The 200-year-old luxury watchmaker H. Moser & Cie has shaken up the rather conservative Swiss watch market with a hybrid timepiece that offers access to a series of innovative digital services. Euronews Culture met its CEO Edouard Meylan at its Schaffhausen factory.
100 years ago, "Moser" was a Russian expression for a quality watch.
Lenin wore one and Dostoyevsky quoted it in his writings.
Today it is one of the few family-owned watchmakers to have retained a holistic approach - developing, constructing, producing and selling about 2,000 watches per year around the world.
If the very high-end Swiss luxury watch sector is rooted in its history, Moser looked to the future to create its concept by combining the idea of both a physical and digital timepiece. The 'Endeavour Centre Seconds Genesis' aims to harness the potential added value of Web3, or Web 3.0, in the watchmaking business.
The result is a probably not what you are expecting to find if you're looking for a luxury Swiss watch. Its case and the crown are in 3D-printed titanium and the sapphire crystal has been laser-engraved with a huge HQ code.
The leaf-shaped hour and minute hands turn on a "Vantablack" dial, a material absorbing 99.965% of light and considered to be the darkest substance available today. On the other face of the watch, one can admire the heartbeat of the HMC 200 calibre and the rotations of its gold weight expressing Moser's historical know-how.
"We created a watch that is a caricature of this world," says Edouard Meylan, the CEO of Moser, as he presents the €29,000 object.
"We wanted something very pixelized, minecraft-styled. We even engraved a QR code on the full case which hides a little bit the time. So some people asked: 'But how can you wear a watch like this?'"
A virtual world on your wrist
By flashing the QR code, the wearer has access to a series of digital services. These include an e-warranty, NFTs and a certificate of authenticity. It also provides access to KYC (Know Your Client) technology, which ensures that trust remains intact when it comes to secondary market transactions.
"We have seen the secondary market growing very fast and we believe it is going to be bigger than the primary market. There are a lot of risks. We believe it is our responsibility as a brand to help the consumer during the whole journey of the watch," explains Meylan.
There are other perks too. For each Endeavour Centre Seconds Genesis bought, the customer is offered a 'time capsule' NFT: a video showing the last screw on the time piece. The lucky few will also receive a VIP keypass for priority access to future releases and access to Moser's space in the Metaverse.
Only 50 models of this watch will be produced.
They were already sold to "Beta testers" who should receive their new watch in April.
"They know they are experimenting with us and they like that. Then we will see what will be implemented with this solution for all the other watches we will produce in the future", Meylan says.
The watchmaker has teamed up with major companies (Deloitte, Salesforce, Zurich Switzerland, amongst others) and claims to have become, alongside these major players, a textbook case of a luxury company that has taken the web 3 turn to strengthen its community.
A divisive direction
A few years ago, many luxury brands thought they didn't need digital, recalls Edouard Meylan.
"They were wrong. We need to be as close as possible to our consumers. This has been demonstrated with Instagram for example, and the next step might be this virtual world. Maybe that's where we're going to meet".
This new direction has polarised the conservative watchmaking world and earned him some criticism.
"Some saw the watch and said 'Oh my god, how can you wear this?'. Others saw the value in this and were amazed by the solutions we're bringing", says Meylan.
"We want to make things evolve and obviously this creates discussions and tensions in the market," explains the man who defines himself as a watch lover, born and raised "in a remote Swiss valley where everyone only talks about watches".
To those who would accuse Moser of betraying the watchmaking tradition for the benefit of modernity, Meylan assures that it's quite the opposite. According to him, he is returning to the historical basis of the profession, in which the connection between the master watchmaker and the client is central.
"For many years, you had big brands producing nothing and selling hundreds of thousands of watches thanks to ambassadors. Now, people want to buy watches where they believe there is value, it's like art. This is why smaller brands, family owned like ours are coming back to the spotlight", according to the CEO.
Is the future all about blockchain and web 3?
Nothing is less certain, admits Meylan: "It's a new environment, a new world, we don't have a precise idea of what we want to do and we haven't yet mastered these technologies. But we want to be part of these changes."
Moser, whose distinctive smoky cases often have no logo, is indeed one of the brands capable of developing, building and producing top-of the-art complications. At last year's Grand Prix de l'Horlogerie de Genève, it received an award for its Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon.
Check out the video above for footage of the watch and our interview with Moser CEO Edouard Meylan.