H. Moser & Cie. is a confident brand that has come into its own. CEO Edouard Meylan is well known for jokes (a watch made of cheese!), and much of the coverage of “the expensive Swiss watch that looks like an Apple Watch” focused on the irony of the offering. But the Swiss Alp Watch is a serious matter, and it exemplifies all that is right with Swiss watches in recent years.
Swiss Alp Origins
One can trace the lineage of the Swiss Alp Watch to the 2007 launch of the tonneau-shaped H. Moser & Cie. Henry. This was before the Meylan family’s MELB Holding acquired the brand, but the Henry provided the movement used in the Swiss Alp Watch. Without that, it’s unlikely that Edouard Meylan and company would have proceeded with the development of a niche product like the original run of 50 Swiss Alp Watches.
Although it was an innovative product, the Henry did not sell well for Moser. I have heard that a few hundred kits of the Cal. HMC 324 were left over in the inventory. So when the Apple Watch was introduced in September 2014, Meylan and company sensed an opportunity. They would build a watch with a similar rounded rectangular case, wire lugs, and a flush crystal but would power it with the high-end Cal. HMC 324.
The Swiss Alp Watch was introduced at SIHH 2016 on January 7, challenging the world “to connect, disconnect, or reconnect.” And it caused a sensation, drawing coverage from well beyond the watch world!
Although it appears similar at a glance to the Apple Watch, the Swiss Alp Watch is quite different in design. It is slightly larger and thinner, at just 10.3 mm thick compared to 10.5 mm or more for the American smartwatch. The 44.0 mm by 38.2 mm case is a few mm larger than the 42 mm contemporary Apple Watch, but almost identical to the 44 mm Watch introduced in 2019 in Cupertino. The Moser lacks Apple’s patented interchangeable lugs and straps, opting for a traditional wire lug design. The large crown is also located at the traditional 3:00 spot rather than at 2:00 as on the Apple.
The Swiss Alp Watch features a Fumé sunburst dial with applied indexes as on other contemporary Moser watches, though the design was simplified. Combined with the small seconds subdial, the Swiss Alp Watch has a classic flair that does not mesh as nicely with the modern case as later examples.
The tonneau-shaped movement is revealed through a decidedly rectangular aperture in the case, cropping the shape inelegantly, with many elements only half revealed. Still, it is a lovely movement, hand decorated and featuring the essential Moser elements, including a Straumann hairspring.
Most contemporary coverage mistook the Swiss Alp Watch to be a cheeky joke rather than a real product. And many commenters, not used to the cost of high-end Swiss watches, choked over the price: $24,900. Still, these same reviewers were flabbergasted when the solid gold Apple Watch Edition cost $10-$17,000 just a year before. Given this price, and the fact that the Edition was obsolete in just two years, the Swiss Alp was a positive bargain!
The Swiss Alp Watch was no joke. Although the initial model was not a perfect design, it is a serious, lovely, and useful watch.
2016 Swiss Alp Watch S
Although Meylan and company were unsure how the initial model would be received, the first few months after introduction must have reassured them as the model was well-received by the community. Indeed, many watch collectors were reassured to see a favorite brand produce such a cheeky yet desirable model!
On September 6, H. Moser & Cie. introduced a second model in the Swiss Alp Watch line. The new “S” model features a deep blue fumé dial that transforms the look of the watch. The color selected has a much more modern look and better aligns the look of the model with the contemporary color scheme of the Apple Watch. The black leather strap is also more modern-looking than the dusty kudu leather on the original.
It shares the same 18 karat white gold 44 mm case of the original, and the markers and hands appear to be the same as well. Although the press release suggests that it was an unlimited regular model, contemporary reporting says it was also limited to 50 examples and Moser tells me that’s how many were produced. List price was the same $24,900 as the original. With 100 examples produced in two designs, the Swiss Alp watch was now a model line rather than just a statement piece.
SIHH 2017: Swiss Alp Watch Minute Retrograde
H. Moser & Cie. had been re-born in 2002 by Dr. Jürgen Lange, and his work on the Henry model provided a foundation for the 2016 Swiss Alp Watch once the company was acquired by the Meylan family’s MELB Holding. The other company joining MELB Holding in 2012 was Hautlence, which had been founded in 2004 and was known for a radical movement that rotated 60º on its axis ever hour and used a moving chain of plates to show the hour.
