October 27, 2017
by David Bredan
While independent watch manufacturer H. Moser & Cie. may have started living its renaissance in 21st century Switzerland, its mid-1800s origins are in fact very closely tied to Russia. Reviving this long-forgotten (out of Russia, that is) part of the brand is the H. Moser & Cie. Venturer XL Stoletniy Krasniy, i.e. the Venturer XL in Centennial Red.
As was discussed in great detail in this look into the past and present of the H. Moser & Cie. manufacture, Heinrich Moser was as much of an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word, as he was a watchmaker. Long story short, when it was his turn as the youngest in many generations of watchmakers in the Moser family, his hometown, Schaffhausen denied the then-21 years old Heinrich from taking on and continuing his family’s role as the repairer of the town’s clocks.
With a bit of imagination, I picture Heinrich thinking: “There’s no place far enough in the world from where you, thankless Schaffhausen, couldn’t see my gigantic middle finger” – and so, and this did actually happen, the young Heinrich set off to a place truly rather far away even today, and especially by 1820’s transportation methods: Saint Petersburg.
It had not taken more than a year and, in 1828, he established H. Moser & Cie. in St. Petersburg – just above you see the generously sized boutique set in a prominent location. Before long, his name became synonymous with quality, elegant and reliable watches – quite literally so, as the word “Moser” in Russian had, apparently, for long stood for “quality watch.”
Fast forward a hundred and fifty years and the people at Moser have even found a Russian song that features Moser along with an amusingly random selection of Leningrad-made gramophones and eau-de-Cologne. From a historical and relevancy point of view, I find the 1920’s Russian advertisements more fascinating – these were created after the company had been expropriated following the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. It’s fun to consider how a hundred years after Heinrich arrived to St. Petersburg, his name was still relevant enough to use in advertisements.
This is quite the prologue for the H. Moser & Cie. Venturer XL Stoletniy Krasniy, probably the most Russian-looking Swiss luxury watch ever – well, it may be a tie with this oil pump hourstriker Ulysse Nardin, unashamedly designed for the Russian oil magnate-oligarch-baron. In fact, this edition of the Venturer XL was to mark the centenary of the October Revolution that, ironically, led to the nationalization of the brand.
Set with a dial in the “iconic red of Russia,” Krasniy – a word which by no accident shares its roots with krasiviy, i.e. beautiful – and the company’s original Cyrillic logo, H. Moser & Cie. is adamant about calling this “the brand returning to Russia, its original home.” Though I seriously doubt the company will relocate from Neuhausen am Rheinfall – set in the tranquil outskirts of Schaffhausen – to Saint Petersburg anytime soon, it nevertheless makes perfect sense to use this niche but powerful advantage, stemming from an authentic and most important segment in the history of the brand.
Come to think of it, as I see the watch on the image above, this may be the least Swiss-looking luxury watch on sale right now. It is a rather adorable fusion of the many different steps that Moser had taken recently: it merges the fumé dial of which they so proudly began leaving the logo off, now spiced up with the most vibrant color combination the human eye recognizes (yellow and black) along with the least Swiss typography in the history of typography.
Matched to a strap that appears to have been made from the sleeping bag of a WWI Russian soldier, this is a modern horological middle finger to Swiss luxury watch design – mind you, in a much more likeable and honest way, than their take on the Apple Watch or the Swiss cheese watch had been (to my mind, at least).
The stainless steel case of the H. Moser & Cie. Venturer XL Stoletniy Krasniy is 43mm wide and 12.6mm thick, with a curved sapphire crystal in the front and another one in the back. Inside we’ll find the HMC327 in-house made, hand-wound caliber that’s 32mm wide and just 4.5mm thick, boasting a minimum power reserve of 3 days, though at a cost of a low, 18,000vph operating frequency. Decorations include the old-school Moser coat of arms, the 2:1 Moser striping, bevelled and polished edges, a neat bridge over the escapement. The discrete power reserve on the caseback is an appreciated feature.
This limited edition of just 17 pieces may not mean a total return to Russia for H. Moser & Cie. but then again, why should it? It’s a refreshingly bonkers and bold-looking watch that follows in the wake of countless others that had only tip-toed around pleasing their Russian clientèle. Price for the H. Moser & Cie. Venturer XL Stoletniy Krasniy is 19,900 CHF – that’s about 1.16 million rubles, if you were wondering. h-moser.com