Around this time of year we’ve become accustomed to the high jinks of H. Moser & Cie’s mischievous CEO Eduoard Meylan, usually an elaborate joke aimed at the watch industry and often sometimes paired with new watch.
These japes don’t always work (last year’s frankly daft Nature Watch was damp squib) but when they do hit their mark they can be extraordinarily effective. When Meylan mocked the arrival of the Apple Watch and introduced the world to his brand’s Swiss Alp Watch, a watch in a rectangular case that drew obvious comparisons, it gave the relatively niche, Swiss independent watchmaker the kind of mainstream global news coverage that money simply cannot buy.
Moser’s January announcement this year (with three solid watch launches in the first nine days of 2020, it’s fair to say that brands are taking advantage of the silence left behind by SIHH's move to April) doesn’t come with a joke attached but it so downright outré (even for a brand as disruptive as Moser), that many observers will be expecting a punchline.
2019 was undoubtedly the year that witnessed the rebirth of Sports Luxe, the genre first given form by Gerald Genta in 1972 when he designed the Royal Oak for Audemars Piguet. As such everyone from Urban Jurgensen to Bell & Ross released steel sports watches with integrated bracelets to varying degrees of success. Frankly the roll-out was so unending it became more than a bit tiresome.
Moser might be late to the party (although Meylan mentions the project first began five years ago) but its new Streamliner has enough in the way of originality to stand apart from its contemporaries and provoke fresh conversation. Taking inspiration from the Streamline Moderne design movement that dominated the design of everything from trains to desk fans from the 1930s until the 1950s, the Streamliner follows the central, titular tenet with its smooth, streamlined, bare-metal surfaces. It’s oddly reminiscent of the IWC Porsche Design watches of the 1980s, but that’s never a bad thing.
Aside from the distinct bracelet (more on that later) the most noticeable departure from the standard Sports Luxe template is the use of a cushion case (42.3mm). We can’t think of a single instance of anyone attempting to mate a metal bracelet with a cushion case. The go-to approach of using a tonneau case, which tapers naturally, makes the job a great deal simpler, but we’re not about to lambast Moser for trying something new. That leads to the other major convention-breaker, no bezel.
The bezel is usually the component that someone designing a Sports Luxe watch uses to define its character, its personality, but here Moser opts for more streamlined solution, with the sunray-brushed top section of the case gently sloping up to meet its domed, glassbox sapphire crystal which proffers a view of a dial which immediately reveals the Streamliner’s intended purpose.
The Streamline Moderne movement was massively influential in vehicle design in the first half of the 20th Century, influencing the look of trains, motorcycles, automobiles and aeroplanes of the day, so it should come as no surprise that Moser’s Streamliner concerns itself with movement and speed. The two pushers at the 10 and two o’clock position reveal it to be a chronograph (a track-ready flyback chronograph no less) but if that were not enough it also features a Tachymeter scale, racing dial with a 1/5 second scale and a polished appliqué 60 at the 12 o’clock position recalling mid-century stopwatches. An offset crown at the four o’clock offers the design the symmetry it needs, while the anthracite dial is both fumé and coarsely vertically brushed, which Moser is calling griffé or clawed.
Sitting atop the dial are minute and hour hands as well as chronograph second and instant-jump minute hands all moving about the central axis. The chronograph hands, which both ‘flyback’ on request taper to a fine point in cherry red and rhodium-plating respectively, while the timekeeping hands are curved two-piece hands with inserts of Globolight, a ceramic material containing Super-LumiNova. This racing watch’s near black, white and red colour palette is perhaps its only concession to convention.
Equally unconventional is the watch’s glorious 21,600 vph HMC 902 calibre developed in partnership with Agenhor, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht’s Geneva-based movement house that develops complicated movements for the likes of Van Cleef & Arpels and, most pertinently to this watch, Faberge and Singer Reimagined.
The movement is clearly built upon the foundations of Agenhor’s astonishing AgenGraphe movement, which it developed with the goal of doing away with sub dials and which allows both Faberge’s Visionnaire Chronograph and Singer Reimagined’s Track 1 to record chronograph seconds, minutes and hours via three centrally mounted hands.
Turn the Streamliner over and Agenhor’s labyrinthine movement architecture is displayed through a sapphire crystal caseback for all to see, which is only possible because the watch’s Tungsten automatic rotor sits between the dial and the movement.
The HMC 902 calibre has a power reserve of 54 hours courtesy of twin barrels and is fitted with column wheel, horizontal clutch and a friction wheel with micro-teeth to intermeshing gears and minimise jumping upon activation.
Curiously enough this partnership also makes Moser the second business we’re aware of to have been expropriated following Russia’s October Revolution that Agenhor has worked for. Although that is entirely beside any kind of point.
Now we come to the bracelet and I can only imagine the expletives uttered by whoever is responsible for Moser’s bracelet polishing when they saw the first designs. Frankly the bracelet is an undulating, serpentine work of art with a brushed exterior exposing flashes of finely polished innards.
But the close proximity of all those finishing techniques, coupled with the endless curved surfaces, must have induced PTSD in more than one of Moser’s Schaffhausen workforce.
Just 100 pieces of the Streamliner will be made, priced at £35,000 and we can’t wait to try one on. We may be only nine days into 2020 but, much like Vacheron Constantin’s GPHG-winning Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar which was one of the first watches released last year, this must surely be one of the finest watches we’ll see this year.
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