H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar
There can’t be many of us on this Earth who haven’t heard of the likes of Rolex and Patek Philippe, and so it’s understandable that the sheer volume of traffic these brands get results in the understanding that they are the very best in the world. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good—very good—but there are others out there that can match and even exceed them. Here’s one of them, the H. Moser & Cie. Endeavour Perpetual Calendar—and it just might be the best watch you’ve never heard of.
The H. Moser & Cie. name may date back to 1828, but the company as we know it today has only really been in operation since 2005, revived by the founder’s great-grandson. It was originally a Russian company, which fled to Switzerland during the Russian Revolution, where it quietly faded out of existence whilst nobody noticed.
The cynic in all of us would immediately assume that this brand’s resuscitation was nothing more than an attempt to borrow past glory to make up for present shortcomings—except that one year after announcing to the world that the H. Moser & Cie. name was back, the watchmaker won the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix with this, the Endeavour Perpetual Calendar.
Okay, so this rebirth was no joke. If you’re a Formula 1 fan, it’s comparable to the return of the Silver Arrows in 2010 as the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. You knew Mercedes-Benz was taking it seriously when they brought in the mastermind behind Michael Shumacher’s dominance at Ferrari, Ross Brawn, as well as three-time Formula 1 champion Niki Lauda. The team has since gone on to win six times in a row.
For H. Moser & Cie, Dr. Jürgen R. Lange is akin to Ross Brawn, and Andreas Strehler, Niki Lauda. Dr. Lange is the founder of Precision Engineering AG, an organisation with the capability of developing and manufacturing some of the most complex components in watchmaking, like hairsprings, and supplier to leading names like Laurent Ferrier and Armin Strom. Strehler, on the other hand, cut his teeth at Renaud et Papi—a high-end movement designer and fabricator for some of the most incredible watches in the world like Audemars Piguet’s concept pieces—before starting his own movement manufacturer and watch brand, as well as collaborating with Harry Winston on the renowned Opus series.
So, when it came to bringing the H. Moser & Cie. name back into the public eye, these two weren’t kidding around—but the challenge was still next to impossible. The watch that they would make had to be innovative, yet timeless, complex, yet pure, fresh and new, yet in honour of the past. It’s a task that’s been failed almost as many times as it’s been attempted, so you could say that even with two of the brightest minds in watchmaking at the helm, it was destined to fail.
The only way this watch and this company could survive was with something big, something incredible. Something with personality. In a world where Rolex and Patek Philippe dominate the airwaves and where new brands seem to sprout up and wither every day, that was easier said than done. It would mean approaching watchmaking from the ground up, taking nothing for granted, designing every piece as though it were the first time.
The basis would be one of the oldest and most respected complications of not just watchmaking, but timekeeping as a whole—the perpetual calendar. It would be a challenge of epic proportions, taking a function steeped in legend and reimagining it in a way that started a fresh chapter in its story and not just a footnote. But how could H. Moser & Cie. present this classical complication, one that had remained unchanged for centuries, in a new way?
Designing a watch that completely reinvented one of the oldest complications in watchmaking, as it turned out, was as much about everything else as it was the perpetual calendar. It would be no good to build a base calibre and assemble the perpetual calendar module on top—that would force their hands in the same way as their watchmaking forefathers and the result would be unremarkable.
This complete, ground-up overhaul of the mechanical movement needed to be built on a solid foundation of engineering excellence, and so the duo approached its design in much the same way a Formula 1 team would—with function leading the charge, and no stone, no matter how small, unturned. This started with the escapement, which was designed as a modular unit that could be set up completely independently of the movement itself.
This was with a view not just for the ease of construction of the watch, but the servicing, too, enabling watchmakers to quickly swap the escapement for a fresh, fully regulated one. Strehler even designed a block mechanism for the mainspring to prevent damage should the escapement be removed without the mainspring being unwound first, thinking about long-term performance as well as the immediate.
And the list of practical application continues. Twin serial mainsprings give the hand-wound calibre seven days’ power reserve; a balance brake pauses the seconds when adjusting the time for more accurate setting; and a double pull crown mechanism allows the date to be changed without interrupting the timing or vice-versa by switching functions each time the crown is pulled.
Considering wristwatches have been produced for over a century, pocket watches for half a millennium and clocks since time immemorial, that H. Moser & Cie. could breathe new life into much of what had become standard in a mechanical watch is seriously impressive—but the most impressive part is yet to come, because it’s with these features arranged from the ground up that the main event, the perpetual calendar, could be built.
Here’s the big idea: the perpetual calendar is traditionally a collection of difficult-to-read displays catering for the date, day, month, year and leap year, often more of a showcase of complexity than for any real functional benefit. I mean, who doesn’t know what year it is? Or month? Really, the only thing you need is the date—unless you’re Kyle Reese.
So that’s what H. Moser & Cie. did, boiled down all that complexity into one clear, simple date display. When the end of the month comes, regardless of the length, it pings over to the next one, just as you’d want—and even for the leap year. And if you’re particularly astute, you’ll have noticed something odd about the date—it’s big. So big, in fact, that it makes you wonder how they fit all the numbers in behind the dial.
That’s yet another practical solution for this watch, twin date disks layered one on top of the other, the upper catering for dates between one and fifteen, and the lower sixteen and thirty-one. With a window through the upper disk just after the fifteenth, the second disk carries on the remainder of the dates, giving a seamless transition from one to the next.
But the real genius comes in the setting of the perpetual calendar. It’s fine to have just the date when the watch is properly set up, but when it’s not, the user needs to know more, the month and year as well. So, H. Moser & Cie. hides the month display as a tiny hand at the bottom of the central stack, with the leap year cycle on the back.
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