H. Moser: Was its latest stunt, the Frankenwatch known as the Swiss Icons Watch, a step too far even for the bad boy of horology?
For the Swiss watch industry — and, by extension, global horology — the year started off with more than a bit of drama, as one of its own unveiled an homage timepiece that was also a parody. Or perhaps the watch was a parody that was actually homage. But on January 11, H. Moser & Cie announced the Swiss Icons watch that poked fun at some of the biggest names in watchmaking, while simultaneously being “a tribute to the visionaries of watchmaking”.
The Frankenwatch was a mashup of elements from nine brands — think of it as a rip-off Swiss watch of Swiss watches — very meta. The bezel colour came from Rolex, the bezel shape from Audemars Piguet, the crown guard from Panerai and the dial from Patek Philippe, along with Breguet hands, Hublot case, Cartier crown, Girard-Perregaux bridge over the tourbillon and an IWC-style logo.
The message, according to the accompanying video, was that Swiss watchmaking became great because of the determination, innovation and creativity of many visionaries. However, these legends have now been replaced by aggressive marketers, glitzy brand ambassadors, artists who are “just an alibi for lack of talent”, Swiss watches that are no longer made in Switzerland and, yes, iconic watches that are recycled every five years and passed off as new “anniversary editions”. Ouch!
As you’d expect, the move didn’t exactly elicit a standing ovation. Au contraire! Nobody knows for sure what transpired behind the scenes but in less than 24 hours, H. Moser had cancelled the watch. A statement followed: “No one said #MakeSwissMadeGreatAgain would be easy… While our objective was to pay tribute to the great founders of our beautiful industry and warn against certain practices of others, the message was unfortunately sometimes misunderstood…”
We assume, in this context, “misunderstood” means CEO Edouard Meylan heard from some very expensive lawyers at the Richemont Group. In an interview he says, “I really thought I was doing the right thing, I was excited about it, and we were doing it the way it should be, and we did something wrong, obviously we did something wrong, otherwise…”
Combing through the reactions online, the general consensus is that H. Moser did make some valid points about stagnation in the Swiss watch industry, but the brand’s method of delivery could have been better thought through. But we can only hope the watch that wasn’t triggered some introspection among the industry insiders — especially beyond the independents — and that 2018 will deliver more than enough examples of true innovations in the Swiss watch industry, and horology at large.
High-end watchmakers are waking up to the marketing potential online platforms offer.