lively cross-talk with Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie

Cut and Thrust

We’ve recently heard about how both of you have the same take on the brand: exciting, ingenious watches that nevertheless need some explaining. Why not simply design watches that are more accessible to the public?

Edouard Meylan: Because that way our customers take the time needed to apprehend and understand our designs. What’s more, there are advantages in being a brand that can be understood at two levels: on the one hand, the highly institutional level of very ‘fine watchmaking’, and on the other hand a level at which the creativity and ingenuity of the timepieces can be explored. We aim to prove that you can be sober, elegant and traditional – and sexy too!

Laurent Picciotto: And that’s increasingly the case. There’s a growing awareness of the brand and what it’s about. Be that as it may, for Moser, there’s a focus on customers who are already experienced when it comes to buying fine watches. The time they spend making a purchase involves getting to grips with all the subtleties of the brand. And it’s those subtleties that make all the difference with Moser. To be honest, the fact is that when it comes to competing with the traditional aspect embodied by Breguet and its very distinctive identity, only Moser comes anywhere close.

It’s a crowded segment though, with no shortage of brands, all claiming to be traditional. It’s not easy to make a place for oneself.

LP: Moser manages to do precisely that, though, because of its subtleties. One such example is the smoked dial: I find this to be such a differentiating feature that I think every Moser should have one!

EM: Yes, I wish we could do that, too! Unfortunately, for the time being we have only two smoked dials in the collection, because it’s very hard to find a basic colour that goes well with smoked glass. We made a few attempts with brighter colours but came to the conclusion that it was too soon to include them in our collection. I remember when we met at Baselworld in 2013, only our funkiest new smoked dials caught your attention – and we hadn’t even planned to show them! We had to go and get them out of the safe to show you the first prototypes, in particular the smoked aqua blue and smoked royal blue. There were only two forerunners who took the risk of placing an order – you and Japan. You’re always ahead of the game!

LP: At the end of the day, first impressions will always be decisive. But what I like with Moser is that the second and third impressions simply confirm the first. For instance, that epiphany when you understand how the QP works – it’s probably the only one on the market that it is actually possible to reset in less than two minutes. Or when you look at the profile of the case, not to mention the movement. You really can sense all the mechanics involved. If people take time to discover all those aspects, there’s not usually any need to add a sales pitch.

Who for? Who buys Mosers?

EM: They are still collectors’ items, but we’re becoming aware that nationality and age are not factors. The thing all our customers have in common is their mindset: they’re all entrepreneurs. People who know exactly what they want, no matter how long it takes them to get it. I’ve already seen very ordinary tradesmen save up for several years to buy the watch of their lives – a Moser. It’s a personal experience.

LP: Your strength of conviction comes from your German side. There were definitely a few wilderness years, but now there’s been a quick, lively and uncompromising return to form, with a lot of work on creating a radically different identity, in line with the Moser spirit. That was when people got the message that Moser is a no-nonsense firm.

Isn’t there a danger of the new, more daring collections confusing some people, though?

LP: So what? It’s an attractive breath of fresh air that’s still consistent with the Moser spirit. There’s not been any compromise. That’s how you move forward.

EM: Yes, we’ve heard from collectors who’ve rediscovered the Moser spirit. And not only that: they’re reporting aesthetics and an overall standard of watchmaking they hadn’t seen for twenty years.

Isn’t it hard to be a brand that’s trying to be institutional and recently revamped at the same time? That’s highly innovative and perhaps even a little off-putting. The “Very rare” campaign, with no visuals or other wording, took everyone by surprise!

EM: We needed the shock factor to grab people’s attention, otherwise we would never have come back centre stage as we have done.

LP: Just make sure that this campaign doesn’t last too long! It’s an excellent starting point – not an end in itself.

EM: That’s exactly how I see it. We’ll be introducing lots of variations in this new approach to watchmaking advertising over the next ten years at least.

LP: That’s good news, all the more so in that the initial idea is excellent. It’s very subtle; the subtext could be “I’m going to buy a classic, but not the one you think!

EM: Exactly. And on the back of this campaign, people really have to go to a store to discover the intrinsic qualities of the timepieces – and that’s brought us closer to retailers.

Indeed – and Chronopassion is no ordinary retailer. It has a very distinctive identity. As an institutional brand, were you not afraid at the prospect of ending up sandwiched between a couple of Urwerks and Greubel Forseys?

EM: Not at all, because like Moser, these people are entrepreneurs. There are similar stories of human endeavour behind those names, and the same desire to move forward by providing watchmaking with something new. We’re all moving in the same direction, just taking different paths and approaches.

LP: If you take that line of thinking to its logical conclusion, Moser’s not an institutional brand – it’s an emerging brand.

Interview by Olivier Müller 21 February 2014