the latter.”

The Big Bang Integral All Black from Hublot. Photo courtesy of Hublot.

The Story of Odysseus

A new watch series from A. Lange & Söhne arrives like a comet: rare, earth-shattering, graceful, and impossible to ignore. The adventurously named Odysseus—five years in the making—represents brand-new territory for the venerable brand: Its first sports watch is a seemingly inconsequential array of brand firsts that add up to more than the sum of its parts. Is it a compelling entry? Or is it too little, too late? 

To understand that sort of significance, it’s worth reflecting what makes A. Lange & Söhne so special. In its modern state, it has only been around since 1994—a time when the industry didn’t know its place for mechanical timepieces, much less the highest-end of watchmaking. In just two decades, A. Lange & Söhne transformed the idea of haute horology with high-end precision, unwavering consistency, and the adoption of a German watchmaking identity all its own. A German company, exemplifying precision? You don’t say—but how many connoisseurs at the time could remember Glashutte, eastern Germany, closer to the Czech Republic than Switzerland, as one of the historic temples of watchmaking? 

“The idea of the watch which you can wear in a more casual environment is almost as old as the company,” said Wilhelm Schmid, CEO of A. Lange and Söhne, “even [legendary watch entrepreneur] Günter Blümlein had the idea. The watch had no real vision or idea how to execute it. We then took it more seriously again, and by 2014 we had a good idea on how the idea should look like, and how the family should look like, because it’s only the first kind within that watch family. The rest is history. We launched six weeks ago.”

The Odysseus by A.Lange & Søhne. Photo courtesy of A.Lange & Søhne.

A. Lange & Söhne watches usually feature precious metals, colored golds or platinums, oversized date windows with mechanical complications, and some form of crocodile leather band. The lettering is uniform, the case shapes are nearly identical, and the baton hands are thin and delicate. Occasionally the dial erupts into concentric circles, such as on the Richard Lange, and sometimes there is a tourbillon involved—and expect to pay dearly for that privilege. These are almost always dress watches: minimal and austere, yet immediately recognizable.

The Odysseus does away with nearly all of this. For starters, its 40.5mm-wide case is asymmetrical, with an interplay of raised, brushed, and polished metalwork for the date pushers, surrounding the screw-down crown—another first for the brand, which has never before rated a watch to 120 meters of water resistance. The case and its integrated bracelet are rendered in stainless steel. The hands and indices receive Super-LumiNova. That fully integrated bracelet, by the way, is intricately rendered: Across its five links the surfaces are brushed, while the chamfered edges are polished. The L155.1 DATOMATIC in-house caliber is based on the brand’s other automatics but reinforced for robustness. With the same dreamy level of finishing it features 31 jewels, 50 hours of power reserve, and a skeletal rotor with platinum elements, blued screw heads, and a weighty brushed look as if it was hauled off a steam train. 

“The Odysseus is a watch for literally your best time of the year,” said Schmid. “Your free time, your casual time. When you are without a schedule. when you don’t know what’s happening next because you can swim in the ocean or play with your children.”

The Odysseus by A.Lange & Søhne. Photo courtesy of A.Lange & Søhne.

Sports watches aren’t necessarily dive watches, nor are they known for sports timing, though certainly the well-known kings of the genre can be had as chronographs. Rather, they are ready for anything: A morning on the slopes might end with an evening on a yacht, a day of sailing into a gala with the CEO and a bevy of supermodels, or any other sybaritic fantasies. They are reassuringly hefty, water-resistant, and crafted from steel. The most famous dive watches were always intended as tools, but these are too luxurious for such military-issue considerations. 

Perhaps it’s this blend of cachet and ruggedness, this promise of both adventure and adventurous design that has netted such high-end popularity among these timepieces. At the core of this foray into ruggedness is still haute horology: the fine movement finishing and steel casework that comes with its lofty price tag. The Odysseus—whose name conjures long voyages of Homeric importance, where anything can and will happen—joins some splendid company.

“In the category, you have your Rolexes, you have your Daytonas, GMTs, Subs, Sea-Dwellers,” said James Lamdin, founder of the watch retailer Analog/Shift. “In the Patek Philippe world, it’s dominated by the Nautilus and the Aquanaut. Another contender would be the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak. They’ve become more popular…it’s no longer six people on the Internet geeking out about these things, nor is it the provenance of the luxury elite consumer. A lot of different tastes are beginning to weigh in…

The Odysseus by A.Lange & Søhne.Photo courtesy of A.Lange & Søhne.

Analog/Shift tends to specialize in Rolexes and Omega Speedmasters, and when a Patek Philippe Nautilus comes in, it doesn’t last long on the site. Lamdin passes through a lot of watches in his hands. “Having handled the watch, it’s an attractive watch in the metal, and it wears very well,” he said. But, he suggested, maybe the engineers and designers at Lange overthought the whole thing: “All they needed to do was to make a steel entry, was to make one of their legacy watches in steel,” said Lamdin. “For example: the Lange 1. If they produced that in steel there’d be a line down the street.” 

It may be unsurprising that Schmid thinks differently. “Quite frankly, we could have made our lives a lot easier by choosing one watch out of every product family,” said Schmid, “put that into a waterproof steel case, and called it a day. Or we could’ve taken a movement like the Saxonia and put that into a steel case and called it a day. That would have been a shortcut. But that’s not what we’re known for. That’s why we developed a movement specifically for this watch.” 

But maybe that’s what the brand would have needed. After all, its cachet is there. Even with its polarizing styling, Odysseus is groundbreaking not just for its manufacturer, but also in such elevated company: Having been around since the Seventies, the Nautilus and Royal Oak have seen few watches—the IWC Ingenieur and the Piaget Polo, namely—compete with its integrated-bracelet, sport-luxury aesthetic. Leave it to A. Lange & Söhne to put its own spin on it.

The Odysseus by A.Lange & Søhne. Photo courtesy of A.Lange & Søhne.