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

Axel Kabus

Meet Axel Kabus, our After-Sales Expert and Guardian of Watches (once they’ve flown the nest to make their way in the world). A sort of Professor Xavier to our creations, Axel is one of a select few experts who take care of our clients’ every need. Repairs, damage, aesthetic requests or regular servicing: he’s got you covered. Ok, please don’t ask him to order you a limo at 2am. But pretty much anything else...

The Fire Starter

The Pioneer Centre Seconds Swiss Mad Red is a maverick timepiece, with a fiery spirit and a burning desire for adventure.

Andreas Albert

The Master of Balance, King of Precision, Artiste of Assembly. Nothing escapes Andreas Albert, with his eagle-sharp eye and surgically-accurate hands. He may run a tight ship, but his atelier sounds like quite a fun place to be. An affectionate guardian to our complex machinery, Andreas is also a bit of an inventor!

Back to Vantablack®

We’ve created three new editions that’ll take you into another dimension – with a mysterious glamour to give even the most refined of aesthetes pause for thought.

Raphael Frauenfelder

Expert engineer, true artist, mad scientist, 21st century alchemist… you decide what title fits Raphael Frauenfelder best. We just call him our Head of Watchmaking, for want of a better term. Charmingly modest, he’d never tell you what a fantastic leader or inventor he is… but we will. 

When Fumé Says It All

In 2020, we’re giving Moser-lovers around the globe the gift of Simplicity in three new Concept pieces – with a flair for fumé.

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.