Well, that was a whirlwind. On Thursday, we received word that H. Moser & Cie. — the brand behind the Alp (faux-Apple) Watch and the Swiss Mad watch made from Swiss Cheese (yes, really) — had released the Swiss Icons watch. Moser, intending to make a splash before heading to Geneva for SIHH, decided to create a unique piece that lampooned the design of iconic models across the industry and stated it would be auctioned off after SIHH to benefit the Fondation pour la Culture Horlogère Suisse (Foundation for Swiss Watchmaking Culture). Citing the “opportunistic” nature of the industry, the Swiss Icons riffed on:
1.) The bezel color of the Rolex GMT II.
2.) The bezel shape of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.
3.) The crown guard of the Panerai Luminor.
4.) A sandwich dial that isn’t exclusive to Panerai, but was popularized by them.
5.) Patek Philippe Nautilus dial.
6.) The IWC logo on the dial.
7.) Breguet hands.
8.) A Hublot case.
9.) A cabochon on the crown inspired by Cartier.
10.) Girard-Perregaux bridge over the tourbillon.
That’s nine different brands. Nine!
Here was the official statement from H. Moser & Cie. CEO Edouard Meylan:
“Many brands, even historical ones, create and produce nothing but substitute substance with artificial hype to stay relevant. Reinforcing their efforts with prestigious events and paying ambassadors who have no links to watchmaking; these tactics are just artifice that serve as smoke and mirrors. It’s all about who has the longest history, the most famous celebrity ambassador, or influencer with the most followers. Their efforts are in vain, the essential lies elsewhere: with the product. We should show our creativity and we should refocus on the product. We need to come back down to earth, roll up our sleeves and create unique ideas. This is the only way that we can make Swiss Made great again.”
And, about 24 hours later, it was all over. On Friday morning, the brand posted a note on its social media channels and sent an email to the press stating:
CEO H. Moser & Cie.
It’s hard to understand exactly what Meylan and co. expected out of all this. Of course, it got everyone in the industry talking, and laughing (because c’mon, it is pretty hysterical), and I’m sure it was a huge marketing boon for a small, independent brand heading into the Richemont-dominated SIHH fair, but you’ve got to imagine that the aforementioned brands weren’t happy about the attention (or, on the flip side, what about the brands that weren’t included? Would they be offended for not having a suitable icon?). I can also imagine it annoying a specific segment of watch collectors by stating that they’re basically status-obsessed sheep controlled by marketing. These were potential customers that likely won’t be picking up a Moser anytime soon. After all, one of the reasons the Swiss watch industry has been able to retain a sizeable consumer base in a technology-driven world is due to some of the very iconic models that collectors obsess over and that Moser is now attacking. There are definitely two sides to this and we’ve already seen that spilling out into arguments across the forums and on social media about how offensive this watch is, how valid Meylan’s points about the industry are, if people are overreacting, and what it means for the future of H. Moser & Cie.
Whether or not the Swiss Icons is lost forever, this is a case where I believe horological pundits and enthusiasts of all kinds will be talking, joking, and fighting about the ultimate Frankenwatch for years to come.