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Chapter 2: Russian Roulette

There was no question about it. Watches were Papa’s vocation, and his talent was unmistakable. But I’ll tell you a little secret he didn’t like to reveal...

There was no question about it. Watches were Papa’s vocation, and his talent was unmistakable. But I’ll tell you a little secret he didn’t like to reveal…

For generations, the Moser family had been entrusted with maintaining the public clocks of Schaffhausen – but when it was Papa’s turn to take over he was only 21, and the town considered him too young for the job.

Papa was put out. By which I mean: furious. As you can imagine, he’d been preparing for this moment since he could first tie his own shoelaces. It was, by all accounts, his destiny.

But the setback gave birth to quite a bold idea (perhaps we were related after all!). He decided to move to Russia, and to establish himself as a master watchmaker there. It was a risky enterprise, but after less than a year, in 1828, H. Moser & Cie. – and his first shop – was founded in St. Petersburg.

Within no time at all, Papa had official Moser – or г. Мозер to be precise – boutiques in Moscow, Kiev and Nizhny Novgorod. His pieces were in such high demand – commissioned not only by the Imperial Court and the Russian army but all along the lengths of the Silk Road – that “Moser” started to become the generic Russian term for ‘luxury timepiece.’

Now, I’m not a proud man – not at all. But even I feel a little swell when I think about Moser making appearances in popular Russian songs of the time, and getting name-checked by a personal hero of mine: Dostoevsky.

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