Keeping an eye on the time: powerful players in the watch world
H Moser & Cie
The 19th-century watchmaker Heinrich Moser first found success selling Swiss watches to wealthy Russians in
St Petersburg. He then also founded his own company, which was successful long after his death until it finally succumbed, like many others, to the onslaught of quartz in the 1970s. At the start of the 21st century, however, the name was revived by a former IWC engineer. The modern H Moser produces meticulously handmade watches adhering to the principle that beauty is best expressed through elegant simplicity.
Baume & Mercier
Baume & Mercier prides itself on making watches to mark special occasions, like weddings and significant birthdays. The Swiss firm is about to celebrate its 187th birthday – that may not be a round number, but when you get to that age it is worth making some noise about every year. This new addition to the Clifton range has a self-winding movement and features a second time zone at 12 o’clock and a power-reserve indicator at 6 o’clock.
“War, huh, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” So sang Edwin Starr, before adding a quick “say it again, y’all” for good measure. But in making his stand for peace, the Motown singer failed to take into account the many wonderful technological advances that have been inspired by conflict, not least in the intertwined worlds of aeroplanes and wristwatches.
A 1916 editorial in The New York Times said that the recent trend for wearing watches on the wrist had generally been considered a “joke”, little more than a “silly-ass fad”. But it went on to state that the practical superiority of the wristwatch in the theatre of war had forced the detractors to accept that in many circumstances keeping a watch in your pocket did not make sense.
Nowhere was this more relevant than in the new phenomenon of aerial combat. Accurate timekeeping was essential for navigation, as well as letting you know when it was time to head home to avoid running out of fuel in mid-air.
Aviator produces a range of watches that pay tribute to horology’s close relationship with the aeronautical industry. The Russian firm provides a range of Swiss-made watches that are developed in consultation with military pilots, and all have large, easily readable faces to allow for rapid in-flight time checks.
Some of the more contemporarily styled pieces reflect Aviator’s Russian ownership, with watches based on MiG fighter jets. But Britain’s contribution to aviation is also commemorated, with a range of classically styled watches honouring a pioneering single-seater biplane called the Bristol Scout. The Bristol Scout started life as a fast reconnaissance plane at the beginning of the First World War and was later adapted – with the addition of mostly improvised weaponry – into an early fighter plane.
The Aviator Bristol Scout watch has an automatic Sellita movement within a 45mm steel case, and a small seconds counter in the shape of a propeller. Perfect for celebrating the magnificent men in their flying machines while acknowledging that war is, in most cases, a bad thing.