March 8, 2015
by David Bredan
Less than a day before Apple debuts their highly anticipated Apple Watch and presents its full details, high-end Swiss watch manufacturer H. Moser & Cie wanted to have their say about the whole smartwatch craze. The message is that smart watches have been around not for a few years but in fact for centuries – and, dating back to 1828, they claim they are one of those manufacturers who have been producing them for so long. The vehicle carrying that message is the beautiful – and indeed very smart – H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue, now available in white gold with a stunning blue dial.
In their video accompanying this message, Moser takes a stab at presently available smartwatches by highlighting their greatest and most frequently encountered shortcomings: complex interfaces, poor ergonomics, and limited autonomy. In all fairness, smart wearables have been improving ceaselessly over the last couple of years – although it is true that there is yet to be one on the market that would tackle all these issues with complete success. Worry not, as the H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue is here to save the day.
There actually is good reason for HMC’s confidence that shines through their message. In our review of the H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue – which you can watch above and read the full written review soon – we praised the watch’s exceptional legibility, courtesy of a combination of the clever dial and movement design that makes for the remarkably clean and simple display of its highly complex perpetual calendar complications. The month is indicated by the small, centrally mounted arrow hand, while the date is displayed on a large opening at the 3 o’clock position. The leap year indication has been exiled to the movement side, keeping the dial as simple as possible. Complex interfaces: tackled. So what about ergonomics and autonomy?
The in-house made 341 caliber runs at a more traditional 18,000 beats per hour (or 2.5 Hertz) and provides 7 days of power reserve, which is about seven times as much as you can expect to have from most presently available smartwatches with LCD screens – although at the other end of the spectrum, when it comes to “connected” smart watches without energy consuming displays, like the MMT platform by Frédérique Constant (hands-on here) battery life can be extended to as far as 2.5 years. Nevertheless, seven days of power reserve, backed up by a useful power reserve indicator set in a prominent position on the face of the watch should make it easy and effortless to keep the watch, and its perpetual calendar mechanism running.
When it comes to ergonomics, the 40.8 millimeter wide case – seen in white gold here – is one that should feel comfortable on most wrists; as much as large watches may be “in” (and there are some more comfortable ones out there, for sure), most will agree that a smaller watch with less weight and a more ergonomic fit will be more comfortable to wear, especially over longer time periods. The H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue also features a cool case design element that we would really like to see more often, which is a curved case back and rear sapphire crystal. As opposed to sitting flat on the wrist, the curved case back allows the watch to wrap around in a more comfortable and secure way, again, making for superior wearing comfort.
So, with all that in mind, we may ask the original question: is the H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue one of the original smartwatches? It sure seems that way, not because it packs bold new complications, but because of the genuinely clever way it repackaged one of the most challenging ones.
However, taking a few steps back and looking at the history of the Swiss watch industry, we will see that this attitude and confidence in the quality and superior refinement of their products has been generally present before at times when the Swiss were challenged by an external (and yes, smarter) enemy. Some 40 years ago – a considerable amount of time in one’s life, but a more passing moment in that of a centuries old industry – the Swiss had to react to one such enemy that was, in fact, in many ways similar to the one they are facing today: it was the cheaper, more accurate, more functional quartz watch. As the story goes, the Swiss believed (or at least communicated) that their products of superior craftsmanship and added value could never be seriously harmed or affected by some cheap electronic gadgets. What happened afterwards turned out to be one of the most severe crises the Swiss watch industry ever had to face. And while many important circumstances have changed since then, it still is an interesting and educational story that should not be forgotten – and one you can learn everything about in our The Brief History of ETA feature article.
Anyhow, “the wave of new smartwatches” – as HM&C calls it – is very much here, and it is slowly but surely turning out to be much more of a tsunami than a drop in the ocean. And while that in itself is no news, it is very unusual to see a high-end watch manufacturer address the issue with such an open assault. The point they make is very valid, as the mechanical timepieces – even those with simple functions – are incredible works of engineering; and so ones with additional functions, enhanced ergonomics and autonomy really do represent the finest achievements in the industry. And yet, the battle between smartwatches and some of the finest in traditional horology is Marvel superheroes against the Spartan Leonidas’ army at Thermopylae: a few with magic-like superpowers against a couple hundred battle-tried veterans armed with experience and traditional weaponry. In this case, it’s colorful touch screens and wireless technology against meshing wheels and chamfered metal. In essence, it is a senseless fight and one that I wish would not be happening in the first place – in an idealistic way I wish they could “co-exist peacefully”.
The H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue is nonetheless a refined weapon to wield in this fight and it, presently, outweighs smartwatches not just in terms of quality of design and execution, but also in price, coming in at $60,000. h-moser.com