This movement, Hautlence’s HL2.0, was identical in design to other contemporary Hautlence movements but was modified aesthetically to better fit the Swiss Alp Watch. Notably, it is an automatic movement with a rotor visible through the case back. Changes relative to Hautlence include Roman numerals on the “hour plates”, a blued minute hand, and a black/ruthenium/white color scheme.
The case is absolutely massive, now measuring 48.0 mm tall, 42.1 mm wide, and 18.3 mm thick. This means it wears huge on the wrist, but was required to fit the large Hautlence movement. The larger case allowed a better display of the movement than previous Swiss Alp Watch models, with a crystal window on the side to highlight their unique rotating escapement. The rear crystal has curved edges that are distinctly different from any other model and better frame the movement.
Just 10 examples of the Swiss Alp Watch Minute Retrograde were produced, all in white gold with “Grand Feu” enamel dial elements. The watch was said to be priced at $220,000, though Moser typically doesn’t include pricing in their announcements.
Baselworld 2017: Swiss Alp Watch on the Rocks
Another special limited edition model appeared at 2017’s other industry show. The Swiss Alp Watch on the Rocks was a unique statement piece, showing what H. Moser & Cie. was capable of producing. The 18 karat white gold case is bigger in every dimension thanks to a generous coating of ice: 420 baguette diamonds are applied to the top and sides, and 232 sapphires coat the blue fumé dial.
Although the movement is the same Cal. HMC 324 as previous models, the dial lacks the small seconds subdial. This omission would continue in many subsequent Swiss Alp Watch models.
The rear of the case is comparatively plain, using the same back as the regular model. One presumes that this was to make it more comfortable to wear, and one hopes that whoever purchased this astonishing watch actually wears it!
2017 Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz
The design progress of the Swiss Alp Watch moved forward again later in 2017 with the introduction of two more limited edition models. Although named “Zzzz” by H. Moser & Cie., these were intended to resemble a smartwatch in standby with a black screen. But of course, being mechanical watches, these actually still show the time!
The Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz was available in two designs, both lacking the small seconds subdial previously seen on most models. They also lack any text on the dial, with two simple leaf-shaped hands conveying the essential message of the model. The white gold case and movement are identical to previous Swiss Alp Watch models, as are the straps selected. The black dial model resembles the contemporary steel Apple Watch like no previous model.
The message of the Zzzz model is loud and clear: Your smartwatch isn’t as smart as you think. Until the 2019 Series 5, the Apple Watch screen was powered down when not in use. This meant that a check of the time required a sharp jerk of the wrist or tap of the finger, a physical tic that was parodied by those in the know. In contrast, the Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz, though perhaps less advanced technologically, could do what Apple’s Watch could not: Show the time at all times.
The two Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz references were limited to 20 pieces each and sold for $26,900, a $2,000 price increase over the previous year models.
SIHH 2018 Swiss Alp Watch Concept Cosmic Green
H. Moser & Cie. returned to SIHH in 2018 with another variation on the Zzzz concept. The Swiss Alp Watch Concept Cosmic Green was essentially identical to the blue Zzzz model but with a green fumé dial instead. The 18 karat white gold case, Cal. HMC 324 movement, and beige kudu leather strap are the same. The price remained at $26,900, the same as the Zzzz models, and 20 pieces were released.
Baselworld 2018 Swiss Alp Watch Minute Repeater Tourbillon
Although the SIHH 2018 release was “just another Zzzz”, Baselworld 2018 saw something remarkable. The Swiss Alp Watch Minute Repeater Tourbillon adapted the Swiss Alp Watch case to enclose H. Moser & Cie.’s 13th movement: Cal. C 901 is a hand-wound tourbillon movement with a minute repeater. Where to start?
The fact that the gorgeous blue mosaic dial is the least-interesting thing about the Minute Repeater Tourbillon speaks volumes. It is lovely, though, in varying shades obtained by laser etching a single plate. But it looks as out of place in a Swiss Alp Watch as the diamond and sapphire model shown at Baselworld the previous year. Rather it is what is inside that matters.
