Between its decorated history that goes all the way back to the 1800s and its currently fully integrated manufacture, H. Moser & Cie. has steadfastly held its own in the rather competitive Swiss watch industry, even carving out a niche for itself over the years. Even today, each of its watches is handmade with meticulous attention to detail.
Vidya Prabhu, GMT India’s Managing Editor, caught up with Nicholas Hofmann, International Sales Director for H. Moser & Cie., on his recent visit to Bengaluru to talk about the brand’s latest initiatives. Edited excerpts from the interview:
Vidya Prabhu (VP): Hi Nicholas. Firstly, let me congratulate you on the brand’s most recent launches — the Streamliner Flyback Chronographs — and the Only Watch collaboration with MB&F, which is definitely intriguing. When can we expect to see it for what it is? Nicholas Hofmann (NH): Thank you. I cannot say much yet but yes, we will be revealing more about the Only Watch collaboration with MB&F in the coming days.
VP: We look forward to that. That brings me to what is actually my first question. H. Moser & Cie. is known for its quirky, design-forward style; in many ways, it embodies the brand’s ‘Very Rare’ aspect. Moreover, the brand believes in doing things with a touch of quirkiness, a certain sense of humour even, be it the Pandamonium collab with MB&F or the Swiss Alp Watch, which mimicked the smartwatch, or the Swiss Mad Watch with a case made of actual Swiss cheese. How has the brand stayed true to this philosophy? NH: I think it all comes down to making that concerted effort to distinguish ourselves. Having been established in 1828, our brand has a rich heritage, no doubt. But that in itself is not enough, what matters is using the full-fledged manufacture rather well so that you come up with exciting products and equally interesting narratives to talk about them in unique ways. Every brand has its own DNA, its own voice, and we found ours by being disruptive and even provocative in some cases. But yes, the idea is to constantly step outside the comfort zone and keep surprising people. Look at our Endeavour Centre Seconds Genesis watch; it’s a crazy watch that recognises the blockchain ecosystem and its influence. Such launches can be polarising, but they will have caught everyone’s attention.
VP: This one’s probably a tricky one, but do you have a favourite among all the four lines — Streamliner, Endeavour, Pioneer, and Heritage? And why? NH: This is adifficult question to answer because each watch is the result of team effort. I do think the Streamliner is an amazing line of timepieces, and it probably witnessed the most intense product development journey. But then there’s Perpetual Calendar, which is minimalistic and yet so stunning; complicated on the inside but understated on the outside. So yes, I’d say the Streamliner and the Endeavour Perpetual Calendars are my favourites.
VP: The logo certainly isn’t screaming for attention; it’s very much in sync with the quiet luxury trend. NH: I think the brand has been doing this even before quiet luxury became a thing. Buyers today are looking for something authentic. And I know that authenticity can mean a lot and nothing at the same time. On our part, we want watch lovers to understand what’s behind the product, what’s behind the brand. The fact remains that we are a small family-run company that makes everything in-house and that’s what makes Moser special.
VP: Speaking of manufacturing, the brand has, through its MELB Luxe holding company, recently acquired a stake in the Agenhor movement manufacturer, which equips the iconic Streamliner chronograph. Was it a conscious decision to invest in a company you collaborate with? What do you hope to achieve with this move? NH: Agenhor is an amazing company that we have been working with and they are a family-run business as well. Most importantly, they make one of the most fantastic chronograph movements in the industry. So, it was time we explored new movements with them; this move is a great opportunity for us, especially in the current climate, wherein supply is such a big hindrance.
VP: H. Moser & Cie. is a member of the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC), a non-profit organisation, which audits and certifies brands that promote ethical and socially responsible practices across their entire supply chain. How committed is the brand to observing these ethical practices? NH: We don’t want to be one of those companies that participates in greenwashing; we walk the talk. Our goal has been rather clear: to stick to ethical practices, be it the sourcing, employment, or dealing with our partners on the sales side. The Responsible Jewellery Council membership just affirms this. We became a member in 2020 but a year before that, we consciously decided to go green and for every visitor who attended our booth at the 2019 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) luxury watch trade fair in Geneva, we donated 10 books to a school. It was a genuine, no frills move.
VP: H. Moser & Cie. is participating in the upcoming Dubai Watch Week. Moreover, the brand’s co-founder Bertrand Meylan has moved to Dubai as well. So, while the Dubai market seems to be showing a lot of potential, do you see any similarities between the Middle Eastern and Indian markets? NH: Yes, Bertrand has been living in Dubai for a while now. But to answer your question, I’d say that there are many things common to both the Middle East and India. For one, both are fast-growing markets. The advantage with a country like India is that the potential for growth is far bigger. On the one hand, we’ve been working very closely with retailers in Dubai and the brand has grown considerably not just in the UAE, but also in neighbouring countries. With India, the question is: where do you invest? You do not want your efforts to get diluted; this is why we’ve, along with Ethos Watches, decided to be more active in some cities, Bengaluru being one of them. At the end of the day, we want to tap into the watchlover community and make them see the value in an H. Moser & Cie. timepiece.
VP: The brand opened its flagship boutique in Hong Kong last year. How did that come about? NH: Maybe two or three years ago, it would have been unthinkable to have a freestanding boutique in Hong Kong. But the acceleration we’ve seen last year — there’s been a clear shift in the demand for a more personalised space — made it a logical step. Now we have a dedicated space in that part of the world where we can simply invite clients to understand the brand’s DNA.
VP: And is there an India store or any India-specific initiative in the pipeline? Especially given the fact that the Indian luxury market is said to be on an aggressive growth path now and this is being evidenced by the entry of many global luxury players. NH: At the moment, I am not at the liberty to divulge anything, but you’ll hear about it at the right time. VP: We look forward to that. Thank you, Nicholas, for your time.