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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.”