The flying tourbillon is visible through an aperture at 6:00 on the dial, and the view is enhanced by the design: It is a “flying” tourbillon supported on the under-side, with a skeletonized cage to reveal the balance. The repeater is controlled by a switch on the side of the case and rings hours, quarters, and minutes on two gongs. The movement was designed in association with Manufactures Hautes Complications SA (initialized “MHC”, confusingly close to the “HMC” initials for Moser itself) and at least three examples were produced for Swiss Alp Watch models.
The standard Swiss Alp Watch case was enlarged to serve as a sounding box for the repetition, but is nowhere near as large as the Hautlence-based Minute Retrograde model from two years prior. It now measures 11 mm thick and 45.8 mm by 39.8 mm tall and wide. This is just a bit more than the standard case in every dimension. Since the movement is rectangular rather than tonneau-shaped, it is better-framed by the display caseback than the standard Henry movement.
The Swiss Alp Watch Minute Repeater Tourbillon was another unique piece from H. Moser & Cie. and contemporary coverage suggests the list price was $292,000.
A second example was also produced, with the case paved with diamonds and a deep black dial. It is shown on the Moser website as of 2021 and is said to be a unique piece as well. Oddly, the tourbillon cutout has an open “chin” not seen in other models.
SIHH 2019 Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black
After a relatively quiet 2018, the Swiss Alp Watch came back in classic form at SIHH 2019. The new Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black reveals as little in its name as it does in the hand, but it was as revolutionary a watch as ever produced by H. Moser & Cie.
In my opinion, the H. Moser & Cie. Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black is the most important watch of the decade. The dial is deep, glossy black, a perfect match for a powered-off smart watch, apart from an aperture that reveals that this is no mundane wrist computer. The flying tourbillon is a finger in the Cyclops’ eye, constantly in motion and awake. Yet even this is not the most revolutionary aspect of the Concept Black!
There are no hands. This is a mechanical statement, not a tool to show the time. Where the Zzzz refuted the dead screen of a smart watch, the Concept Black embraces it. Yet this is no sculpture: Beyond the visible tourbillon, it includes the grandest of complications, a chime to sing the time on demand. Slide the switch and two gongs ring out the hour, quarter hour, and minute.
The fact that all of this is combined in the body of a watch that so strongly resembles the most significant challenge to watchmaking in modern times is especially significant. H. Moser & Cie. is exclaiming their commitment to mechanical watchmaking in a way that “punches back” at the Apple Watch without being a mere parody. This is what great watchmaking is all about!
How do you set the time when a watch has no hands, front or back? When the crown is pulled, an indicator appears showing 12 indices. Each represents five minutes, allowing the wearer to set the time in a way never before seen. I have not located an illustration or video of this unusual mechanism in action, but would truly love to see how it works in practice. It is not clear at this time whether the indices appear around the stem of the crown (as suggested by Moser’s press release) or at some other position on the dial or back. Further, it is likely that one is required to sound the chime to verify that the correct hour has been selected, since 12 times 5 suggests a 60 minute display.
The Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black reportedly cost $350,000. In a recent conversation, Edouard Meylan assured me that it was purchased by a collector who appreciates its place in horological history, and moreover chooses to wear it from time to time. I certainly hope that this is the case, since this is my choice as the most important watch produced in the last 10 years!
2019 Swiss Alp Watch Concept Dubai Limited Edition
H. Moser & Cie. went to Dubai Watch Week in 2019 with a special token of affection for the region and their long-standing partner, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. The Concept Dubai Limited Edition brings contemporary touches to the Swiss Alp Watch: DLC-coated stainless steel (a first for the model) and an evocative yellow dial.
Limited to just 10 examples, the Concept Dubai Limited Edition exemplifies the demand for stainless steel cases in recent years. The black DLC coating is similarly on-trend, as is the fact that it was likely no cheaper than the white gold examples that came before.
