Luxury can’t be fun? Try us…

“Roger that”

Chapter Two
Heinrich, Man Behind the Myth

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

In Chapter Two we continue our discussion with Roger Balsiger– this time we cover great-grandpa Moser’s Industrial Era, a Dam good invention, and a certain ‘Outlaw State of Mind’…

We know what a respected watchmaker your great-grandfather Heinrich Moser was; by the mid-19th century, H. Moser & Cie. was already a hugely successful business. But in your opinion, what was the greatest invention of Heinrich’s lifetime?

If you look at it overall, I would say that as an entrepreneur and industrialist, his greatest invention was probably the water dam that he built from 1863 to 1866. The “Moser Dam”, as it was known, was the largest Swiss hydro-power station–it created mechanical power for the local factories, long before electricity was installed. Previously, Schaffhausen had been very poor, but the dam transformed the economy into a thriving and profitable one. It really got the local industry back on its feet.

 

How did it come about, this Watchmaker-turned-Engineer undertaking such an ambitious project?

It came about in a very unorthodox way. Heinrich held a plan for the structure in his safe for decades. But he always said “I will only pull it out if all other projects fail, otherwise people will think I am crazy!” In the end, all else did fail. And of course, during the years it took to construct the dam, he suffered a lot of setbacks– he even had to start over two or three times from scratch, but in the end it worked. It worked very well. 

And it stood the test of time?

Once the dam was up and running, from 1866, it lasted nearly a hundred years–all the way to 1959! So again, it’s a real sign of quality that it lasted for so long; in 1959, they only pulled it down because it was decided that they needed a more modern hydroelectric system. The Moser Dam had a huge impact for this area of Switzerland–I think it’s a remarkable legacy.

To have galvanised so many people to work on such a big enterprise, he must have been a rather charismatic person– what have you learned about his character from those who knew him personally?

He was certainly a very charismatic person. He was a strong leader, and could be quite adamant in some situations. He could also be rather blunt, even undiplomatic– but I suppose because he could afford to be. It seems he didn’t care much about laws: when he first started work on the turbine, they had to dig up a street every two weeks. To do that he would certainly have required permission, but his thinking was: “I don’t need permission–I am meeting people’s needs, I’m doing what’s right for them.” And so… he just went ahead and did it! He was an entrepreneur who ‘got the job done.

He sounds like a bit of an Outlaw (in a good way)?

Somehow, he never got into trouble with the law. Apparently it wasn’t a good idea to upset Mr. Moser! He could be a bit of a dictator, but a benevolent dictator– he did ask the people of Schaffhausen to vote on his plans. He held a vote for the dam, and I don’t think he would have built it without their vote. Which makes him quite democratic, and unusual from a 19th century perspective. Ultimately, whatever his defects, he was a great benefactor for the town– people respected that.

Next time, Mr Roger Nicholas tells us all about the social impact of his company on the small town of Schaffhausen… Stay tuned.

Latest posts

A New Era in H. Moser & Cie. History: Meet the Streamliner

Marking the start of a new era in the H. Moser & Cie. story, the Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic is an unprecedented reimagining of the Stainless Steel Chronograph. Redefining the traditions of design, movement, and composition, the debut timepiece in H. Moser & Cie.’s latest collection unites our trademark codes of minimalism and contemporary elegance.

The dawn of a new era

Time at its purest. 
Coming January 9 2020… and it’s rewriting the rules of watchmaking. Expect the unexpected when meeting the Streamliner.

Chapter Five
The Meaning of Luxury – Very Rare, Now and Beyond

In Chapter Five, we talked to Mr. Balsiger about Moser’s unique identity– and his predictions for the future. From the meaning of luxury, to what makes Moser ‘very rare’, and a particularly fateful meeting with a Stranger on a Train. You can also catch up with Chapter One through Four here. 

Martina Egy

Meet Martina Egy– with her famously dexterous fingers all but permanently attached to a pair of specialised tweezers, our deputy head of watchmaking is a perpetual calendar whizz, and a real artist of engineering. Her quiet exterior belies an inner passion– much like the impeccable watches she creates. 

Vantablack® Beauty: Meet the Endeavour Tourbillon Concept Vantablack®.

If you’re a true Moser Pioneer (aka you’ve been following Pioneer Chronicles for a while), you’re probably familiar with the modern miracle that is Vantablack®. But our latest creation, a Concept design that’s minimal enough to be mistaken for modern art yet ambitious enough for an astronaut, is flying to new heights. 

Chapter Four
Keeping the Legacy Alive – Moser in the World of Watchmaking Today

In Chapter Four, we discuss what a time-travelling Heinrich would make of Moser’s revival, and the world of Swiss watchmaking today. Mr. Balsiger explains why Social Responsibility is a watch-word both behind the scenes and on the public stage at Moser. And why a timepiece covered in moss is making headlines. You can also catch up with Chapters One to Three here. 

Stephan Christ

One of only 60 Spring-Masters in the world, you might imagine Stephan Christ would be somewhat ‘tightly-wound’. In fact, his impressive patience is the stuff of legend. Stephan takes precision to the next level, tuning the details of the details and minutiae so fine you’d think his fingers were made by fairies. But don’t be fooled–mention ‘dust’ and you’ll see a sterner side of Mr. Christ.

A Guide to Gilding the Lily

What’s the equation for improving on perfection? If you’ve joined us before on Pioneer Chronicles, you’ll know that we don’t just produce our own movements – unlike most watch brands, we also make our own escapements and hairsprings.  (It’s been said we’re ‘very rare’.)

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

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. 

Simon Blum

Simon maintains Moser’s impeccable standards–from the hundreds of individual, unique parts to the final finishing touches. Guardian of our watches’ inner lives, he’s a bit like a conductor, directing an orchestra of components and ensuring every single piece is beautiful both inside and out.