Luxury can’t be fun? Try us…

“Watchmakers”

Raphael Frauenfelder

Position: Head of Watchmaking Favourite Moser watch: Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept Vantablack

“…the Art begins where the mechanics get difficult to master…” 

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. 

How long have you worked at Moser?

I’ve been Head of Watchmaking at Moser since November 2015.

Would you describe watchmaking as more of an art, a science, mechanics, or a form of wizardry?

It involves a lot of mechanics.  But it’s difficult to find people technically skilled enough to become watchmakers. You might find a multi-talented mechanic, but it’s very rare to find these skills combined with the very special kind of temperament you need as a watchmaker. You have to be tremendously calm. 

So… it’s mainly mechanics? 

Yes and no… the Art begins where the mechanics get difficult to master.  To mount a movement as big as a dinner table wouldn’t be Art at all. It’s when you have to work the precision of 1/100 of a millimetre… for instance, when you’re oiling a bearing that’s ½ a millimetre in diameter, a variation of 1/10 of a millimetre is too big. Watchmaking is art, because everything is on such an infinitely small scale.

Ah, so it’s really an Art…

Yes… and it’s also somewhere between physics and alchemy. Sometimes what we do is not 100% physically explicable. You might assemble a watch, but something doesn’t work and you have no clue why.  Solving these impossible problems is incredibly hard, very complex–even for an expert watchmaker. But it’s also what makes watchmaking magical. 

You’re right, it’s more like Science. No, Magic.  Magical Science? 

Here’s a good example: assembling the new Vantablack dials.  Vantablack is extremely sensitive, you can’t even touch it with a hair.  It’s like a whole forest of microscopic carbon nanotubes, in which light extinguishes itself.  How do you work with something you cannot possibly touch? That was one of our biggest challenges so far– a bit of science, a bit of magic. 

 

Does it take superhuman control to achieve this kind of mastery?

Our watchmakers are unbelievably talented.  But it’s my task to assure that the quality of our watches remains impeccable, whatever the weather. 

But surely you have superhuman control?

I remember once in my former job, an apprentice asked me to check the movement he’d assembled.  The night before, I’d been to a very, er, joyful party.  I thought I could pull myself together… but as I stared and stared through my magnifying glass, I finally had to admit that I was unable to judge clearly. I had to pass it on to one of my colleagues! 

As Head of Watchmaking, do you now feel more like a watchmaker or a businessperson?

I am a trained watchmaker, but today I do more management than watchmaking.  It’s a real craft, which will never leave me, but as I move forward in my career I’ve had to let go of the craftsmanship side to some extent. But now I get to lead development projects, work on new prototypes, optimise movements… I get to dream of things that don’t exist yet. But when people ask me what I do, I’m still proud to say I’m a watchmaker. 

Finally–the watch you’re most proud of?

I’m incredibly proud of the Perpetual Moon Vantablack. It’s a fairly simple watch, wound by hand, with three hands and a perpetual display for phases of the moon.  The Vantablack dial is very pure, very streamlined, and you can see the movement through the concave glass bottom. I especially love it with the strap that comes with a red lining! I worked with our Development Engineer and Prototype Expert, and we really put our hearts and souls into it.

And what do you dream of creating next? 

As a young watchmaker, I dreamed of creating a multi-dimensional Tourbillon… until I discovered it already existed.  No, really, I do have some ideas in mind… it’s just that they’re still a bit half-baked!

We await the fully-baked future, with bated breath…

 

Latest posts

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.

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.

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.