2021 Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade
After a tumultuous 2020, H. Moser & Cie. cleared out their inventory of HMC 324 movements with the February, 2021 announcement of one last “Final Upgrade”. This marked the end of the Swiss Alp Watch line, and offered one last twist on the smart watch theme. Like the Dubai version, it used a DLC coated stainless steel case, but the dial was coated in Vantablack and a novel replacement for the small seconds subdial was added.
Now that the Apple Watch featured an “always on” screen, H. Moser & Cie. added another feature common to modern electronics: The spinning “activity indicator” of radial markers in graduated shades of gray. For decades, watches that lacked a running seconds hand have used a spinning disk to verify that they were functioning, and it is appropriate that this would be adapted to the world of electronics as well.
Although clever, the Swiss Alp Watch activity indicator is not without criticism. Close examination of the perforated dial of the “Final Upgrade” shows the fuzziness inherent in the carbon nanotubes that make up Vantablack paint. After the Chronotechna debacle, I wonder how many dials Moser rejects before finding a “good enough” crisp cutout! Another issue: The slower-spinning indicator does not switch instantly like a digital screen, but “fills” slowly and inconsistently. These detract from the look of the watch.
It is also disappointing that H. Moser & Cie. went with a steel case for this model, like the Dubai edition before it. DLC-coated black steel is in vogue but it does not match the richness and luster of white gold. The warmth of the case of previous Swiss Alp Watch models was another subtle detail that elevated the line above a stainless steel Apple Watch. And I suspect that blackened steel will look as dated as two-tone gold in another decade.
The “Final Upgrade” was another set of 50 examples, not even enough for one in each of Moser’s retail outlets. Priced at $30,800, it is the most expensive “regular” Swiss Alp Watch model by far. Although I appreciate the use of Vantablack, I suspect that a glossy black dial and gold case would have been a better “Final Upgrade” choice.
2021 Swiss Alp Watch Infinite Reboot
H. Moser & Cie. surprised everyone on the last day of Watches and Wonders with “one more thing”: The Swiss Alp Watch Infinite Reboot is a Final Upgrade without the hands!
In March, 2021, I spoke with Moser CEO Edouard Meylan and praised the Swiss Alp Watch line. As noted in this article, it represents the brand and the industry perfectly in the Apple Watch era, a cheeky yet confident response. And I was especially effusive in praising the legendary Concept Black, which I called “the watch of the decade!” At that time, I mentioned that the Swiss Alp Watch doesn’t need any sort of time display, since it is a sculpture to watchmaking not a time-telling device. Mr. Meylan just laughed and said he appreciated my comments. Certainly he didn’t want to “spill the beans” on this very watch, which was certainly already being built in secret!
The Infinite Reboot is “one more” Final Upgrade: It uses the same DLC coated steel case and Vantablack dial with rotating activity indicator. But the hand pinions have been removed, the dial is not pierced, and no hand set is fitted. And unlike the Concept Black, which told the time through a minute repeater, it does not have any visible indication of the actual time. It is simply a sculpture to time and a reflection of the smartwatch and pandemic era.
A single unique piece, the Infinite Reboot will be offered for sale at auction to benefit Jet Li’s One Foundation.
Considering the Legacy of the H. Moser & Cie. Swiss Alp Watch
The H. Moser & Cie. Swiss Alp Watch plays with our assumptions about watches and time itself yet is no idle joke. It coopts the look of the Apple Watch and elevates it with haute horology. Nowhere is this more true than the Concept Black, with a flying tourbillon and “no hands” chiming time indication. The Swiss Alp Watch in all its forms is a confident and forceful response to the smartwatch: High end watchmaking has a place everywhere, even where you least expect to see it!
