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Chapter Three
Turning the Tide – Moser and the Revival of Schaffhausen

Interview with Roger Nicholas Balsiger - Honorary Chairman at H.Moser & Cie. -

 

In Chapter Three, we discover the many contributions Heinrich made to his hometown of Schaffhausen.  From miniscule watchwork to revolutionary railways, there was no project too big or too small for Mr. Moser. Not even putting bread on the table. You can also catch up with Chapters One and Two here.

In addition to builder of the famous Moser Dam, how is Heinrich Moser remembered in the town of Schaffhausen? 

Heinrich Moser wasn’t actually remembered in Schaffhausen as a watchmaker for decades – not until I began writing about the family’s history in the 60’s and 70’s.  But his other work there was so important, it’s easy to see why it had such a great effect on people, and is still remembered today. And not just for the Dam! He did so much more besides that. 

Apart from creating world-famous watches?

The Moser Dam was more than just an engineering project; it was just one example of the work he performed, and the social impact that work had on the local community.  He returned to Schaffhausen in 1848 – over the next 20 years, he would bring the city back from real poverty into economic health – even made a successful industrial hub out of it. It’s hard to overstate the significance of that, on the day-to-day life of local people, but also the effect that progress in transport had on Switzerland as a whole.

What, specifically, did he do during that time? 

Initially, he bought whole crops of wheat so that people would have bread to eat. He bought all the grape harvest so they would have wine. In 1850, he built a turbine which helped small local companies to develop and expand.  From there, he began founding new businesses. Of course, he was already a very wealthy man, but he put his money to good use; he supported and invested in a number of fledgling companies that are still alive and well today, like IWC, which saw Aristo Jones start the International Watch Company with Moser offering him ideational and financial support, as also providing the all-important infrastructure to start with. Heinrich Moser was also very interested in developing traffic to and from the town, to connect Schaffhausen with Switzerland on the north to south route – and improve the means of transportation as a whole.

It seems there wasn’t enough on Heinrich’s plate already–he decided to revolutionize Swiss transport as well?

Well, at the time, Heinrich was travelling through Europe constantly – the way business-people fly from place to place today.  But he had to travel by coach (horse-drawn, not bus), which was rather cumbersome and slow. Instead of grumbling like most commuters, he improved it!  First, he founded companies like Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft, producing railway wagons. Then he developed the infrastructure– founding the second railway line in Switzerland, called the ‘Rheinfall Bahn’ , which ran from Schaffhausen to Winterthur. The only other line at the time was between Zurich and Baden.  The railways had a revolutionary impact in Switzerland and across Europe in the 19th century– there were so many exciting possibilities. For industry and commerce, but also culture, science, technology. And as if that wasn’t enough, he also started a company building ships on the Rhine for transport. It was really quite an achievement

A bit of an understatement, we’d say… join us in the next chapter for the revival of H. Moser & Cie. in 2005, and how Roger Nicholas Balsiger brought the ineffable Moser spirit to the brand’s reincarnation. 

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