Swiss Alp Watch Chronology
|Swiss Alp Watch
|January 7, 2016
|18-carat white gold
|Swiss Alp Watch S
|September 6, 2016
|18-carat white gold
|midnight blue fumé
|Swiss Alp Watch Minute Retrograde
|January 16, 2017 (SIHH 2017)
|18-carat white gold
|minute dial in “Grand Feu” enamel
|Swiss Alp Watch on the Rocks
|March 21, 2017 (Baselworld 2017)
|18-carat white gold set with diamonds
|set with sapphires
|Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz
|May 23, 2017
|Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz
|May 23, 2017
|Funky Blue dial (sky-blue fumé)
|Swiss Alp Watch Concept Cosmic Green
|January 15, 2018
|18-carat white gold
|cosmic green fumé
|Swiss Alp Watch Minute Repeater Tourbillon
|March 22, 2018 (Baselworld 2018)
|18-carat white gold
|shaded blue mosaic-effect
|Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black
|January 14, 2019 (SIHH 2019)
|Swiss Alp Watch Concept Dubai Limited Edition
|November 21, 2019
|steel with black DLC treatment
|Exceptional Swiss Alp Watch Minute Repeater Tourbillon
|18-carat white gold with diamonds
|Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade
|February 3, 2021
|steel with black DLC coating
|Swiss Alp Watch Infinite Reboot
|April 13, 2021
|steel with black DLC coating
- January 7, 2016 – Swiss Alp Watch, Reference 5324-0200, 18-carat white gold model, signature fumé dial, kudu leather strap, limited edition of 50 pieces
- September 6, 2016 – Swiss Alp Watch S, Reference 5324-0201, 18-carat white gold model, midnight blue fumé dial, black alligator leather strap
- January 16, 2017 (SIHH 2017) – Swiss Alp Watch Minute Retrograde, reference 5900-0200, 18-carat white gold model, minute dial in “Grand Feu” enamel, black alligator leather strap with carbon-effect finish for a matte look or beige kudu leather strap, limited edition of 10 pieces
- March 21, 2017 (Baselworld 2017) – Swiss Alp Watch on the Rocks, reference 5324-0202, 18-carat white gold model set with diamonds, dial set with sapphires, black alligator leather strap
- May 23, 2017 – Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz, reference 5324-0207, white gold model, black dial, black alligator leather strap, limited edition of 20 pieces
- May 23, 2017 – Swiss Alp Watch Zzzz, reference 5324-0208, white gold model, Funky Blue dial (sky-blue fumé), beige kudu leather strap, limited edition of 20 pieces
- January 15, 2018 (SIHH 2018) – Swiss Alp Watch Concept Cosmic Green, reference 5324-0210, 18-carat white gold model, cosmic green fumé dial, beige kudu leather strap, limited edition of 20 pieces
- March 22, 2018 (Baselworld 2018) – Swiss Alp Watch Minute Repeater Tourbillon, reference 5901-0200, 18-carat white gold model, shaded blue mosaic-effect dial, black crocodile leather strap, unique pieces
- January 14, 2019 (SIHH 2019) – Swiss Alp Watch Concept Black, reference 5901-0301, platinum model, glossy black dial, black alligator leather strap with red lining
- November 21, 2019 – Swiss Alp Watch Concept Dubai Limited Edition, Reference 5324-1204, steel model with black DLC treatment, yellow fumé dial, black kudu leather strap, limited edition of 10 pieces
- February 3, 2021 – Swiss Alp Watch Final Upgrade, reference 5324-1205, steel model with black DLC coating, Vantablack® dial, blackened hands, black alligator leather strap
Postscript: My Swiss Alp Watch
I realized I was in love with the Swiss Alp Watch in 2019, while forcing a co-worker to come with me to visit “the coolest watch ever” while visiting the Wynn in Las Vegas. The whole concept of a high-end Swiss watch that appropriated the look of the ubiquitous Apple Watch was exhilarating. And the idea that it would become an heirloom instead of e-waste was icing on the cake!
But which Swiss Alp Watch was the perfect fit? Certainly the Concept Black is the ultimate expression of the concept, but that was a unique piece and well out of my price range. Given that H. Moser & Cie. often features sterile dials, relying on fume rather than branding to identify the watches, I really wanted one of the later models. I rejected the Final Upgrade based on my previous experience with Vantablack coating, which often looks “fuzzy” in person, and the DLC coated steel case, which seems out of place. This left the Zzzz linen black, funky blue, or cosmic green.
Happily, blue is my favorite color, and the “Funky Blue” Zzzz incorporates every element I was looking for. In April, 2021, I located just such a watch, brand new at an authorized dealer here in the United States. Now it’s mine!